AAR/SBL Practice Talks

Religious Studies Colloquium
Sam Herrmann
Nov 9, 2023 at - | Cohen 204


Two RELS grad students will give practice talks for the upcoming AAR/SBL conference. Presenters will deliver practice versions of their talks, field questions from the audience, and receive feedback on delivery.

EDIT: Kirby Sokolow has had to withdraw from this practice session due to unforeseen circumstances, but you can still catch her talk at AAR on Sunday, 11/19 from 12:30 to 14:30. 

Here are the details of the presentations as they appear on the conference programs for AAR and SBL.

A full list of Penn RELS community members who will be speaking at the conference is available here. Please make particular note of the Penn Religious Studies Boardman Reception that will be held on Saturday, November 18.

Sam Herrmann, "The Threat Within: The Emergence of the Adolescent in Family Values Politics, 1956-1964"

This paper traces the development of the adolescent as a key part of the nuclear family in America during the 1950s. It does so by mapping the evangelical strategy to fix the problems that adolescence posed to the nuclear family and the evangelical imagination of kinship. As anxieties of juvenile delinquency abounded during this period, evangelical Christians worked to understand the dangers that mass media and popular culture posed toward youth by relying on the framework of the nuclear family. The adolescent posed an internal threat to the family that needed to be dealt with as a collective unit. Evangelicals relied on the Protestant theology of confession and sanctification in order to develop strategies of dealing with the internal threat of the adolescent. In developing this strategy, evangelicals hoped to discipline adolescents into particular kinds of adults while simultaneously reifying the importance and strength of the nuclear family.

Kirby Sokolow, "Buddhist Exceptionalism Behind Bars: Transforming Religion, Race, and Power"

Since the 1970s, Buddhist and Buddhism-informed prison outreach programs have flourished in the U.S. Leaders of these efforts often assert that Buddhist teachings, practices, and concepts benefit incarcerated people because they teach them to transform (and reform) themselves ontologically. This paper analyzes such discourses as narratives of Buddhist exceptionalism. It argues that this rhetoric constructs a dichotomy between the so-called angry “criminal” and the compassionate “Buddhist” and gains popularity through racializing discourses attached to each category. Drawing on archival research, oral histories, and memoirs by incarcerated Buddhists, the paper considers the ways rhetoric about the transformative potential of Buddhism behind bars juxtaposes Orientalist stereotypes of Buddhism as passive and feminine with other racial stereotypes—like those about Black and Latino men as criminals—and forms new subjectivities through a process of racialization. It also discusses the relationships between Buddhist exceptionalism, American exceptionalism, and Black exceptionalism in this dynamic.