De Natura Fidei: Rethinking Religion across Disciplinary Boundaries

deadline for submissions: 
September 5, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Jibu Mathew George, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India

De Natura Fidei: Rethinking Religion across Disciplinary Boundaries

Call for Papers

Most enquiries have no ground zero. Many can, or have to, at least till a tentatively fixed point, tread familiar paths. The study of religion is no exception. The ground here, to borrow J.L. Austin’s words, is “trodden into bogs and tracks” by generations of thinkers and practitioners. But there comes a point which may open up a ‘road not taken.’ As for disciplines, methods, and approaches, proclamations on the interdisciplinarity of knowledge sound rather tautological. All knowledge is interdisciplinary. Canons of reasoning may change when one crosses disciplinary boundaries, though.

A rethinking needs to begin with fundamentals. What is religion? Is religion about the supernatural or about transcendence? What, for instance, would be a better designation for Hinduism?: a way of life, or a collegiate religion? What are the criteria by which one can decide? Are there domain-specific calculi of reasoning about religion? Or, does religion share its features with other human endeavours? In any case, God-question is one which probably engaged humanity the longest, and in the most intense forms, in its history. Religion in its multifacetedness, and even in its absence, has influenced virtually every sphere of human existence, and has left its traces on almost every discipline. In literary studies, for example, a ‘trace’ could be found in M.H. Abrams’s thesis that Romanticism is secularized theology. Explorations of religion have an inherently cross-disciplinary and pan-existential, pan-cultural significance, and connects up with vital questions in various disciplines.

Historically, most reflections on religion have had a partisan character. These reflections have proceeded from either a position of belief or of disbelief, explicit or implicit, advancing arguments and analyses for or against the respective protagonists’ entrenched and non-negotiable positions. A neutral middle ground from which to explore and understand has become difficult to obtain in our own increasingly polemical times. Perhaps human intelligence is fundamentally ‘agonistic’!  This ‘versus fixation’ seems unconducive to understanding any phenomenon, least of all, religion. In many parts of the world, debates on religion, even when well-begun, also seem to collapse into mere cultural, ideological, and personal claims and defences. Is there a way out? To be sure, there is nothing innocent under the sun, and knowledge is inevitably contested. Summarizing some of the sociological theories of the phenomenon, an ideological critic recently observed that religions were “ancient constitutions.” Still, be it between religion and irreligion, or among religions, can there be greater understanding than claims and counter-claims? A provisional solution, as it were, seems to be to bring these claims and counter-claims, statements, counterstatements, and even understatements, together on a single platform, and facilitate their interplay.

Both religion and irreligion have an interiority and complexity which surpasses matter-of-fact academic theorizations, facile generalizations, and instant dismissals. Often, to believe is considered to be naive, particularly in the modern world, where scepticism is mistaken for critical intelligence, or, at least in some parts of the world, being indifferent for being secular. It is often said, therefore, at least by the religious, that beliefs, assumptions, and practices of religion can only be understood ‘from within.’

The volume entitled De Natura Fidei: Rethinking Religion across Disciplinary Boundaries envisages a collection of essays which attempt to break new ground in understanding religion in its multidimensionality. These essays, ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 words each, will feature theoretical (in the broadest possible sense) insights and original historico-cultural research; offer cognitive/psychological studies of religion; re-examine its structures, beliefs, and practices; analyze limitations, possibilities, and dilemmas of religious representation; engage the battle (or play) of world views in which religions were indispensable protagonists; contest, critique, and problematize received frameworks and paradigms, as well as construct alternatives; and, last but not the least, foreground, sometimes in contradistinction to institutional structures and discourses (and often to the envy of academia), the reality of lived faith, all illuminating a ubiquitous but elusive phenomenon. The contributors hail from several academic disciplines and cultural backgrounds, adhere to diverse traditions and creeds (or irreligion), and occupy intellectual positions whose heterogeneity forms the hallmark of this collection. The envisioned impact of the volume derives from its self-conscious polyphony.

De Natura Fidei: Rethinking Religion across Disciplinary Boundaries will explore the subtleties of religion, belief and faith, their theoria and praxis, origins and evolutions, structures and dynamics, precepts and concepts under twelve thematic rubrics:

Philosophizing Religion: Resetting the Terms of Enquiry

The Logic of Gods: Theological Updates

Structures of Meaning: Religion as a Cultural System

“The Pastness of the Past”: Religions in their Historical Contexts

The Play of World Views: Religion, Science, and Secularization

Cogito, ergo credo/nego: Modes of Religious Cognition

Gestalt und Gehalt: Religion, Representation, Art, and Iconography

Illo Tempore: Myth, Folklore, and Popular Religion

The Infrastructure of Religion: Traditions, Institutions, and Practices

“Human, All Too Human”: The Terrain of Critique

Credo ut intelligam: Experiential Accounts

Between Religions: Comparisons, Contestations, and Alternatives

The emphasis is on well-researched articles which contest received ideas and traditional paradigms and offer innovative insights regardless of their ideological orientation, transcend discipline-specific canons of reasoning with regard to religion, and, more importantly, engage issues at a meta-level and can produce a change in the very terms of enquiry. Contributions to the first rubric are welcome from both Analytic and Continental approaches.

Prospective contributors are requested to send abstracts of 150-200 words by 5 September 2017, accompanied by a bio note of 150-200 words. Authors will be notified of the acceptance of their abstracts by 31 October 2017. Full papers are expected by 28 February 2018. Submissions to be considered for inclusion in the volume will follow the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition). Abstracts can be emailed to Dr Jibu Mathew George (School of Literary Studies, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad 500 007, India), the volume editor, at denaturafidei@gmail.com, with a copy marked to jibugeorge@efluniversity.ac.in.