Performing Theology

deadline for submissions: 
April 23, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Research Network for Theology, Performance, and Politics, University of Dresden
contact email: 

Performing Theology Online Conference 20 to 22 May 2022

Organized by: Research network “theology, performance & politics” Hosted by: Institute for Catholic Theology TU Dresden / Chair of Syst. Theology

1. Abstract In academic work as well as in pastoral practice, theology is understood regularly and primarily as a verbal/oral activity. God-"talk" is taken literally and performed in appropriate oral formats: in academic lectures or group discussions; in homiletics, catechesis, and preaching; in text- and conversation-based religious education in schools; or in conversations about faith in everyday life. What is articulated orally may later be written down and recorded as a textual document. And vice versa: oral talk about God draws on available texts, extracts thoughts from them, and presents them in turn in oral form. In the past years, on the other hand, an increasing sensitivity and attention to other forms of theology can be observed (in the German-speaking world as well as internationally). These forms do not work with oral articulation and structured reflection, but with bodily expression, non-verbal interaction and configurations, resisting as well a pure fixation and representation of their content and message: Dance, choreographed interactions, music and sound, performance art and other representational practices including painting, mime, political body assemblies, and nonverbal protest in public. As nonverbal practices, they are characterized by something hyperbolic/by a surplus, nondeterminable, open-ended, and ephemeral. It is precisely in this – in this open, fragile performance – that they seem to refer possibly to God as Other and do something within the context in which they appear: they open up space for gestures, feelings, ways of thinking and living that transcend previous cultural, social, political grids. The more explicit discourse recedes into the background, the more questions of embodiment, representation, gesture emerge. The conference "Performing theology" has such "other forms" (heteromorphies) of theology as its subject. It takes them into consideration, thematizes them and tries to trace their performative dynamics. Four questions play a crucial role in the conference:  Which body dimensions characterize such practices?  In what ways are they resistant, irritating, interrupting, critical, creative, provocative, transformative?  Is there a theological dimension in them – be it in on the level of contents or in regard to their performative dynamics?  What are concrete impulses for theological-academic work and pastoral practice if we understand theology as logos-critical performative practice?

Target group: The conference addresses theologians, cultural scientists, scholars in religious studies, religious educators as well as practitioners in church pastoral work and social work, teachers with an interest in reflecting on other forms of theology in their own practice, and students of theology and related subjects. The conference offers approaches to various embodiments of theology as theoretical input in four keynotes. On day 2 it also includes an experimental-participative part, in which the classical format of lecture - discussion is not applied, but conversely a performative experience is initiated experimentally (workshop-like), which is subsequently reflected upon. At the end, the conference will also look into the future: On day 3, the network "Theology, performance, politics", which is currently being established / re-vitalized, will be introduced and interests and possibilities for further cooperation will be discussed.

The conference will take place via Zoom, languages are English and German. Summaries of keynotes and main contributions in English will be available in German, and vice versa. For registration, please send an email to Participation in the conference is free of charge. Participants will receive the Zoom-Link after registration some days prior to the start of the conference. 2. Call for papers The paper sessions on day 2 offers to all participants the opportunity to present own reflections on “performing theology” in the form of paper presentations, in two different perspectives: 1) First, there will be a "workshop master thesis", in which advanced students 1-2 semesters before graduation can present their own projects and receive feedback. For this purpose, a lecturer is available to provide support and give feedback. Registration in the Master Workshop via email to with indication of the topic of the Master thesis. 2) Second, there will be research-oriented paper sessions for the presentation and discussion of scientific contributions as well as practical reports.

Short presentations of 20 minutes are requested, followed by a 10-minute discussion. Please send proposals for contributions in the form of an abstract (approx. 100 words) to by April 23. You will receive feedback from the conference team by April 25. You are cordially invited to present your own research projects, research results, practical experiences, and work results of "performing theology" and to bring them into discussion!