Constructive Studies in the Academic Study of Religion

May 24-26, 2017 | Swift Hall 

We are pleased to announce the first installment in a series of conferences engaging “The Tradition(s) of Swift Hall.” The aim of the conference series is to gather the community of Divinity School, present and past, and scholars from different institutions in a journey of critical self-reflection. The theme for this first conference is “Constructive Studies in the Academic Study of Religion” and will focus on the traditions and unanswered questions that have emerged out of the interaction among theology, philosophy of religions, and religious ethics.

We encourage presenters to critically address the notion of “constructive studies.” What does the term “constructive” name? What common project does it identify? Is the association of theology, ethics and philosophy under one committee a sign of the presence of a “Chicago School”? How might other fields be doing constructive projects? How do ministry studies fit under the umbrella of other “constructive” fields, for instance?

Furthermore, we encourage presenters to also focus on the category of “tradition.” What is a tradition in the academic study of religion? Is there a dominant one or a plurality of them? How do older and current traditions influence the field? What is missing? What has changed? What remains the same? What responsibility do current students have in remembering and carrying these traditions?

And most broadly, we want to foster conversation about the formation of knowledge in the university. What is our common project? Does the task assigned to constructive studies in the Divinity School project onto a larger set of intellectual priorities and goals at the University of Chicago? What are the contours of public scholarship coming out of the university today?

Organizers: Divinity students Raúl Zegarra, Joel Brown, and Caroline Anglim

Conference schedule as of March 13, 2017 (PDF). 

12:00p Theology and Religious Ethics Workshop

Catherine Keller, Drew University

3:00 Craft of Teaching: Building a Career in Constructive Studies (workshop)

Tal Lewis, Brown University

Bruce Ellis Benson, Loyola Marymount

Sarah Fredericks, University of Chicago

Moderator: Aaron Hollander, University of Chicago

5:00 Welcome remarks and introduction to keynote speaker

Raúl Zegarra, University of Chicago

5:15 Keynote

Catherine Keller, Drew University

6:30 Reception

9:00a Panel 1: Theology in the Constructive Study of Religion

Kevin Hector, University of Chicago

Kris Culp, University of Chicago

John Betz, University of Notre Dame

Moderator: TBD

10:30 Coffee Break

11:00 Panel 2: Philosophy in the Constructive Study of Religion

Tal Lewis, Brown University

Dan Arnold, University of Chicago

Bruce Ellis Benson, Loyola Marymount

Moderator: TBD

12:30p Lunch

2:00 Panel 3: Method in the Constructive Study of Religion

Jean-Luc Marion, University of Chicago

Willemien Otten, University of Chicago

Michael Fishbane, University of Chicago

Moderator: TBD

3:30 Coffee Break

4:00 Introduction of the keynote speaker

Caroline Anglim, University of Chicago

4:15 Keynote

William Schweiker, University of Chicago

5:45 Dinner


9:00a Panel 1: Perspectives on Constructive Studies (I)

Viraj Patel, University of Chicago, “Typologies and Traditions: A History of Self-Reflection in Constructive Studies”

Kristóf Oltvai, University of Chicago, “Construction as a Discourse of Secularity”

Sarah Zagar, Yale University, 

Michael Huber-Hedstrom, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 

Respondent: TBD

10:30 Coffee Break

10:45 Panel 2: Perspectives on Constructive Studies (II)

Russell Johnson, University of Chicago, “Rewording the Gospel: The Tradition of Rhetorical Theology”

Matthew Peterson, University of Chicago,

Eun Hwang, University of Chicago, “The Tradition of Comparison: Values, Interpretation, and Intricacies of Comparing Religious Traditions in Comparative Religious Ethics”

Matthew Graham, Indiana University Bloomington, “Data or Dialogue? Gadamer’s Hermeneutics and the Constructive Study of Religion”

Respondent: Elsa Marty, University of Chicago

12:15p Lunch

1:00 Introduction of Colloquium Speakers

Joel Brown, University of Chicago

1:15 Colloquium: Reflections on the Development of Constructive Studies in Swift 

Clark Gilpin, University of Chicago

Bernard McGinn, University of Chicago

1:45 Closing remarks

Joel Brown, University of Chicago