Foucault & Religion

What consequences has Michel Foucault’s thought had for the study of religion?

March 10-11, 2017  | Swift Common Room and Lecture Hall


Foucault and Religion Poster.jpgThis two-day conference will bring scholars from a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences into a conversation about Foucault and religion. 

How has Foucault’s thought contributed to the formation of “religion” as an object of inquiry in different fields? What are the points of contact between practices of the self (spiritual exercises) and the anthropology of ethics?

How do empirical studies of religious and spiritual practices provoke us to rethink Foucault’s corpus?

In what ways do genealogies of the secular trade on Foucault’s analysis of power-knowledge and his use of the concept of critique?

What productive tensions are generated by interdisciplinary appropriations of Foucauldian concepts and critical-genealogical methodologies? 

The “and” in the conference’s title intends to evoke a number of possible conjunctures between the two stated themes: the significance of religion within Foucault’s conceptual architecture, as well as the ways in which Foucault’s work has recast anthropological, sociological, and historical discourses on religion as an object of knowledge.

For more information, contact conference organizers Daniel Schultz ( ) or Maureen Kelly ( ).

Sponsored by the Martin Marty Center at the Divinity School, the Lichtstern Committee, the France Chicago Center, the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, the Philosophy of Religions Workshop, the Graduate Council, and the Divinity Students Association.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Banner image: Tom Fecht: Kaltes Quadrat (cold square) – Bonn – Installation in the entrance of the Federal art and exhibition hall in Bonn – paving stone in memory of Michel Foucault.   

venue: Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture Hall 

9:30-10:00         Coffee 
10:00                 Welcome Remarks and Introduction to keynote speaker:

Arnold I. Davidson, University of Chicago

10:15-12:15         Keynote by Daniele Lorenzini, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne / Columbia University: "
Pleasures, Desire, Concupiscence: The Christian Chapter of Foucault’s History of Sexuality"

Dawn Herrera Helphand, University of Chicago
Steve CollinsUniversity of Chicago


12:15-13:15        Lunch for conference participants        


13:15-14:45        Panel 1: Ethics, Self-transformation, and Political resistance 

Jonathan SchoferUniversity of Texas at Austin: "Foucault’s Ethics, the Present Day, and Deuteronomy Rabbah"

Daniel Wyche, University of Chicago: "The Practice of Dignity: The Care of the Self, Relations of Power, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott"

Respondent(s): Maureen KellyUniversity of Chicago


14:45-15:15        Coffee break


15:15-16:45        Panel 2: Askesis and the Spirituality of Thought

James FaubionRice University: "The Indecorous Ascetic"

Ann BurleinHofstra University: "A Passion of/for the Unlivable: Raymond Roussel and the Spirituality of Thought"

Daniel SchultzUniversity of Chicago
Xiao-bo YuanUniversity of Chicago


16:45-18:00        Reception, Swift Hall, 1st Floor, Common Room

venue: Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture Hall

9:00-9:30      Coffee

9:30-11:00          Panel 3: War and Revolution between Historiography and Spectatorship 

Daniel SchultzUniversity of Chicago: "Historiography and Revolutionary Spectatorship: Foucault in Iran"

Adam SternHarvard University: "Jewish Society Must be Defended: Zionist History and Zionist War"

Larisa Reznik, University of Chicago
Alex Wolfson, University of Chicago


11:15-12:45        Panel 4: Race, Temporality, and Critique 

Ruth Mas, Freie Universität: "Foucault and the Time of Critique"

J. Kameron CarterDuke University, "Foucault Outside, Blackness Outdoors (Notes on the Fugitive Sacred)"

Daniel Wyche, University of Chicago


12:45-13:45        Lunch for conference participants


13:45 - 15:15      Panel 5: Heterodoxy and Political Spirituality

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "On Foucault's Spirituality: When the Body Liberates Itself from the Prison-House of the Soul"

Xiao-bo YuanUniversity of Chicago: "Engendering Heterodoxy: Ethnographic Encounters with Disorder, Resistance, and Counter-conduct in Chinese Christian churches"


Alireza Doostdar, University of Chicago
Shefali Jha, University of Chicago 


15:15 - 15:30 Coffee

15:30 - 16:30 Summation Panel and Reception