Theology and the Public University

Miranda Schonbrun

For the past two years, the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, has convened a series of workshops and seminars concerning, broadly speaking, the place of theology in the university. From the outset, our goal was to challenge narrow conceptions of both secular learning and “theology,” in hopes of fostering robust conversation about the teaching of religion in the pluralist setting of the modern university.

On February 22-23, 2019, we held the culminating conference for the project. Entitled “Theology and the Public University,” the conference assembled a group of talented and creative thinkers who we believe are pioneering new ways of imagining theology, broadly construed.

For a complete schedule and list of lecture topics, please view the event schedule.

Three major inquiry-areas anchored the two-day conference:

Theology and the History of Learning: historical settings and genealogies of the interrelationship of theology and the modern landscape of university learning: the formation of seminaries, theology faculties in historical relationship to other university faculties, religion in public and private universities, comparative historical dimensions, legal and political contexts.

Theology and Modern Secular Disciplines: with particular focus on the modern research university, an investigation of the particularity of theological learning in relationship to contemporary university disciplines, including but not limited to religious studies; comparative work on the varieties of theological learning in universities/seminaries/divinity schools; connections and tensions between secular and theological modes of inquiry; specificity of the public university in these discussions

The Limits and Possibilities of Theology in a Pluralist World: exploring how theology translates, or does not translate, across religious worlds; alternative vocabularies for the religious imagination; relationships between theology and other forms of religious knowledge and experience; theology in and beyond a Christian setting; provincializing theology; theology and inter-religious debate; what would theology have to be, to be in a public university?

Topics and Participants will include the following:

“Blackness and the Sacred; Or, the Poetics of (Non)Knowledge”, Kameron Carter, Associate Professor of Theology, English, and African American Studies, Duke University

“Sacred Texts, Secular Readers, and Humanist Theology”, Constance Furey, Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University Bloomington

“‘There Is No Such Thing as Jewish Theology’: Protestantism and the Jewish Theological Allergy”, Susannah Heschel, Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

“Politics and Possibilities of Islamic Studies in Interreligious Contexts”, Munir Jiwa, Professor of Islamic Studies and Anthropology, Graduate Theological Union

“History and Halakhah: The ‘Lost Children’ of Munkatch”, Ethan Katz, Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies, UC Berkeley

“Mysticism and/as Theology: The Academy and Subjectification”, Shaul Magid, Professor of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies, Indiana University Bloomington

“The English Department?”,*David Marno, Associate Professor, English, UC Berkeley

“‘From the Phraseological to the Real’: Lived Theology and the Public University” Charles Marsh, Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies, Director of the Project on Lived Theology, University of Virginia

“Theology in University Curricula: A Very Short History”, Tomoko Masuzawa, Professor of History & Comparative Literature, University of Michigan

“The Mythopoetics of Islamic Law: Implications of IBN Arabi’s Mystical Quest”, Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Notre Dame

“Channeling the Religious Imagination into Innovative Methods: Toshihiko Izutsu’s Journey Through Academic Disciplines and Landscapes, East and West”, Armando Salvatore, Professor of Global Religious Studies, McGill University

“Analytic Philosophy: The Perfect Handmaiden for Theology?”, Thomas Schmidt, Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Goethe University Frankfurt

“Fiat Lux – Vox, Veritas, Vita: Theology and California’s Public University”, Jason Sexton, Visiting Fellow, Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion and Interim Dean, California State University Academic Programs

Moderating, *Jonathan Sheehan, Professor of History, UC Berkeley, 

“The Rise of the Theologian: Translation and the Vocation of Theology in Turkey”, Yunus Dogan Telliel, Assistant Teaching Professor in Humanities and Arts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Theology and Textuality: Alternative Spiritualities and the Religious Imagination”, Gauri Viswanathan, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Andrea White, Associate Professor of Theology and Culture, Union Theological Seminary

*Co-Director of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion

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The Berkeley Public Theology Program invites innovative thinkers and public figures to Berkeley to reflect on the past, present, and future of theological inquiry. Such lectures spark scholarly conversations on campus and place Berkeley at the center of global conversations on religion and public life.