What a long, strange year. As 2021 reaches its conclusion, we are grateful that you are part of the Political Theology Network community. Here are some announcements and some highlights from the past year. If you have any feedback or suggestions, or would like to get more involved, please don’t hesitate to reach out. With new staff bringing added capacity, we are looking forward to sharing monthly updates with members next year.
Take good care and happy holidays,
Heather, Brandy, Dave, Lucia, Vincent, and Denise
PTN Leadership Team retreat outside of Portland, Oregon in June, 2021, with Dave True, Brandy Daniels, Heather Ohaneson, and Vincent Lloyd (left to right).
PTN Conference Call for Papers
The Political Theology Network and Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict are partnering to host PTN’s third annual conference, April 7-9. Designed in thematic streams to offer a more intimate, and pandemic-friendly, conference experience, paper proposals are welcome from those who would like to present in person or virtually. We are excited to see the streams take on a life of their own as centers of energy within PTN, at this conference and beyond. More information here.
2021: Year In Review
PTN Became a Membership Organization
In February 2021, PTN launched its first membership drive. After five years guided by a leadership team and community advisory board, and supported by start-up funds from the Henry Luce Foundation, PTN began its transition to being a member-led, member-supported organization. Today, PTN has more than one thousand members. We are building out the infrastructure needed to sustain and guide an organization of this size. We have created a new advisory board, the appointed Executive Committee is turning into an elected body, and we are grateful to Villanova University for a new, permanent commitment of support staff and infrastructure supporting PTN through Villanova’s Center for Political Theology.
If you would like to become a member (the cost is pay-what-you-wish), just click here.
PTN Launched Two New Blogs
Starting in February 2021, PTN’s website hosted a new blog, Critical Theory for Political Theology. Each week, the blog featured an essay on one contemporary theorist, opening up their work to conversations in religion, politics, and theory today. In 2022, the blog will feature weekly essays on keywords from critical theory that are useful in political theology conversations, curated by an editorial collective of ten experts from around the world. (While the official CFP deadline for the keywords series has passed, queries are still welcome – more information here.)
Fall 2021 also saw the “soft launch” of another new blog on the PTN platform, The Brink. Edited by the special projects editors of the journal Political Theology, Milinda Bannerjee and Méadhbh McIvor, The Brink features cutting-edge content that opens new theoretical perspectives, uses new methods, or asks new questions. Material on The Brink is often about to be published, in expanded form, in the academic journal Political Theology – for example, interviews, thematic symposia, and round robin book discussions.
PTN Supported Colleagues in Distress
Our inaugural membership drive was tied to COVID relief. With funds raised from members, we were able to support eleven scholars, students, clergy, and activists who were put in financial distress by the pandemic.
PTN Nurtured the Next Generation of Scholars
- Twice a week, graduate students working in political theology gathered virtually to write together and build a sense of community. In 2022, this group plans to split in two, with one group gathering dissertation writers and another group gathering first book writers.
- In August 2021, six recent PhD’s gathered with two senior scholar mentors to share teaching tips, discuss the field, workshop their writing, and explore public scholarship possibilities. Graduate assistant Laura Simpson summarized the gatherings here.
- The PTN mentorship program, aimed at connecting scholars traditionally underrepresented in the field (including women and racial minorities) with senior scholars hosted a virtual workshop and supported continued relationships between junior and senior scholars.
- PTN’s annual dissertation workshop took place virtually for the first time, allowing more international participants. Mentors Martin Kavka, Julie Cooper, and Vincent Lloyd, and workshop coordinator Inese Radzins, talked with final-year doctoral students about their exciting projects. The 2022 workshop will take place in April at the PTN conference and will include all female or gender-nonconforming participants. Email Inese if you would like to apply.
We said goodbye to Richard Evans, formerly the staff person working behind the scenes to keep the PTN wheels turning, and welcome Denise Farrell to take on that role. We also said farewell to Wonchul Shin, formerly the managing editor of the PTN website and now one of the journal’s book review editors, and we welcomed John Boopalan to help coordinate web activities. We also welcomed Abel Gomez as the new PTN social media editor and welcomed a new pair of podcast hosts, Sher Tareen and Amanda Furiasse, who filled the shoes of Amaryah Armstrong and Zac Settle.
Political Theology, the scholarly cornerstone of PTN, continues to publish eight issues per year. Special features during 2021 include roundtable discussions of Michel Foucault and Franz Rosenzweig, a book forum on Islamophobia, special issues on speculative fiction and political theology, on Mennonite political theology, and on democracy, virtue, and political theology, and a new feature: interviews aimed at expanding the field, published four times per year. In 2022, the journal is welcoming two new editorial board members: Muna Tatari and Pantelis Kalaitzidis.
Developing the Network
PTN’s Executive Committee welcomed a new member: Lucia Hulsether. There will be an open call for nominations and self-nomiations to the executive committee in early 2022, looking toward April elections. During an in-person retreat in June and a virtual retreat in December, PTN leadership worked on clarifying institutional governance, reviewing activities, projecting budgets, and and developing a handbook to increase the transparency of PTN’s structure and to preserve institutional memory.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The core PTN web stream published exciting content on many Thursdays, and the Politics of Scripture group published on Mondays. There were book discussion groups, virtual workshops, AAR panels, a virtual symposium on African political theology, and much, much more. We can’t wait to connect with you through some PTN activity next year. And if there is an activity that you would like to see get in touch with or a new idea you would like to develop under the PTN umbrella, please don’t hesitate to reach out: email@example.com.