On My Way to Boston for #AARSBL17

I’m planning on having my blogging over the coming days be about the conference in Boston, this year’s joint annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. Below are some updates about where to find me during the conference. But let me start by noting that I would normally have tried to get to Boston Chowda in the Prudential Center food court for lunch daily, but the entire food court was done away with, and so I’ll be looking for other opportunities to get a regular fix of fresh seafood.

Later today (Friday) I’ll be participating in a workshop about fake news and the media. Here is a little bit of the information that has been provided thus far:

The Religion and Media Workshop is a day-long seminar designed to foster collaborative conversation at the cutting edge of the study of religion, media, and culture. This year’s workshop will explore how to respond to the changing relations between religion and media due to changing assumptions regarding the ‘fake’ and the ‘natural/real.’

A core assumption for many has been that journalism is the bedrock of democracy.
• If so, what then happens in a time of fake news? What is the relation of alternative facts to religion? Is willingness to believe fake news a new form that religion is taking in this new media environment? Or is fake news simply a new twist on old problems, including propaganda and ideology?
• Second, what happens when media cease to be articulated against the natural, so that we relate to ‘nature’ and ‘media’ as environments which we do not frame as mediated? How can we develop practices of seeing nature as a fertile source of meaning that mediates the human and the technological? What do we need to help us think the links between diffuse technological infrastructures, specific media platforms, and the ‘natural’ conditions of life in the Anthropocene?

I hope to make it to the reception for program coordinators after that.

On Saturday, there are sessions of program units that I am involved in: Digital Humanities (S18-121 at 9am, co-sponsored by the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media and Book History and Biblical Literatures program units, on the theme “Liquid Scripture: The Bible in a Digital World”) and Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity (A18-222  at 1pm, co-sponsored by the Qur’an program unit, on the topic “Christianity and Islam in the Late Antique“). Unfortunately I’ll have to miss the session on global sci-fi and the one on mysticism, esotericism, and Gnosticism, as well as the Durham reception, the Enoch Seminar gathering, and even the Bloggers’ Gathering. That last event will simply involve meeting up at the Eerdmans’ Reception at 8pm. Please take photos and share them on social media, to make me feel even worse than I already do about not being able to be there.

Sunday I have a variety of meetings and so am busy most of the day through evening, but am open to meeting up with friends if we can arrange it. If not, you can just go to hear Martin Scorsese speak at 1pm.

After the program unit chairs’ breakfast on Monday morning, I’m presiding over a session jointly sponsored by the Digital Humanities and Pseudepigrapha program units, about “Multi-spectral Imaging and the Recovery of “Lost” Texts from Palimpsests.” I’ll then go to the CFR luncheon, and then may try to attend either the Historical Jesus or Science Fiction session, before the next Digital Humanities session, about “Jewish and Christian Scriptures in a Digital Culture.” After that I’ll be at the Wipf and Stock reception, and will probably also try to stop by the AAR program unit chairs’ reception.

On Tuesday morning, I’ll be presenting about Canon: The Card Game in the final Digital Humanities session, S21-116, on the theme “Reading, Publishing, Gaming: academic digital challenges.”

Hope to see some blog readers there!

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  • John MacDonald

    I’m trying to think of an example of “fake news” in biblical studies: Maybe when a pastor presents something to her congregation about Jesus from the bible, when she knows that the consensus of biblical scholars agree that there is no reason to think the information is historical – e.g., presenting Matthew’s Jesus infancy narrative as part of a Christmas sermon.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I hope to blog more about that topic soon – ASOR had an interesting article about information literacy and biblical studies recently.

      • John MacDonald

        It’s a little confusing, because I always hear how little scholarly consensus there is about data concerning the historical Jesus, and yet Church Pastors somehow have enough information about Jesus for an hour long sermon for every Sunday of the year, and beyond.

      • John MacDonald

        James, maybe it would be helpful for the Church Pastors if The Historical Jesus Scholars such as yourself were to put out a common curriculum for Pastors/Congregations about biblical pericopes that should be bracketed (omitted) when discussing Jesus with their congregation (such as Matthew’s Jesus infancy narrative, which is a recapitulation of the story of Moses) because these passages probably don’t portray/reflect the historical Jesus?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          This is in the curriculum at every liberal, mainline, and moderate seminary, and in the reading (even if not embraced) at conservative institutions. Many ministers do not share what they learned with their congregations.

          On the other hand, I see no reason why sermons ought to be limited to the historical. Literature ancient and modern of a variety of genres other than history can be edifying and inspiring.

          • John MacDonald

            I didn’t phrase that very well. Of course presenting Jesus as the New Moses in Matthew could make for a beautiful sermon!