Affectivity and Divinity: Affect Theories and Theologies

Fifteenth Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium: March 18-20, 2016

Affectivity and Divinity:
Affect Theories and Theologies

Affect theory is, perhaps, the most prominent development in critical theory in recent years. An ever-increasing assortment of scholars, theorists, and critics in fields as diverse as literary studies, cultural studies, gender studies, queer studies, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, history, political theory, film theory, art theory, and disability studies has turned its attention to affects and emotions. Engagement by scholars of religion with the affective turn, however, remains in an embryonic state. The 15th Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium seeks to catalyze this nascent encounter.

Religion has always been deeply entangled with affective experience and trans-rational investigation of the world. Religion and affect theory are already joined in muted dialogue, then. This colloquium will bring together theologians, biblical critics, other scholars of religion, and leading affect theorists from beyond the field of religious studies to turn up the volume and decipher the exchange. In so doing we will foster a more explicit theological engagement with affect theory and through a transdisciplinary exploration uncover more fully its potential for religious studies.

Interested faculty, students, and others from Drew and beyond with an appetite for critical theory are welcome to attend the colloquium. Papers are pre-circulated, thus it is important to register in order to participate in the conversation fully.


Show the full schedule


Eugenie Brinkema

Associate Professor of Literature
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Eugenie Brinkema is Associate Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her Ph.D. in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University in 2010. Her research in film and media studies focuses on violence, affect, sexuality, aesthetics, and ethics in texts ranging from the horror film to gonzo pornography, from structuralist film to the visual and temporal forms of terrorism. Articles have appeared in the journals Angelaki, Camera Obscura, Criticism, differences, Discourse, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, and World Picture. Her first book, The Forms of the Affects, was published with Duke University Press in 2014. Recent work includes a co-edited special issue of the Journal of Visual Culture on the design and componentry of horror.

“Incremental Love”

Read abstract


Mel Y. Chen

Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Vice Chair for Research
University of California, Berkeley

Mel Y. Chen is Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Director for Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Sexual Culture at the University of California, Berkeley. Chen’s 2012 book, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke University Press, 2012; winner of the Alan Bray Award), explores questions of racialization, queering, disability, and affective economies in animate and inanimate “life” through the extended concept of “animacy.” A second book project concerns the relationships among the conceptual territories of “toxicity” and “intoxication” and their involvement in histories of the shared interanimation of race and disability. Further writing on topics such as cognitive disability and method, animal gendering in film, the racialization of pollution, and queer intimacies can be found in Women’s Studies QuarterlyGLQJournal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Transgender Studies QuarterlyDiscourse, Women in PerformanceAustralian Feminist StudiesAmerasiaand Medical Humanities. A co-edited special issue (with Dana Luciano) of GLQ on “Queer Inhumanisms” appeared in early 2015. With Jasbir K. Puar, Chen coedits a book series entitled “Anima,” highlighting scholarship in critical race and disability post/in/humanisms, at Duke University Press. Chen is serving a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Society for Disability Studies.

“Matter’s Givens”


Patricia Ticineto Clough

Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies
Graduate Center and Queens College
City University of New York

Patricia Ticineto Clough is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City University of New York. She is author of Autoaffection: Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology (2000); Feminist Thought: Desire, Power and Academic Discourse (1994); and The End(s) of Ethnography: From Realism to Social Criticism (1998). She is editor of The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social (2007), a collection of essays by Sociology graduate students drawn from their dissertations. Clough’s work draws on theoretical traditions concerned with technology, new media, affect, the unconscious, timespace and political economy. She is currently working on Ecstatic Corona, an ethnographic, historical research and experimental writing project about where she grew up in Corona Queens New York. Clough is joined by students at Queens College who also are doing work on where they live in Queens and what parts of the world they or their families come from.

“From Ethnography to Performance”

Read abstract

Ann Cvetkovich

Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies
University of Texas at Austin

Ann Cvetkovich is Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Mixed Feelings:  Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism (Rutgers University Press, 1992); An Archive of Feelings:  Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Duke University Press, 2003); and Depression:  A Public Feeling (Duke University Press, 2012). She co-edited (with Ann Pellegrini) “Public Sentiments,” a special issue of The Scholar and Feminist Online, and (with Janet Staiger and Ann Reynolds) Political Emotions (Routledge, 2010). She has been coeditor, with Annamarie Jagose, of GLQ:  A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. She is writing a book about the current state of LGBTQ archives and the creative use of them by artists to produce counterarchives and interventions in public history. For additional info, see

“The Bibliographic Altar and the Archive of Feelings”

Amy Hollywood

Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Studies
Harvard Divinity School

Amy Hollywood is Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Studies at Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of The Soul as Virgin Wife: Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete, and Meister Eckhart (University of Notre Dame Press, 1995), which received the Otto Grundler Prize for the best book in medieval studies from the International Congress of Medieval Studies; Sensible Ecstasy: Mysticism, Sexual Difference, and the Demands of History (University of Chicago Press, 2002); and, forthcoming from Columbia University Press, Acute Melancholia and Other Essays. She is also the co-editor, with Patricia Beckman, of The Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism (2012). Professor Hollywood is currently exploring the place of the mystical, often redescribed as enthusiasm, within modern philosophy, theology, and poetry.

“Feeling Dead, Dead Feeling”

W. Anne Joh

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

W. Anne Joh is Associate Professor of Theology at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and affiliate faculty in Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. Joh’s areas of research interests are at the intersection of critical theories on race, gender, trauma, affect, postcolonialism and militarism in relation to transpacific Asian America. She is the author of Heart of the Cross: A Postcolonial Christology (Westminster John Knox Press, 2006) as well as chapters in edited volumes. Forthcoming are Terror, Trauma and Loss: A Postcolonial Theology of Hope, and a co-edited volume, Critical Theology against U.S. Militarism in Asia: Decolonization and Deimperialism, forthcoming in 2016 from Palgrave.

“Terror, Loss and Hope: The Transpacific Affective Life of the Unending War”

Read abstract

Stephen D. Moore

Edmund S. Janes Professor of New Testament Studies
Drew Theological School

Stephen D. Moore is Edmund S. Janes Professor of New Testament Studies at the Theological School, Drew University. He is the author most recently of The Bible in Theory: Critical and Postcritical Essays (Society of Biblical Literature, 2010); The Invention of the Biblical Scholar: A Critical Manifesto, with Yvonne Sherwood (Fortress Press, 2011); and Untold Tales from the Book of Revelation: Sex and Gender, Empire and Ecology (Society of Biblical Literature, 2014). His recent edited volumes include Planetary Loves: Spivak, Postcoloniality, and Theology, co-edited with Mayra Rivera (Fordham University Press, 2011); Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology (Fordham University Press, 2014), and a thematic issue of the journal Biblical Interpretation (2014) titled “Affect Theory and the Bible” and co-edited with Jennifer L. Koosed.

“The Messiah Who Screamed”

Read abstract

Erin Runions

Associate Professor and Chair of Religious Studies
Pomona College

Erin Runions is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Pomona College. She explores the intersections of biblical interpretation and political philosophies, with their multiple impacts on political subjectivity, gender, sexuality, U.S. national sovereignty, and biopolitics. Her most recent book is The Babylon Complex: Theopolitical Fantasies of War, Sex and Sovereignty (Fordham University Press, 2014). She is also author of How Hysterical: Identification and Resistance in the Bible and Film (Palgrave, 2003) and Changing Subjects: Gender, Nation, Future in Micah (Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), as well as articles in Political Theology, Journal of the American Academy of ReligionJournal of Biblical Reception, Journal of Feminist Studies in ReligionGLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, differences, PostscriptsBiblical InterpretationThe Bible and Critical Theory, Semeia, and a variety of collected essays. She is an environmental justice activist and facilitates a writing workshop in prison.

“Interested Affects, Carceral Technologies, Theopolitical Subjectivities”

Read abstract

Donovan Schaefer

Departmental Lecturer in Religion and Science
Trinity College, University of Oxford

Donovan Schaefer is a departmental lecturer in science and religion at the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. He completed his PhD at Syracuse University in 2012 before taking up a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Haverford College, where he participated in a Mellon-sponsored faculty seminar on affect theory. He studies the relationship between religion, emotion, and power through the prisms of affect theory and evolutionary biology. His first book, Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power, was published by Duke University Press in 2015. He is currently working on a second book on the relationship between affect theory and secularisms.

“The Animality of Affect: Religion, Emotion, and Power”

Read abstract


Gregory J. Seigworth

Professor of Communication Studies in the Department of Communication and Theatre
Millersville University

Gregory J. Seigworth is Professor of Communication Studies at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, USA. Greg has published numerous chapters, essays and reviews in a variety of venues, including Antithesis, Architectural Design, Cultural Studies, Culture Machine, m/c, Radical Philosophy and Theory, Culture and Society. He is co-editor, with Melissa Gregg, of The Affect Theory Reader (Duke University Press, 2010). With Lisa Marie Blackman and Heather Love, Greg organized the international conference “Affect Theory: Worldings/Tensions/Futures” at his home institution in October 2015.

“Wearing the World Like a Debt Garment: Interface, Affect, and Gesture”

Read abstract

Respondents and Discussants

yountaeAn Yountae

An Yountae is a Korean-Argentinean scholar of religion and Visiting Assistant Professor in religion at the Department of Religion and Philosophy, Lebanon Valley College. An’s research explores the interdisciplinary boundaries of Western religious thought, continental philosophy, postcolonial studies, and Latin American/Caribbean intellectual tradition. An’s first book, The Decolonial Abyss: Mysticism and Cosmopolitics from the Ruins will be published in Fall 2016 by Fordham University Press (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy; series editor, John Caputo).


brayKaren Bray

Karen Bray has successfully defended her dissertation “Unredeemed: a political theology of affect, time, and worth” at Drew University. Her research engages contemporary feminist and queer theories of affect to diagnose and counter neoliberal narratives of redemption and salvation. She is an adjunct professor of religious studies at Eugene Lang College of New School University and Marymount Manhattan College, both in New York City. She teaches courses on Affect Theory, New Materialism and Political Ecology, Queer and Decolonial Theologies, Comparative Religious Ethics, Neo-Marxism, Sexual Ethics, and World Christianities. Bray’s work has been published in journals such as The American Journal of Theology and PhilosophyThe Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, and Palgrave Communications and in volumes published by Fordham University Press and Palgrave Macmillan.


DavisRobert Davis

Robert Davis is Assistant Professor of Theology and Medieval Studies at Fordham University. His primary area of research is medieval Latin Christian thought and practice from the 12th through the 14th centuries, with a focus on Christian mystical theology (especially as influenced by the Latin translations of the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius) and spiritual practices of intellectual and affective transformation in late medieval Europe. His first book, The Weight of Love: Affect, Ecstasy, and Union in the Theology of Bonaventure (forthcoming this fall from Fordham University Press), examines the complex embodiment of human affect and the role it plays in Bonaventure’s account of ecstatic union with God and the life and death of St. Francis of Assisi.


carlos_decenaCarlos Ulises Decena

Carlos Ulises Decena is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Chair of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University. He is an interdisciplinary scholar, whose interests include critical theory as well as social and cultural analysis, with a particular emphasis on transnationalism and diaspora in the American continent, US Latinoamerica and the Caribbean. His first book, Tacit Subjects: Belonging and Same-Sex Desire among Dominican Immigrant Men, was published by Duke University Press in 2011. He is currently at work on Circuits of the Sacred, a project that articulates Latin@, queer, and Afro-diasporic theologies in the service of a non-denominational, sex and body-affirmative notion of the divine for queers of color.


Catherine Kellerkeller

Catherine Keller is George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology at the Theological School of Drew University. In her teaching, lecturing and writing, she develops the relational potential of a theology of becoming. Her books reconfigure ancient symbols of divinity for the sake of a planetary conviviality—a life together, across vast webs of difference. Thriving in the interplay of ecological and gender politics, of process cosmology, poststructuralist philosophy and religious pluralism, her work is both deconstructive and constructive in strategy. She has most recently written Cloud of the Impossible: Theological Entanglements, which explores the relation of mystical unknowing, material indeterminacy and ontological interdependence.


jennifer_knust_v_0Jennifer W. Knust

Jennifer Knust is Associate Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Boston University School of Theology, with cross appointments in the Departments of Religion, and Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Author of a number of books and essays, she studies the transmission and reception of ancient books, ancient theories of sexuality, and the materiality of religion. Recent projects include: The Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religion (Routledge 2015); “Who’s Afraid of Noah, Ham, and Canaan? Genesis 9:18-29 and the Challenge of Reparative Reading” (Biblical Interpretation 2014); as well as several forthcoming essays, volumes and books, including Jesus, an Adulteress, and the History of the Gospel of John, co-authored with Tommy Wasserman (Princeton) and Ritual Matters: Material Residues and Ancient Religions (Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome), co-edited with Claudia Moser.


koosedJennifer L. Koosed

Jennifer L. Koosed is a professor of religious studies at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania.  She is the author of (Per)Mutations of Qohelet: Reading the Body in the Book (Continuum, 2006), Gleaning Ruth: A Biblical Heroine and Her Afterlives (University of South Carolina, 2011), and Jesse’s Lineage: The Legendary Lives of David, Jesus, and Jesse James (with Robert Paul Seesengood; Bloomsbury, 2013).  She is the editor of The Bible and Posthumanism (Society of Biblical Literature, 2014) and Affect Theory and the Bible (with Stephen D. Moore; Biblical Interpretation 2014). Her research interests include the writings of the Persian Period, issues of gender and sexuality, posthumanism and animal studies, and affect theory.


MarchalJoseph A. Marchal

Joseph A. Marchal is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Affiliated Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at Ball State University. His work explores, combines, and elaborates aspects of feminist, postcolonial, and queer approaches, crossing between biblical studies and critical theories of interpretation, the ancient world and its many, very contemporary echoes and impacts. Marchal is the author of Philippians: Historical Problems, Hierarchical Visions, Hysterical Anxieties (Sheffield Phoenix, 2014), The Politics of Heaven: Women, Gender, and Empire in the Study of Paul (Fortress, 2008), and Hierarchy, Unity, and Imitation: A Feminist Rhetorical Analysis of Power Dynamics in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (SBL, 2006); the editor of Studying Paul’s Letters: Contemporary Perspectives and Methods (Fortress, 2012), and The People Beside Paul: The Philippian Assembly and History from Below (SBL, 2015); and co-editor of Sexual Disorientations: Queer Temporalities, Affects, Theologies, the proceedings of TTC 14. His latest book manuscript is titled Appalling Bodies: Queer Figures Echoing Before and Beyond Paul’s Letters.


eliasElías Ortega-Aponte

Elías Ortega-Aponte is an Afro-Latino scholar whose areas of expertise are cultural sociology, religious ethics, critical social theory, social movements, and bioethics. He received his Ph.D. in Religious Social Ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary and now serves as Assistant Professor of Afro-Latinos/as Religions and Cultural Studies at Drew University Theological School. Dr. Ortega-Aponte approaches teaching from an interdisciplinary perspective, committed to social justice, and to the celebration of the creativity, genius, and fighting spirit of communities of color. His primary research interest is the study of how the intersections of race, religion, and experiences of inequalities lead Afro-diasporic communities in the United States and abroad to find ways to engage the challenges of urban poverty, incarceration, access to education, and adequate health care.


pressleyArthur Pressley

Dr. Arthur L. Pressley is the Associate Professor of Psychology and Religion at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Dr. Pressley’s teaching and research centers on cross-cultural studies focusing on culture and personality, pastoral care and counseling, and psychology of trauma and recovery. His publications include, “Using Novels of Resistance to Teach Intercultural Empathy and Cultural Analysis” in Being Black, Teaching Black: Politics and Pedagogy in Religious Studies; “Teaching Black: God-Talk with Black Thinkers,” co-authored with Nancy Lynne Westfield, in Being Black, Teaching Black: Politics and Pedagogy in Religious Studies; and “The Story of Nimrod: A Struggle with Otherness and the Search for Identity” in African American Religious Life and the Story of Nimrod.


Welseyan Thinks Big, Dec. 4, 2012.

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary-Jane Rubenstein is Professor and Chair of the Religion Department at Wesleyan University, where she is also core faculty in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. She is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe (Columbia University Press, 2009) and Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse (Columbia University Press, 2014); co-editor with Kathryn Tanner of Polydox Reflections (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014); and co-editor with Catherine Keller of Entangled Worlds: Religion, Science, and New Materialisms (Fordham University Press, forthcoming).


seesengoodRobert Paul Seesengood

Robert Paul Seesengood is Associate Professor and Chair in both the departments of Religious Studies and Classical Languages at Albright College in Reading, PA. He is author of Competing Identities: The Athlete and the Gladiator in Early Christian Literature (T & T Clark, 2006), Paul: A Brief History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) and (with Jennifer L. Koosed) Jesse’s Lineage: The Legendary Lives of David, Jesus and Jesse James (Bloomsbury 2013). His writing and scholarly interests include ancient Greek philology and literature, Ante-Nicene Christian literature (particularly Paul, apocalyptic, and martyrology), literary theory, and contemporary cultural studies (with a particular interest in film and film theory). Dr. Seesengood is co-chair of the Society of Biblical Literature’s Reading, Theory and the Bible section and book review editor for the journal Bible and Critical Theory. 


JSM photoJenna Supp-Montgomerie

Jenna Supp-Montgomerie holds a joint appointment in Religious Studies and Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. Her research examines the relationships of religion, media, and technology. Jenna’s work focuses on the appearance of religious thinking and practices in everyday life, particularly as we adopt and negotiate technological change. She has published essays and book chapters on this theme, including “Planetary Subjects after the Death of Geography” in Planetary Loves: Gayatri Spivak, Postcoloniality, and Theology and “‘If Only You Could See What I’ve Seen Through Your Eyes’: Destabilized Spectatorship and Creation’s Chaos in Blade Runner” in CrossCurrents. She is currently working on a book about the vital influence of American Christianity on globalization.



Thandeka, Visiting Professor of Affective Theological Studies at Andover Newton Theological School, is author of books on Schleiermacher and Cultural Identity Studies, including The Embodied Self: Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Solution to Kant’s Problem of the Empirical Self  (1995), Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America (1999, German edition 2009), and essays in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theology and Globalization (2011), and The Cambridge Companion to Schleiermacher (2005). Her new book, Love Beyond Belief: Recovering the Lost Emotional Foundation of Liberal Christian Faith – An Affect Theology Project, will be published later this year. Jaak Panksepp, founder of affective neuroscience, commends Thandeka’s “decisive historical-philosophical analysis” as work that can provide “a universal substrate for nondenominational religious experience” (The Archeology of the Mind). An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and Emmy award-winning television producer, she was given the !Xhosa name Thandeka, which means “beloved,” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1984.


Papers presented at several of the Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquia have been edited into essay collections, most of them published in a series by Fordham University Press.

Polydoxy: Theology of Multiplicity and Relation. Edited by Catherine Keller and Laurel Schneider. Routledge, September 2010.
Planetary Loves: Spivak, Postcoloniality, and Theology. Edited by Stephen Moore and Mayra Rivera. Fordham University Press, October 2010.

Contributors: Susan Abraham, Ellen T. Armour, Sharon V. Betcher, Anne Joh, Serene Jones, Namsoon Kang, Catherine Keller, Kwok Pui-lan, Tat-siong Benny Liew, Dhawn B. Martin, Stephen D. Moore, Mayra Rivera, Erin Runions, Laurel C. Schneider, John J. Thatamanil, Jenna Tiitsman, and Lydia York, as well as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.

Apophatic Bodies: Negative Theology, Incarnation, and Relationality. Edited by Chris Boesel and Catherine Keller. Fordham University Press, 2009.Contributors: Chris Boesel, Virginia Burrus, John D. Caputo, Philip Clayton, Patricia Cox Miller, T. Wilson Dickinson, Rose Ellen Dunn, Roland Faber, Sigridur Gudmarsdottir, Krista E. Hughes, Catherine Keller, Karmen Mackendrick, Graham Ward, David L. Miller, Charles M. Stang, Kathryn Tanner, and Elliot R. Wolfson.

Ecospirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth. Edited by Laurel Kearns and Catherine Keller. Fordham University Press, 2007.Contributors: Karen Baker-Fletcher, Whiteny A. Bauman, Sharon Betcher, Richard Bohannon II, Anne Daniell, Heather Murray Elkins, Antonia Gorman, Marion Grau, John Grim, Fletcher Harper, Luke Higgins, Laurel Kearns, Catherine Keller, Seung Gap Lee, Jay McDaniel, Glen A. Mazis, Barbara Muraca, Jane Ellen Nickell, Kevin J. O’Brien, Anna L. Peterson, Kate Rigby, Nicole A. Roskos, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Daniel T. Spencer, Lawrence Troster, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Mark I. Wallace, David Wood.

Toward a Theology of Eros: Transfiguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline. Edited by Virginia Burrus and Catherine Keller. Fordham UP, 2006.Contributors: Marcella Maria Althaus-Reid, Daniel Boyarin, Sheila Briggs, Virginia Burrus, Robert S. Corrington, Mario Costa, Amy Hollywood, Grace Jantzen, Mark D. Jordan, Richard Kearney, Catherine Keller, Derek Krueger, Todd Linafelt, Karmen MacKendrick, Mayra Rivera, Diana M. Swancutt, Yvonne Sherwood, Elliot R. Wolfson.

Postcolonial Theologies: Divinity and Empire. Edited by Catherine Keller, Michael Nausner, and Mayra Rivera. Chalice Press, 2004.Contributors: Sharon Betcher, Michelle Gonzalez, Marion Grau, Anne W. Joh, Nam-Soon Kang, Catherine Keller, Stephen D. Moore, Michael Nausner, Joerg Rieger, Mayra Rivera, R.S. Sugirtharajah, Mark Lewis Taylor