CFP

March 20-21, 2020

Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana, India

Keynote speakers: Professor Liz Herbert McAvoy (Swansea University) & Professor Sa’diyya Shaikh (University of Cape Town)

Call for Papers

The French theorist Luce Irigaray has called mysticism “the only place in the history of the West in which woman speaks and acts so publicly.” This capacity of mysticism to disrupt gender norms and established hierarchies —  theological and political — by giving women a public voice extends across geographic regions. In a wide array of religious traditions– Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam–pre-modern women established private relationships with the divine. In doing so, they evaded patriarchal spiritual monopolies and laid claim to their own spiritual authority. Mysticism, a spiritual experience often associated with the private and the intimate, thus emerges as a gendered political mode.  

While medieval women’s mystical visions differ widely across time, space and religious tradition, we also find striking points of convergence in the ways that women mystic exemplars translate their experience of intimacy with the divine. Early twentieth-century scholarship accounted for such commonalities by presuming a single mystical experience. However, this kind of comparativism has largely been rejected. 

Given these shifting grounds in comparative studies of mysticism, this conference asks: What are the points of intersection that emerge within studies of mysticism at the site of gender? What kind of dialogues can be forged within and across spiritual traditions, particularly between Europe and South Asia? How might inquiries into gender and mysticism open up political dimensions of mysticism that are often subsumed within the private, and how might they inform us about the entanglement of the public and private within the frameworks of pre-modern gender in the past as well as today? 

This conference invites investigations of gender and mysticism in the medieval period that focus on either South Asia or Europe or take a comparative approach. Topics might include the following:

  • Women mystics 
  • Theory and mysticism
  • Men speaking as women in mystical writings
  • Gender, Politics, and Mysticism
  • Comparative mysticism 
  • Mystic scribes and spiritual authority 
  • Mysticism & place 
  • Spiritual influence
  • Friendship/Community
  • Mystical authority and political power
  • Queer phenomenology and mysticism
  • Mysticism and the body
  • Gender and South Asian Sufi-bhakti traditions
  • Gender, material culture, and mysticism
  • Mysticism and the vernacular
  • Gender, planetary emergency, and mysticism

Paper abstracts of no more than 250 words, plus one-page CV, should be sent to Abir Bazaz at abir.bazaz@ashoka.edu.in and Alexandra Verini at alexandra.verini@ashoka.edu.in no later than October 25. Successful speakers will be notified shortly thereafter, and online pre-registration shall be open in November. Updates regardings the conference schedule, registration and accommodation details will be posted to: http://gendermysticismconference.com/.

This conference is supported by Governing Intimacies, a research project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation