Society of Christian Ethics 2023 Annual Meeting

Future Scholars Interest Group January 5-8, 2023 

Call For Proposals: Imagining Otherwise in Ethics and Politics  

Proposal Submission Deadline: July 16, 2022 11:59pm 

In support of the 2023 Annual Meeting’s theme, the Future Scholars Interest Group invites papers that focus on the role of imagination in ethical, political, and theological reflection. In a year of ongoing plague, war, conflict, and exhaustion, many of us have caught ourselves imagining a world different from our own. After all, the puzzles that face us are immense: climate change, historical injustices, racism, gender inequality, bioethical dilemmas, economic inequality, war and refugee crises, mental health crises and so on. One is struck by the frequent sense of being at our wit's end, gridlocked at reason’s limit. 

The turn to imagination for resources to our puzzles is not new. Christians have long turned to the eschatological and apocalyptic to imagine a world otherwise from our own, asking what the world will look like in the final days, wondering what it is to bring heaven on earth. What kinds of inequality or hierarchy will there be in heaven, if at all? Will there be race, gender, nation, ethnicity? How will the wounds of individuals and collectives be taken up, transformed, made new? And how does thinking about the eschatological change our ethical and political thinking here and now? This panel invites papers that consider the role of these classic theological debates about last things in our ethical and political reflection. 

Relatedly, many have turned not just to the eschatological but the fictional to think about new, different, and other worlds. From Victorian fantasy to Pop-Punk Futuristic Science Fiction, literature–and aesthetics more broadly–plays an important role for Christian ethicists who draw on the powerful work of our poets and writers to imagine a new and better world. How does drawing on fiction, art, and other aesthetics help us understand the world we live in and the world we want to be? How do myth, poetry, and theology work together to cultivate our sensibilities for worlds we have misunderstood or worlds we wish to bring about? This panel also invites papers that consider the intersections between aesthetics, theology, and ethical reflection. 

The use of imagination is not without its critics. Some have thought that imagination is but a form of idyllic rumination, musing that leads to no social transformation. Charges of “worldlessness” and dreamy inaction abound–realists against idealists, non-ideal theorists against ideal theorists. Others have critiqued the turn to the eschatological, apocalyptic, or fictive for its ambiguities in giving concrete guidance, expressing worries about reviving myth in a “post-truth” age, contrasting the tasks of imagination from that of fact and reason. Are these justified suspicions about using “imaginative” resources in our ethics? Ought imagination’s role in ethical, political, and theological reflection be supplemented? If so, how? 

In short, this panel welcomes a broad range of interdisciplinary reflections about the role of imagination in the work of ethical, political, and theological reflection. Strong papers will offer an argument, perhaps grounded in a particular work of fiction, a collection of thinkers, a doctrinal debate, an ethical dilemma, or political case study, aiming to provoke thoughtful questions and discussion among fellow panelists. Scholars are encouraged to draw on their own previous research. 

Three 20 minute papers will be accepted from graduate students (MDiv, MAT, and other master degree programs accepted.)

Presentation of the papers will be followed by a response from Professor Ted A. Smith and followed by larger conversation among the interest group.  

The Rev. Dr. Ted Smith is the Almar H. Shatford Professor of Divinity at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Smith works at the intersections of practical and political theology. Smith’s first book, The New Measures, tells a history of preaching that gives rise to eschatological visions of modern democracy. His second book, Weird John Brown, works through memories of the raid on Harpers Ferry to show the limits of social ethics for thinking about violence. Smith has edited collections of essays on sexuality and ordination, contemporary issues in preaching, and economic inequality. He is currently editing a series of books on the meanings and purposes of theological education in a time of great change. 

Submission Guidelines: 

By the time of the conference, eligible students will be enrolled in a graduate program of study, will have applied for/renewed student membership with the Society of Christian Ethics for 2023, and will have paid the registration fees for the 2023 Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL. (Please note that those who do not attain/renew membership and register on time will forfeit their spot on the panel.) Preference will be given to those who have not completed their comprehensive exams (i.e., those who are not qualified to submit papers to the regular sessions at the SCE conference), those who did not present papers at last year’s Future Scholars session, and those in a doctoral program. 

Please send your name, school, progress in your program of study, title of your paper, and a 250-word abstract via email to the conveners of the student caucus. Please put the words “Future Scholars Request for Proposals” in the subject line of your email. Email your proposal to both of SCE student caucus representatives: 

Due Date: Paper proposals must be received by 11:59 pm EST on July 16, 2022 by 11:59pm ET. 

Note: Final papers must be submitted by December 1, 2022 in order to allow time for the moderator to prepare a response. Late papers may be withdrawn from the panel.