"Revisiting Mamre": The Stranger in the Three Abrahamic Faiths

December 4, 2017 - December 5, 2017
Department of Philosophy, Queens College (CUNY)

65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367
United States

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Keynote speakers:

J. Cameron Carter
Duke Divinity School
Tamara Cohn Eskenazi
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Mohammad Hassan Khalil
Michigan State University

Organisers:

Abi Doukhan
Queens College (CUNY)
Ra'ees Gafoor
New School for Social Research
James Abordo Ong
University of San Diego

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In Genesis 18, Abraham goes out of his way to provide for the three strangers who appeared at Mamre: he attended to them much like he might have attended to God himself. This gesture of hospitality betrays the same kindness and humanity that Abraham would later show in pleading with God on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It is thus profoundly ironic that, of all the world religions, the three traditions that trace back to the figure of Abraham—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have struggled the most with the ethical challenge posed by the stranger. All three faiths have at some point shown themselves “allergic” to otherness, to use a Levinasian expression, whether this otherness is embodied in people of other faiths, or in members within the faith who have refused or failed to abide by an enclosed system of beliefs and dogmas. One wonders, then, whether this distrust of the stranger that has played out in these three major religions does not constitute a departure from the original impulse of the Abrahamic journey of faith. To miss the central place given to the stranger within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam might then arguably amount to missing the essential message of these three faiths.

The purpose of this conference is to provide a forum for scholars across the disciplines to discuss and debate the significance of this original impulse embodied in Abraham, particularly vis-à-vis the divisive and exclusionary impulses that otherwise get played out in both the historical and contemporary manifestations of the three Abrahamic faiths. We are interested in papers that show how the welcoming of the stranger constitutes the very essence and original impulse of Judaism, Christianity and/or Islam, and this, on the sole basis of their respective scriptures, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Quran.

Possible paper topics could include:

  • To the extent that we acknowledge the divisive and exclusionary impulses within the Abrahamic religions, what new approaches to the study and interpretation of the Abrahamic Scriptures might help us counteract those impulses?
  • How is hospitality towards the stranger essential to and not merely a contingent byproduct of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim faiths?
  • What hermeneutic or analytic resources can we mine from the Abrahamic Scriptures that can help us examine and address racism and racial prejudice?
  • How can we come to a renewed understanding of the significance/role of women in the three Abrahamic scriptures?
  • How might the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim scriptures provide new approaches to probing or addressing the challenges posed by LGBTQ individuals to religious communities?
  • How can we read the stance towards the infidel/unbeliever/heretic in the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim scriptures in more nuanced ways?
  • What might a stranger-friendly hermeneutical approach look like and how might it be argued for?
  • How can the challenge of welcoming the other qua other inform or transform our pedagogies, or the ways in which we engage one another as scholars?
  • How can acknowledging and inhabiting our own status as strangers (e.g., as Biblical scholars in secular institutions) help us better understand the ethical challenge posed by the stranger?

Submission Guidelines:

Paper abstracts of up to 300 words should be submitted by August 25th, 2017 to revisitingmamre@gmail.com. Paper length should not exceed 10 pages, double-spaced, or 3000 words. Notice of acceptance will be sent by September 11th, 2017.

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December 5, 2017, 6:00pm EST

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