Call For Papers

Weaponizing Scripture?

Second Annual Graduate Student Colloquium in Scripture, Interpretation and Practice

March 22nd-23rd, 2015 at the University of Virginia

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The 2015 Graduate Colloquium in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice welcomes submissions of original research from graduate students on the topic “Weaponizing Scripture?”

Religious communities have frequently appealed to their scriptures in contexts of conflict. Sacred texts play a role in defining communal boundaries and in furthering their own formative and institutional goals. Conversely, individuals and groups who are antagonistic towards particular traditions deploy those traditions’ scriptures against them. Political and military leaders, resistance movements, and minority groups may all cite scripture as a warrant for action. The Word(s) of God can even be portrayed as a weapon itself.

This conference, then, will explore cases, both historical and contemporary, in which scripture serves as a resource for/against the communities that are formed by it, as well as how it is instrumentalized for formational, popular, political, and/or polemical agendas. It further seeks to uncover ways that scripture transforms the character of the debates and purposes for which it is deployed. Accordingly, papers could examine such cases intra-traditionally, ecumenically, inter-religiously, or between religious and secular spheres.

We seek participants who will address this topic from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives — historical, legal, theological, hermeneutic, ethical, political, and more. The following list is meant to be suggestive of topics rather than provide categories and is therefore not exhaustive:


In light of the recent revelations about sexual assault on U.Va’s campus, we want to convene a special panel examining the intersections between scripture and sexual violence. Papers considered for this panel could, for example, discuss sexual violence within scripture itself, scriptures that address issues connected to rape culture more broadly, or historical or cultural instances in which scripture has been deployed in response to sexual violence.

  • How is scripture a resource and/or an instrument in the following contexts?:
    • in social/political movements (#blacklivesmatter, Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Abolition, The Civil Rights Movement, Latin American Base Communities, Islamism, the Christian Right/Left, etc.)
    • within political and/or everyday speech and social media
    • as warrant for religious or political ideological stances, including secular ones; violence and war; non-violent action; social justice/activism
    • within religious traditions as a means of formation, or as a means of inclusion or exclusion; in doctrinal arguments (classical or contemporary); towards the reform of traditions and religious sects, or the formation of religious institutions institutionalization
  • Phenomena such as:
    • Portrayal of weapons in scripture, including depictions of scripture itself as a weapon
    • scriptural commentary, scriptural reading strategies, scripture interpreting scripture, rewritten scripture
    • religious groups/movements defined by a specific scripture or set of scriptures
  • Philosophical questions:
    • What is the place of scripture in nurturing our religious traditions?
    • What does it mean when a political leader cites scripture as warrant for a military action?
    • Is there a difference between scripture used as a warrant for a specific action verse scripture used as a means of forming particular communities?
    • Does scripture function as a warrant within communities?

Plenary Speaker: Ambassador Aref Nayed

Dr. Aref Nayed is the Libyan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. In addition to his ambassadorial duties, Dr. Nayed is the founder and director of Kalam Research and Media, Senior Advisor to the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, Fellow of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute in Jordan, Visiting Professor at Fatih Sultan Mehmet University in Istanbul, and a member of the Board of Advisors at the Templeton Foundation. Among his past positions are professorships at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic studies in Rome and the International Institute for Islamic Thought and Civilization in Malaysia. His published works include Operational Hermeneutics: Interpretation as the Engagement of Operational Artifacts (KRM, 2011), and the forthcoming Catholic Engagements: A Muslim Theologian’s Journey in Muslim-Catholic Dialogue (KRM) and The Future of Muslim Theology (Blackwell).

For more information on Dr. Nayed, visit his profile on Kalam Research and Media’s website.

Proposals in the form of a 250-word abstract should be emailed to by January 23rd, 2015. Acceptance notifications will be sent out by February 5th, 2015. Final papers, not to exceed 2000 words, must be submitted by March 14th, 2015. For up-to-date information please check out our website:


We are grateful for the financial support provided by the following sponsors:
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University
Project on Lived Theology
Society for Scriptural Reasoning
Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures
Office of Associate Dean of the Arts and Humanities
Office of Diversity and Equity
Office of the Vice Provost
Department of English
Department of History
Department of Religious Studies
Medieval Studies Program
Virginia Center for the Study of Religion




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