Whose Millennium?: Religion, Sexuality, and the Values of Citizenship

On April 13th and 14th, CLAGS hosts a major national
conference on the theme Whose Millennium?: Religion,
Sexuality, and the Values of Citizenship. The conference is
being generously supported by the Rockefeller Foundation,
in conjunction with CLAGS’s Rockefeller Residency in the
Humanities program.

The two-day conference will bring together a diverse
group of scholars and activists to consider such questions
as: Why is sexuality a site of such intense religious
regulation? How or under what circumstances does the
state come to regulate sexuality in the name of “morality”
or “religion”? In whose name is the state speaking when
it speaks “against” homosexuality and “for” values?
Relatedly, the conference will also ask: Given that religion
is often a site for the regulation of sexuality, why are
religious organizations and discourses also often the sites
for activism to resist this regulation? How do people find
various religious traditions to be the life-affirming
groundwork for their activism? What values do such
people employ? Is it the case that religious values can be
turned to non-normative ends? Is it the case that
movements for sexual rights and freedoms might be the
site for producing new values?

The question mark in the conference title — Whose
Millennium?—signals the conference’s interest in
unmasking the ways particular values pose as the universal
good. As “we” go marching into the millennium, it seems
vital to stop and ask not just who are “we,” but how did
Christian time became secular time?

The conference will feature discussions of current debates
in the United States over sexuality as well as case studies
of the ways religion, sexuality, and citizenship are
negotiated in other national and transnational contexts.
Case studies of Islam in Iran, artistic production in South
Asia, and constitutional issues in South Africa, will show
how the paradoxes of religion, sexuality, values and
citizenship play out in a number of contexts. Panelists will
consider how processes of globalization and the
intensification of capitalism shape and are shaped by
struggles with regard to religion, sexuality, values and
citizenship.

Importantly, the invited speakers will represent a diversity
of religious traditions as well as a diversity of approaches
to national and religious regulation of sexuality. The
invited scholars come from a broad range of disciplines
both within and outside the traditional field of religious
studies: anthropology, history, literature, philosophy,
performance studies, and the study of social movements.
Invited practitioners include activists within a wide variety
of religious organizations, as well as from political and
legal spheres of activity. It is only by bringing together
such a diverse group of participants that we can tease out
the complexities of the moment and their historical
contexts.

For it is not a matter of simply showcasing what and how
LGBTQ people are organizing within their various
religious denominations and traditions—although many
denominational activists will be taking part in the
conference. Nor is it a matter of simply indicating how
religious claims have been mobilized “against”
homosexuals—although this too will be amply argued by
conference participants. Rather, we hope that the
conference will complicate the relations among religion,
sexuality, and national belonging by indicating how
religion may empower both regulation of sexuality as well
as resistance to regulation.

The conference co-organizers are Janet R. Jakobsen
(Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Religious
Studies at the University of Arizona) and CLAGS board
member Ann Pellegrini (Associate Professor of Women’s
Studies at Barnard College.) Carolyn Dinshaw (Professor
of English and Professor of English and Director of the
Women’s Studies Program and the Center for the Study
of Gender and Sexuality at New York University) is
spear-heading the considerable fund-raising that remains
to support the conference.

Confirmed participants include: Rebecca Alpert, Daniel
Boyarin, Carolyn Dinshaw, Renee Hill, Laura Levitt, Karma
Lochrie, Minoo Moallem, Randall Styers, Emilie Townes,
Urvashi Vaid…and many more to come!

To pre-register for the conference, contact the CLAGS
office at 212.817.1955. There will also be on-site
registration on April 13th and 14th.

Janet Jakobsen
Ann Pellegrini
Conference Co-organizers