College Theology SocietyServing Church and Academy Since 1954

Mysticism and Politics

2023 Call for Papers

Kyle Johnson, Boston College

Janice Thompson, Kings College (PA)

The theme of the 2023 CTS conference, “Theology and Medita(tion): Rendering the Absent Present,” richly engages the focus of the Mysticism and Politics section, as we explore the tension between  the need to act practically and politically in the world despite the limits of such action, while connecting such action to a much broader mystical vision of our hopes.  Further, we explore some of the challenges of mediating the mystical in the world.  Some of the themes and question that are of particular interest to the section in light of this theme include:   

  • How do we engage practically and politically in the world to make present absent communities and difficult histories?  How do we remember and represent the histories that many would prefer to forget?  How do we draw memory and action towards those killed or “disappeared” by violent regimes or forgotten by indifferent majoritys, such as remembering past genocides, or the ongoing femicide at the Mexican border, or the cultural genocide of indigenous communities in Canada. Or, how are absent communities rendered “present” in deleterious or deceptive ways, through tokenization, propaganda, stereotypes, or hate speech?

  • How do political symbols (attempt to) mediate divine presence or power? What do we make of these mediations in either a theological or practical/ethical way? Bibles used in courtrooms or legislative bodies serve as a contemporary example, or ancient/medieval artistic representation of political heads as mediators of Divinity. This might relate to theological themes of idolatry, for example. Or, another way of approaching some of these themes: How does the political engage the invisible? How does it construct, mediate, and manipulate that which is not seen (a virus, or an ambiguous threat)?  

  • How is the body used as a mediation of the mystical (in/through/upon the body), the individual, social, or political body.  How is God (or whatever else is associated with "the mystical”) known, felt, or sensed in the body? What is the role of culture, power, politics in that mediation? 

  • How is "the mystical" mediated in different forms, and how are these forms related?  For example, how does political or ecclesial power intersect with the other mediations of experience, oral tradition, text, iconography, etc.

  • When we engage language of the mystical body, how do we engage language of absent or damaged parts of that body, such as in the rhetoric of impairment?  

  • Recognizing that we are 2+ years into COVID: How is the mystical/spiritual mediated digitally? What do we make of digital/online worship or communities of spiritual practice? In Catholic and other faith-based education, we often speak of education that engages the personal and spiritual dimensions of life. How does this take place in the context of digital or remote pedagogy? In what ways have digital spirituality and digital pedagogy disrupted (or supported) systems of power or patterns of exclusion/inaccessibility?  

The Mysticism and Politics section welcomes proposals for papers, panels, and other presentation formats in response to the convention theme. Papers addressing other topics will be considered, but priority will be given to those proposals that reflect the convention theme. If you have questions concerning this section’s call, please contact the conveners. Proposals are limited to 250 words. Please send a copy of your proposal to both Kyle Johnson ( and Janice Thompson ( Please include the name of your institution and your contact information with your proposal. Deadline for receiving proposals is December 15, 2022.

The College Theology Society is a registered, non-profit professional society and a Related Scholarly Organization of the American Academy of Religion.


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software