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“Political Theology” covers a multidisciplinary field of research that engages the unwieldy relationship between religion and politics out of a desire for justice. At the Political Theology Network Conference, we extend this engagement by bringing together scholars, activists, artists, and religious leaders working both inside and outside the academy. Lunch is included in the cost of registration.


Hosted by Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University Department of Religion and convened by the Political Theology Network. This conference is supported through a collaboration with the Villanova Political Theology ProjectEmory University’s Center for the Study of Law and ReligionColumbia University Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CAARS), and a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

SCHEDULE (subject to change)

Click to view Paper Sessions and Panels


Thursday, October 17

6:00 – 8:00 pm  |  Opening Plenary: Spirit of Justice Conversation with Michelle Alexander and Rev. William J. Barber II

Friday, October 18

8:30 – 9:00 am  |  Conference Check-in & Welcome

9:00 – 10:30 am  |  Paper Sessions and Panels

10:30 – 11:00 am  |  Break

11:00 – 12:30 pm  | Paper Sessions and Panels

12:30 –  2:00 pm  |  Lunch & Meet-the-Author Roundtables

2:00 – 3:00 pm  | Paper Sessions and Panels

3:30 – 4:00 pm  |  Break

4:00 – 6:00 pm  |  Plenary: Lap Yan Kung, Najeeba Syeed and Silvia Federici

6:00 – 7:30 pm  |  President’s Reception

Saturday, October 19 

9:00 – 10:30 am  | Paper Sessions and Panels

10:30 – 11:00 am  |  Break

11:00 – 12:30 pm  |  Closing Plenary: Gil Anidjar and Intisar Rabb

12:30 – 2:00 pm  |   Lunch & Table Talks


Michelle Alexander
Alexander is a celebrated civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar, and she currently serves as Visiting Professor of Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Prior to entering academia, Alexander served as the Director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she coordinated the Project’s media advocacy, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and litigation, focusing especially on educational equity and criminal justice. Her best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010), has been called a “stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States [after the Civil Rights Movement]… that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status.” Since its publication, the book has become a cornerstone of discussion in contemporary movements for racial justice and criminal justice reform. In 2018, Alexander joined the New York Times as a regularly contributing opinion columnist.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is President of Repairers of the Breach, Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival, Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and serves currently as Visiting Professor of Public Theology and Activism at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Barber has been a progressive political figure on the national stage since 2013, when he began the “Moral Monday” protest movement for civil rights and racial and economic justice in the Raleigh, North Carolina. He is the author of several books, including Forward Together: A Moral Message For The Nation (2015), and, most recently, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and The Rise of a New Justice Movement (2016).

Lap Yan Kung (KUNG Lap Yan)
KUNG, Lap Yan, a graduate from the universities of St Andrews and Glasgow (Scotland), is an associate professor at the Divinity School of Chung Chi College, Chinese University of Hong Kong since 1996. He teaches Christian ethics, political theology and life education. He has received 4 Book awards, namely, A Tearless Grief (2001), An Abnormal Faith (2008), The Cross of Homosexuality (2013), and God-Talk in Darkness (2018). His current research is on memory and religion, social actions and missiology. He is the honorary general secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Institute which is working for social justice.

Najeeba Syeed
Syeed is Associate Professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology and Director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding. A renowned peacebuilding mediator and interreligious activist, Syeed’s research and praxis have focused on mediation between law enforcement, religious and minority communities, and the intersections of Islamic family law and U.S. legal system. She is currently co-editing a book with Heidi Hadsell on “Critical Approaches to Interreligious Education,” a project which has been supported by the Henry Luce Foundation. The title of Syeed’s own forthcoming book project is “Politics of Interreligious Education.”

Silvia Federici
Federici is a writer, teacher, and feminist activist.  She is a professor emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University, where she was a social science professor.  In the 1990s, after a period of teaching and research in Nigeria, she was active in the anti-globalization movement and the U.S. anti–death penalty movement.  She was a member of the Midnight Notes Collective and one of the co-founders of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, an organization dedicated to generating support for the struggles of students and teachers in Africa against the structural adjustment of African economies and educational systems.  She has written books and essays on philosophy and feminist theory, women’s history, education and culture, and more recently the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalization and for a feminist reconstruction of the commons.  Her published works include Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive AccumulationRevolution at Point Zero; and Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of Commons.

Intisar A. Rabb
Rabb is a Professor of Law, a Professor of History, and the faculty director of the Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School. She has held appointments as a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, as an Associate Professor at NYU Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and at NYU Law School, and as an Assistant Professor at Boston College Law School. She previously served as a law clerk for Judge Thomas L. Ambro of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, as a Temple Bar Fellow in London with the American Inns of Court, and as a Carnegie Scholar for her work on contemporary Islamic law. In 2015, in partnership with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, support from the Luce and MacArthur Foundations, and collaborations with myriad scholars and institutions, she launched SHARIAsource – an online portal designed to provide universal access to the world’s information on Islamic law and history, and to facilitate new research with the use of AI tools. She has published on Islamic law in historical and modern contexts, including the monograph, Doubt in Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press 2015), the edited volumes, Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts (with Abigail Balbale, Harvard University Press, 2017) and Law and Tradition in Classical Islamic Thought (with Michael Cook et al., Palgrave 2013), and numerous articles on Islamic constitutionalism, on Islamic legal canons, and on the early history of the Qur’an text. She received a BA from Georgetown University, a JD from Yale Law School, and an MA and PhD from Princeton University. She has conducted research in Egypt, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere.

Gil Anidjar
Anidjar is currently the Chair of the Department of Religion, and Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia University. His fields of research include Comparative Literature, Religious Studies, and Jewish Thought, and is interested in Political Theology, Race and Religion, Christianity, and Continental Philosophy. Anidjar is the editor of Jacques Derrida’s Acts of Religion (2002), and his own publications include ‘Our Place in al-Andalus’: Kabbalah, Philosophy, Literature in Arab Jewish Letters (2002), The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy (2003), Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (2008), Blood: a Critique of Christianity (2014), and more recently Qu’appelle-t-on destruction? Heidegger, Derrida (2017).

Accommodations and Directions

Accommodations in New York City can be expensive, especially in the fall so please book early. We do not have an exclusively designated hotel for the conference so we recommend that you try one of the web-based travel booking sites. Or, click here to see a list of nearby hotels or visit the visitor information page on the Columbia University websitePlease be advised that should you pursue any of the housing options on these lists, these hotels have not been vetted or endorsed by Union. 

For directions to Union Theological Seminary, please click here.