‘On the Edge of Apocalypse’ Symposium papers published
Papers from the inaugural scholarly meeting held by the Center for the Study of Religion Culture and Society in 2017 were recently published in CrossCurrents journal.
The most recent issue of the journal CrossCurrents features articles that originated with the 2017 inaugural symposium of the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society. Organized around the theme, “On the Edge of Apocalypse.”
The symposium was convened by Tom Mould, professor of anthropology, and Lynn Huber, professor of religious studies, and together they edited the special journal issue and wrote the introduction. Huber contributed one of the pieces, offering a queer analysis of apocalyptic imagery in the work of American pop artist Keith Haring and Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs.
Explaining the original concept for the 2017 symposium and the articles that resulted, Huber observed that "we tend to think of apocalyptic thought as being about the future, but it is really about the present." Underscoring apocalypticism’s presentist orientation, Mould added that "apocalyptic thinking helps us evaluate our current circumstances and then project them into the future. Are we headed for disaster? Or are we headed for peace and prosperity?"
At the symposium, 11 scholars from universities across the U.S. and Canada explored these and related ideas, presenting original research tracing the edges of apocalyptic thought and practice. Those scholars joined Elon faculty conveners of the symposium Huber and Mould as well as CSRCS Director Brian Pennington and many other Elon faculty members and students who attended the symposium, for three days of analysis and discussion of contemporary and past millenarian practice. Six of the papers presented were selected for further development and appeared in the June 2019 issue of the academic journal CrossCurrents published by the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life.
Articles in the journal issue include: “India, America, and the Nationalist Apocalyptic” by Arun Chaudhuri (University of Toronto), “Unpacking the Bunker: Sex, Abuse, and Apocalypticism in ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’” by Megan Goodwin (Northeastern University), “Apocalypse, Again: Language, Temporality, and Repetition in an Afghan Apocalypse” by William E.B. Sherman (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), “Pulling Down the Sky: Envisioning the Apocalypse with Keith Haring and William S. Burroughs” by Lynn R. Huber (Elon University), and “The Politics of Revelation: Unveiling Negativity in the Work of Lee Edelman and Georges Bataille” by Kent L. Brintnall (University of North Carolinaat Charlotte).
With generous permission from the Keith Haring Foundation, the cover artwork features a print from "Apocalypse," a 1988 collaboration between artist Keith Haring and beat poet William S. Burroughs. Composed of images by Haring and text by Burroughs, "Apocalypse" offers a retelling of the Book of Revelation in the midst of the AIDS crisis when popular American religious figures were reading the disease as God’s punishment on gay men.
Huber argues that in response to this belief, the work of Haring and Burroughs “queers” the narrative of Revelation by identifying white heteronormative Christianity, along with traditional visions of the family, as the true apocalyptic threat. In this particular print, the phallus, a symbol of traditional masculinity, is both an object of worship and source of destruction as an atomic explosion that spreads the AIDS virus (represented as sperm with devil’s horns).
Huber’s work on Revelation is part of the growing field in queer biblical interpretation that considers how biblical texts have been and might be interpreted within LGBTQIA communities.