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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Vocation in the American Imagination

graduate symposium

"The Angelus" painting by Jean-François Millet

The Boisi Center is pleased to announce its ninth annual Graduate Symposium on Religion and Politics, which provides an opportunity for informal reflection and conversation among graduate students from different disciplines on the relationship between religion and politics, art, and culture. This year's symposium will focus on the idea of vocation in the American social imaginary.

THE 2018-2019 GRADUATE

Vocation in the American Imagination


Max Weber put it this way: “The Puritan wanted to be a person with a vocational calling; we must be.” This year’s Graduate Symposium will gather students from a variety of disciplines to question American visions of vocation and their ties to religious traditions, political involvement and economic life. Beginning in the fall and continuing through the spring, we will address the deep questions around our shared American social imaginary: What does it mean to view work as a calling? How do our subjective understandings of vocation relate to our participation in and development of public life?

Beginning with the Puritans Jonathan Edwards and Richard Baxter, our Symposium will look at how religious understandings of time and the body still shape our current preoccupation with work. We will explore how foreign observers of the American imaginary—namely, Alexis de Tocqueville, Harriet Martineau and Hannah Arendt—saw in Americans the possibility of a relationship between dignity and work that was absent in many other societies, and warned of the possible political distortions that could arise if the American understanding of economic life was separated from its religious backdrops. To conclude our fall meetings, we will focus on new ideas surrounding the economics of care as a calling for millennials, moving into discussions for the spring semester on alternative religious understandings of the idea of the calling.

The Symposium will meet once a month for dinner and discussion at the Boisi Center. Designed to be interdisciplinary and limited to a small number of engaged participants, each student is invited to lead a session and to suggest alternative short readings. You can keep up with what we are reading by checking back here!

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