Mormon Scholars in the Humanities (MSH), an independent scholarly organization aiming to elevate and enrich humanities scholarship with the restorationist spirit since 2007. We are delighted to announce our 2024 keynote speaker: Matthew Bowman.
Matthew Bowman (author of many books, Associate Professor of History and Religion, Howard Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, and MSH 2025 host at Claremont Graduate University) will speak on the question of UFOs. The UFO is a disciplinary challenge, read alternatively as a scientific problem, a religious problem, a medical problem, a political problem, and, of course, an epistemological problem. Bowman will discuss how members of various Mormon traditions have understood the UFO and in so doing have blurred conventional boundaries among religion, science, and medicine.
Polls suggest, according to Bowman, that a large minority of US citizens claim to have seen a UFO. Here the MSH Board continues: what kind of account is that--primary, secondary, something else? What comes after the eye-witness account? What kind of source is it that, in Bowman’s poll, identifies unidentified phenomena? (Or, in another twist, what kind of witness is a poll of eye-witnesses?) The problem here is less the sources per se as that sources are rarely self-interpreting. How should one read a source or even recognize it as a source? Whence the surplus in source semiotics?
With this keynote introduction, the MSH Board announces the conference topic Secondary Sources, welcoming papers and panels framed around and beyond this theme. What is a secondary source? What work do they do after an embodied witness? What are their stakes, and for whom? The questions brim: How do our art and ideas, prose and poetry, scripture and signs, silence and words speak secondarily? Secondary sources may be understood as all those that are not primary, first-person, first-hand, or otherwise eye-witness. How, then, do non-primary sources enact authority, authenticity, boundaries, historicity, liveness, reliability, responsibility, sacredness, and veracity, among other qualities?
A secondary source approach to the humanities might invite reflection on how faith-lit meaning is made through the cultural techniques of citation, improvisation, indirection, interruption, intertextuality, marginality, peripherality, persuasion, redirection, reference, restraint, repetitions, reticence, rumors, secretness, tangents, visitations, among others. How do bystanders, intermediaries, observers, spectators, testifiers, and witnesses become special or mundane? If the eye is primary to the eye witness, how do other senses--hearing, touch, smell, taste, balance, instinct, pain, etc.--enrich our secondarily sourced humanities? What kind of sources does the criticism in source criticism assume? How about other forms of art, history, literature, media, philosophy, scripture, theology? Do bits about Mary Magdalene, Joseph Smith, or Borges help sharpen pencils?
Secondary sources invite reflections on who listens, who speaks, and under whose terms? How do the evolving conditions of gender, race, class, and other ways of being express themselves as secondhand observers, active bystanders, embodied witnesses, textual and community authorities? Specifically, how do variously gendered, sexually oriented, racial, abled and disabled, neurodiverse, and otherwise diversely divine bodies in concert with one another ground and reproduce, challenge and enrich our readings and analysis of secondary sources and witnessing?
Given the conference keynote theme, a few alternative topics might concern the supernatural and natural, the aesthetics of mystery and mundaneness, the alien and the foreigner, medicine, magic, technology, and, of course, visitations.
Interested scholars (rising, independent, affiliated), graduate students, and students are invited to submit through this link abstracts for papers as well as proposals for organized panels (250 word max), together with a bio (50 word max).
Proposals received by October 31 will be fully considered. Notifications will be sent out no later than November 30.
A few notes:
All presenters are required to register for the conference.
No institutional or religious affiliations are assumed or required for participation.
Graduate students wishing to be considered for a Graduate Student Travel Grant may indicate that in their online submission.
Potential participants who know they can only participate through Zoom are required to mark this as well in their online submission. We do not plan to accommodate Zoom requests made after submission.
Information about the registration fee and available accommodation will be posted soon at mormonscholars.net.