Workshop in New York
13 Sep 2017 – 14 Sep 2017

The Power of the Future. Prophetic Politics between Political Crises and Civil Rights

Venue: Center for Jewish History New York, 15 West 16th Street, New York 10011 (USA)
Organized by Nitzan Lebovic, Daniel Weidner

Organized in cooperation with the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Jewish Studies, Lehigh University and the Center for Jewish History New York

Modern forms of prophetic rhetoric became important models for social and political change. The rise of modern political theology, political messianism, secularization, or the revival of »prophetic charisma« contributed to a different mode of revolutionary or reformative change. This change has been characterized by a tight relation between ethical and epistemological, normative and utopian claims, all of which integrated tropes of prophetic rhetoric. From this perspective, it is not sufficient to talk about religious rhetoric in relation to concepts such as hegemony and control; it is as important to consider its appearance in non-institutional discourses and different expressions of popular resistance, and then not only as mere gestures, but in the form of specific practices.

Our workshop in New York will continue in laying the foundation for a transatlantic cooperation about prophetic politics in the twentieth century. A first workshop was held in Berlin in June 2017, and focussed mostly on references to an elitist and theoretical form of political prophecy in the Weimar republic. The second workshop, in New York, will follow the prophetic figure across the ocean, as it moves, with A.J. Heschel, Martin Buber, and Paul Tillich, to the American context. Here, historians believe, prophetic politics became more vernacular and more democratic. The second workshop will examine how and where the radical intellectual figure meets with other traditions of prophetic speech, such as the American Jeremiad, Walt Whitman’s transcendental prophetic plea, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X’s use of prophetic tropes, and the American-Muslim call for social and political reform.


Wednesday, 13 Sep 2017

11.00–12.00 am
Daniel Weidner (ZfL) and Nitzan Lebovic (Lehigh University): Introduction

12.00 am–1.00 pm
Brian Britt (Virginia Tech University): Prophetic Perfectionism. The Afterlives of Nat Turner and John Brown

2.00–3.00 pm
Sam Brody (Kansas State University): Prophecy and Powerlessness

3.30–4.30 pm
Sarah Hammerschlag (University of Chicago): Believing in the U.S.A.: Derrida, Melville and the Great American Charlatan

4.30–5.30 pm
Zvi Ben-Dor Benite (New York University): The prophetic voice. Political-theological perspectives

6.00–7.30 pm
Keynote Susannah Heschel (Dartmouth College): Political Prophecy versus Liberation Theology. Ethical and Mystical Dimensions

Thursday, 14 Sep 2017

10.00–11.00 am
Reading session: Written prophecy

11.00–12.00 am
Saladin Ambar (Lehigh University/Rutgers State University): Catch on Fire. Malcolm X and the Black Prophetic Tradition

1.00–2.00 pm
Vincent Lloyd (Villanova University): Samuel Delany as Prophetic Critic

2.30–3.30 pm
John Pettegrew (Lehigh University): James Baldwin's ›Gospel of Love‹ in Mid-20th Century Democratic Thought

3.30–4.30 pm
Concluding discussion