Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are frequently studied in the academy as discrete traditions constructed around the study of analogous but distinct bodies of sacred literature. Certainly, these traditions are understood to give birth to broader cultural spheres that are permeated with the presuppositions of one or another of these religious traditions without necessarily being explicitly tied to any official religious doctrine or practice. We see this approach, for instance, in the emergence of the concept of “Islamicate” societies. However, even these broader conceptualizations of a given tradition are frequently imagined as somehow autonomous and discrete spheres. Thus, it remains common to describe motifs or phenomena appearing in two or more of these traditions using metaphors of exchange between individuals. Shared practices or ideas might be described, for instance, in terms of cultural “borrowing,” “exchange,” “influence,” or “polemic.”
In more recent years, many scholars working on these traditions have independently begun to articulate an (as yet relatively inchoate) instinct that this sort of thinking represents history of religion’s own version of the “territorial trap” (Agnew, 1994, Szpiech 2016). For many of the communities we study appear to have developed scripturally infused forms of intertraditional “vernacular religion” in which motifs and practices coevolved in this shared cultural sphere (Primiano 1995, Wollenberg 2013). Some scholars and institutions have sought to name this phenomenon using the terminology of “Abrahamic religions.” Others have been resistant to the ways in which this genealogical language elides the specific histories of the Abraham motif in different religious communities (Hughes, 2012). In the speaker series proposed here, we hope to invite scholars working on these questions to present both case studies that illuminate these intersections and new theories that reconceptualize the problematic under consideration.