Third Conference of the International Society for Heresy Studies with the Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature

Friday 15 - Saturday 16 June 2018

Welcome reception for conference delegates, Thursday 14 June, 5pm, NYU London Centre (Bloomsbury)


Abstracts and Biographies


Confirmed keynote speakers:

Anshuman A. Mondal (UEA), ‘Hate Speech, Free Speech and Religious Freedom’

Anshuman A. Mondal is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of East Anglia. He is the author of Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity: Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt (2003), Amitav Ghosh (2007), Young British Muslim Voices (2008) and Islam and Controversy: The Politics of Free Speech after Rushdie (2014). His recent work has focussed on the cultural politics surrounding Muslims, especially those pertaining to freedom of speech. ‘Articles of Faith: Freedom of Expression and Religious Freedom in Contemporary Multiculture’ was published in the journal Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations in 2016, and essays on the paradoxes of liberal free speech theory; on the limits of liberal attentiveness; on free speech and satire; and an alternative theorisation of free speech are forthcoming. With Tanja Dreher, he is also editing a volume on the ethical responsiveness entitled Paying Attention: Ethical Responsiveness and the Politics of Difference (Palgrave, forthcoming).

Devorah Baum (University of Southampton)

Dr Devorah Baum is Associate Professor in English Literature and Critical Theory at the University of Southampton and an affiliate of the Parkes Institute.  She is the author of two books, Feeling Jewish (Yale University Press) and The Jewish Joke (Profile), and co-director of the creative documentary feature film, The New Man.

When is a joke not a joke?

Reflecting on the liberalising of borders in Europe that marked the modern period of democratic expansion, an expansion that, during the C20th, would find itself revoked with the most deadly consequences, this talk will also respond to our current moment of globalisation and its attendant cultural hysteria.  At a time when laughter is as likely to be heard policing orthodoxies as heralding heresies, I'll be thinking about these historical trends with reference to the part played in them by humour, noting the role of humour in modern Jewish experiences especially.  And to the extent that history today seems to be repeating (again) as farce, I'll suggest that we are living through a moment of rupture and crisis that can be viewed as a crisis of faith in words - and a crisis of faith in jokes.  But to keep things cheerful, my talk will still feature a lot of jokes - mostly funny ones.

Daniel Trilling

Daniel Trilling is editor of New Humanist magazine and a freelance journalist who writes about migration, borders and nationalism for the London Review of Books, Guardian, New York Times and others. His book Lights in the Distance, based on five years of reporting on refugees in Europe, is recently published by Picador.

Following two successful New York City conferences in 2014 and 2016, the International Society for Heresy Studies announces its third biennial conference to be hosted by the Institute of English Studies at Senate House in London. The conference theme will broadly focus on how borders between heresy and orthodoxy are created, maintained, and imagined. Although we interpret “heresy” primarily within a religious context, we also interpret it broadly enough to include the “heretical” in politics, art, philosophy, and literature.  The study of borders—a popular theme in academic conferences in recent years—feels even more urgent in the current time of rising nationalism and political promises to ban immigration and erect walls based on imagined boundaries. Borders are, of course, more than lines drawn across maps and between religions; rather, they are blurry spaces of ambiguity and reversibility where identities are constructed and deconstructed. Concepts of separation, threshold, and border have occupied theologians, philosophers, historians, and artists since ancient times and remain dynamic elements in the work of many theorists and creative artists today. The reexamination of borders can demonstrate not only how we have constructed the heretical other, but also can reveal the fragility and arbitrary nature of our own orthodoxies.  


  • £60 Standard
  • £45 Concession (students, unwaged, retired)
  • £25 Conference Dinner (Saturday, 16 June)

The International Society for Heresy Studies is an organization founded to support the study of the meanings, functions, and histories of heretical belief systems, especially their expressions in literature and art. The Society further aims to illuminate the legal, artistic, social and moral ramifications of blasphemy and iconoclasm, as manifested in literary and artistic works. It also encourages scholarship on non-God-centric secular visions, and it fosters inquiries into atheist critiques of theism. Finally, the Society supports work that tries to determine what happens to blasphemy and heresy when religion is conceived in more material terms such as ethnicity, tradition, ritual, or lifestyle.

The Society does not promote the study of heresy in order to advance Christian (or other theistic) apologetics, nor does it seek to explore heretical, blasphemous, or atheist views in order to condemn them. It equally does not agitate against religion but invites contributions to the understanding of heresy, blasphemy, and unbelief from both believers and unbelievers.



The School of Advanced Study is part of the central University of London. The School takes its responsibility to visitors with special needs very seriously and will endeavour to make reasonable adjustments to its facilities in order to accommodate the needs of such visitors. If you have a particular requirement, please feel free to discuss it confidentially with the organiser in advance of the event taking place.

Enquiries: Events Officer, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU; Email: