PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Afro-American Religious History Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

The purpose of this Unit is to recover the sources and histories related to the African-American religious experience, to create a forum to explore critically and creatively the history of African-American religions, and to infuse that knowledge into the study of religion within North America. The Unit is committed to the investigation of the diversity of African-American faith traditions and religious experiences.

Call for Papers: 

The purpose of this Unit is to recover the sources and histories related to the African-American religious experience, create a forum to explore critically and creatively the history of African-American religions, and infuse that knowledge into the study of religion within North America. The Unit is committed to the investigation of the diversity of African-American faith traditions and religious experiences.
The Afro-American Religious History Unit invites proposals that explore Black religious pluralism in the American West (broadly construed). For our 2018 annual meeting in Denver, we are especially interested in proposals that engage the following:

• New Religious Movements and the production of new religious ideas among African Americans in the American West.

• The American West as a geographic site for Black occult and spiritualist periodicals.

• Black Denver is a complex geographic locus for Black religious pluralism.

• Topics related to the intersection of incarceration, race and religion, with an emphasis on decriminalization.

• The occasion of the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the United Methodist Church, and the impact of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR).

• To mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, the Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit, the Afro-American Religious History Unit, and the Religion and Cities Unit plan to co-sponsor a session at the 2018 meeting. We are seeking papers that focus on surveillance of religious communities including socio-religious movements in cities, making connections to FBI surveillance of King in his last year. Papers that address the ways Black and Brown activists continue to be surveilled today (including the 2017 revelation of the FBI's construction of "Black Identity Extremists") and a critical analysis of historic and contemporary religious-theological responses to surveillance are welcomed.

• Celebrating monographs of religious history at milestone years such as Curtis Evans The Burden of Black Religion, (2008), Michael Gomez's Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South, (1998), or Albert J. Raboteau's Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South, (1978).

• The legacy and work of David W. Wills, John E. Kirkpatrick 1951 Professor of Religion at Amherst College, on the occasion of his retirement. Proposals might include engagement with Christianity in the United States: A Historical Survey and Interpretation, (2005) or reflections on the practice of teaching African American religious history, and engagement with his seminal work African-American Religion: A Documentary History Project.

• Decolonization as Healing
With a wide range of other units, we plan to co-sponsor a session on the theme of decolonization as healing, recognizing that colonization in Africa and in other parts of our world has resulted in both historical and ongoing threats to health and wellbeing. We are looking for papers that address facets of this theme, including but not limited to: “Place, Land, and Environmental Degradation,” “Decolonization/Restoration of Identities,” “Vocabularies and Pragmatic Applications of Rituals and Ceremonies,” "Reclaiming the Past, Imagining the Future," and “Tradition as Healer”. Co-sponsored with the Religions, Medicines and Healing; African Diaspora Religions, African Religions; Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society; Body and Religion; Indigenous Religious Traditions; Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society; Native Traditions in the Americas; Religions in the Latina/o Americas; Religion in South Asia, Religion in Southeast Asia; and Religion, Colonialism and Postcolonialism; and World Christianity Units. Successful proposals will clearly identify where the project fits within the Call for Papers, and will speak to its broader implications for African American religious history.
This session is a panel. Please submit a proposal for a paper or presentation. If your proposal is chosen, your paper will be circulated ahead of the conference and you’ll be asked to give a brief (5-7 minute) summary of the paper during the conference session.

• The Bible in Racial, Ethnic, and Indigenous Communities (BREIC) Unit and the Afro-American Religious History Unit will co-sponsor one session with the Mormon Studies Unit. The units are collectively interested in papers that connect to the fortieth anniversary of the 1978 “Official Declaration 2,” when Spencer W. Kimball extended the priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the LDS Church. Topics might include African American religious history, post-colonialism and globalization, Black or womanist theology, scriptural interpretation of race, or responses to the Declaration by non-LDS communities. We also especially seek papers that address the role and history of Latter-day Saint movements in Native communities; the LDS theology of Native peoples and responses within Native communities to the same; and historical opposition to the Indian Child Welfare Act. BREIC also solicits papers for an open session focusing on biblical engagement by individuals and / or institutions within racial, ethnic, or indigenous communities. Of particular interest are essays and presentations exploring water and land rights; religious identity; migration; social settings, both marginal and mainstream; texts; and hermeneutical strategies, particularly those of an esoteric nature. In addition, we are looking to develop an experimental session that might go beyond the standard “read aloud paper” session.

Method: 
PAPERS
Process: 
Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
Leadership: 
ChairSteering Committee