PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Boston, MA
November 18-21, 2017

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Anthropology of Religion Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit draws together scholars who utilize the methodological tools and theoretical perspectives of anthropology in the study of religion as a social and cultural phenomenon. Given the increasing importance of anthropology and ethnography for the academic study of religion, we serve the academy as an important forum for sustained discussion and critique of anthropological approaches that can connect scholars working on diverse traditions, regions, and eras who otherwise might not have the opportunity to learn from each other. Interested members are encouraged to join our (low volume) list-serv:

Call for Papers: 

We invite proposals from the full range of anthropological theories and methods exploring diverse traditions, regions, topics, periods, and encourage standpoints from across the field.

We welcome alternative and creative format sessions that involve presentations other than read manuscripts (including film, multimedia, roundtable, and performance) and sessions that offer enhanced opportunity for dialogue and collaboration among presenters, respondents, and audiences.

We especially encourage individual and panel submissions that address the spirit of this year’s theme, “Religion and the Most Vulnerable,” such as:
Methodological reflections on anthropologists’ negotiations with their own, their study populations’, and the broader discipline’s vulnerability, and the generative openings that may entail.

This might take many forms, including:
• Engagements with Institutional Review Boards (IRB) and competing conceptions of vulnerability.

• Do ethnographers “extract secrets”? If so, can such “secrets” potentially exacerbate precarities? Or shield regimes and dominant representational modes? This is especially pressing in fieldwork with designated vulnerable populations (e.g., refugees, homeless, LGBTQ+ people in non-affirming contexts, incarcerated persons, women negotiating misogyny, children).

• How do ethnographers create and work with pre-existing vulnerabilities?

• How might ethnography entail reciprocities of vulnerability: revealing oneself to participants, being open to new experiences (ritual or otherwise), and/or physical vulnerability? Given the privileges of being in the field as a researcher, can the anthropologist ever be the most vulnerable? Does the concept of “the field” itself enact (or resurrect) vulnerabilities that otherwise may not exist?
Individual and panel submissions might also consider addressing themes such as:
• Can anthropology disrupt, intervene in, or resist structures that create vulnerability and perpetuate categories of the most vulnerable?

• How do multiple infrastructures (religious, social, juridical, etc.) intersect to produce specific kinds of power and disempowerment?

• What vulnerabilities emerge from religious, ethical, and political-legal governmentalities?

• How do individuals and communities mobilize ritual to address conditions and experiences of vulnerability (e.g., calling material blessings, healing, protection, cursing and counter-cursing, Prosperity Gospel, unwitching)?

In addition, we encourage individual submissions for a potential co-sponsorship with the Sociology of Religion Unit. Papers should examine problems encountered or mistakes made in the context of ethnographic fieldwork. Papers should present the context of the research and the specific details of the problem/mistake that arose and how (if it all) they were addressed. Extra time will be allotted to brainstorm further solutions and to think broadly about a "methodology of/for mistakes."

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
ChairSteering Committee