PAPERS Resources

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

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Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

Since the end of the Cold War, acts of religiously motivated violence have all too often become part of our quotidian existence. Scholars from various disciplines have attempted to account for these incidents, noting such issues as a resurgence of anti-colonialism, poverty and economic injustice, the failures of secular nationalism, uprootedness and the loss of a homeland, and the pervasive features of globalization in its economic, political, social, and cultural forms. What are the religious narratives that help animate these violent actors? This Unit contends that the theories, methodologies, and frameworks for studying the expanding field of religion and violence remain under-explored and require interdisciplinary work and collaboration to provide greater insights into the complex issues involved. The sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, economics, and political science of religion all have provided great insights into the nature of religion and violence over the last few decades and all are arguably interdisciplinary by nature. This Unit provides a venue devoted specifically to interdisciplinary discussions of the subject. We hope to channel and enhance contributions from the historically delineated (albeit constructed) humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. In that vein, we hope to hear papers presenting cross-disciplinary dialogue and research on the topic of religion and violence.

Call for Papers: 

For the 2017 AAR Annual Meeting its theme of Religion and the Most Vulnerable, the Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence Unit seek papers that examine the intersections of religion and violence, with attention to the conditions under which religion lends itself to the justification and/or promotion of violence. Papers should demonstrate comparative or theoretical approaches. Below are our specific calls for 2017:

• Religion, Media, and Violence.
Whether it is pop-cultural venues such as Facebook or Twitter, the Huffington Post, or traditional televised sources such as MSNBC, Fox News or CNN, the media has made enormous impacts on people’s perceptions of religion. How has the media covered the relationship between religion and violence? How has the media affected religiously-motivated violence? What are the ways in which the media has influenced the outbreaks of, or tempering of, religiously-motivated violence?

• Religion, Fantasy, and Violence. Fantasies
Whether imaginative operations, narrative structures, communal illusions, media constructions, or fanciful fictions—abound in human life and culture, and intertwine with religion in ways that invite, necessitate, or mitigate violence. We seek papers to address aspects of this dynamic. How are violent and anti-violent ideologies supported by (or hindered by) fantasy? How does fantasy affect and effect violence (or peace) in religious contexts? What roles does fantasy play in the spread, cessation, or commemoration of religious violence?

• Religion and Blasphemy
Possible co-sponsorship with the SBL program unit on Violence and Representations of Violence. Religious violence is often facilitated by the discursive constructions of "Others”. A classic mechanism for constructing Others is the charge of blasphemy, in which the Other is said to have spoken or acted in a way that is deemed sacrilegious. We invite papers that explore charges of blasphemy in religious discourse, particularly those that pay attention to the work that such charges perform in the context of (inter)religious violence, competition, or conflict.

• Religion and Hate Crimes
Possible Co-sponsorship with the Afro-American Religious History Unit. The FBI reported in 2015 a dramatic rise in hate crimes across the United States. Entering into a presidential era of Donald Trump, we invite papers that examine the relationship between hate crimes and black religious groups.

• Cross-Cultural Manifestations of Islamophobia
Possible co-sponsorship with the Contemporary Islam Unit. Muslims have increasingly become targets of hate speech and violent actions worldwide. We seek papers that examine variegated ways in which Islamophobia has manifested in different regional, institutional, and religious contexts (e.g., Burmese Buddhist rhetoric about the Rohingya, Chinese discourse on the Uighur, and U.S. Christian discussions about Syrian and Sudanese Muslim immigrants).

• Trauma, Harm, and Memory in Japanese Religions
Possible co-sponsorship with the Japanese Religions Unit. This panel addresses ways concepts of harm, trauma, and related matters - including violence, damage, recovery, and reconstruction - have taken shape within Japanese religious milieus. We seek a broad range of disciplinary approaches. Papers may address doctrine, literature, institutional history, material religion (such as memorials) and/or ways religious dimensions of Japanese discourse, care initiatives, or other practices may illuminate categories linked to trauma. We seek work on a range of historical periods, and papers that engage broader theoretical inquiry into genealogies of "trauma”, "harm”, and related concepts are particularly welcome.

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Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection
ChairSteering Committee