PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Cultural History of the Study of Religion Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit is devoted to historical inquiry into the social and cultural contexts of the study of religion and into the constructions of “religion” as an object of scholarly inquiry.

Call for Papers: 

The Cultural History of the Study of Religion Unit seeks papers that examine the formation and transformation of “religion” and related categories in social, cultural, and political practice in different geographic and historical contexts and in relation to the scholarly study of religion as that study has evolved over time.

As always, we welcome new research on the history of religion in its diverse geographical contexts, especially papers that explore new archives for interpreting the intellectual, cultural, and institutional history of the discipline.

For the 2019 Annual Meeting, we are also interested in proposals on the following topics:


● Theory and Method 2.0 (For possible co-sponsorship with Critical Theory and Discourses on Religion Unit) -
In many graduate and undergraduate religious studies curricula, the core “theory and method” course works to integrate the field. How does this course represent the history of the study of religion? Should this core course be rethought? What work does “theory and method” do to configure and define religious studies?

● The Once and Future Philologist -
What is the place of language training in the study of religion? To what extent has language training declined in recent decades? What combination of intellectual and institutional forces have played a role in this process (e.g. the rise and fall of “theory”; postcolonial critique; the ethnographic turn; the corporatization of the university, with attendant pressures to reduce degree time; the diminished role of the humanities more broadly)? What role should language training play in the study of religion, and how are programs changing their requirements in the present?

● Curating Religion (For possible co-sponsorship with Religion, Media, and Culture Unit) -
Museums have long been endowed with the authority to curate public understanding and consumption of religion. This role has entailed their intervention in a number of pressing debates as to the relationship of religion and science, race and racism in the US, nationalism and immigration, and the politics of religious and cultural “heritage.” How have conventional museum spaces responded to critiques of their role as well as to the rise of alternative venues including digital platforms, performance art, etc.? How do various aspects of museum work, including preservation, collections management, and digitization, shape what gets read or counted as religion? We welcome papers that interrogate any aspect of this changing nexus of museums, mediatization and the material history of the study of religion in any historical context.

● Toward a Cultural History of “Public Religion” -
We welcome papers that place the concept of “the public” and of “public religion” in a longer historical perspective. Papers could pursue an intellectual history of “the public sphere” by looking at major thinkers in the Western tradition; examine the translation of the idea of “the public” into various geographic and linguistic contexts; or trace the history of forms of mediation that converge in the contemporary moment to produce our sense of “the public.”

This Unit regularly uses its sessions to develop new models for conference conversation. Toward that end, we ask that participants be prepared to write shorter papers for possible pre-circulation or short position papers for roundtable format. We also welcome suggestions for new conversation models.

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