AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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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.
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.
For the 2017 Annual Meeting, we particularly welcome proposals on the following topics:
• Religio Ex Machina
The simplest machines are devices that transform the direction or magnitude of a force. This roundtable session will examine how machines (e.g., cameras, prayer beads or wheels, computers, televisions, robots, fMRI machines) and understandings of technology have figured into the construction and study of religion. For possible co-sponsorship with the Science, Technology, and Religion Unit.
• The Cultural History of ‘Mysticism’
Authors are asked to reflect on past, present, and possible new formulations of the category of “mysticism,” including its presumed antitheses, its gendered associations, and its relationship to secular and neoliberal reformulations of the “religious.” For possible co-sponsorship with the Mysticism Unit.
• Genealogy of Genealogies
If the so-called genealogical turn in religious studies has demonstrated the historical contingency and pliability of the modern category “religion,” it has done so partly by reifying the term “genealogy.” This session asks us, as scholars of religion, to construct a better cultural history for genealogy, not only by looking to Foucault and Nietzsche, but also to the broader field of meanings that this term accrued during and after the long nineteenth century in relation to Darwinism, nationalism, biblical criticism, etc. We are especially interested in papers that use the history of genealogy to reveal submerged affinities among religion, race, and anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
• As always, we welcome all papers that develop new archives for and interpretations of the cultural, intellectual, and institutional history of the study of religion.
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 conversational models.