AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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Ecclesial Practices provides a collaborative space at the intersection of ethnographic and other qualitative approaches and theological approaches to the study of ecclesial practices. This might include churches, other (new, emerging, para-church, and virtual) communities, and lived faith in daily life. International in scope, the unit encourages research contributing to a deeper understanding of “church in practice” in a global context, including decolonization and postcolonial theologies. The unit encourages ongoing research in the following areas:
• Empirical and theological approaches to the study of ecclesial communities (churches, congregations, and emerging communities), especially as interdisciplinary efforts to understand lived faith and practice extending from them;
• Studies of specific ecclesial activities, e.g. music, liturgy, arts, social justice, youth work, preaching, pastoral care, rites of passage, community organizing;
• Studies of global contexts of lived faith in relation to ecclesial communities, for example, decolonizing and postcolonial theory and theology;
• Discussions of congregational growth and decline, new church movements, and ecclesial experiments connected to shared practices in a worldly church;
• Explorations of Christian doctrine in relation to the potential implications of empirical and qualitative research on ecclesial communities and lived faith for discerning, defining, and challenging standard theological genres such as systematics and doctrine, as well as inviting new ways to understand normative logics;
• Discussions of methodological issues with regard to qualitative research on theological topics, especially related to ecclesial communities and lived faith;
• Discussions (both substantive and methodological) of the implications of new technologies and digital cultures for ecclesial communities and lived faith.
Transcending the Human: Theological Ethnography and Materiality
Ethnographies of religion have long paid attention to the material dimensions of religious practice. More recently, ethnographers have also worked with frameworks such as actor network theory, new materialisms and other ways of analyzing material objects and forms of non-human agency as part of religious life. In this call, we are looking for papers that ethnographically engage and analyze any such forms of materiality for ecclesiological and theological purposes.
Papers that seek to engage the complex material struggles of vulnerable populations – for example, but not limited to, struggles wrought by patterns of migration, refugee crises, food and/or water crises, animal welfare, developing technologies or climate change – will be given priority. We are also particularly interested in papers that address the theoretical, theological, and methodological challenges and possibilities inherent to questions of materiality and vulnerability in ethnographic research for ecclesiology and theology.