PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Folklore and Religion Seminar

Statement of Purpose: 

Folklore Studies has led and leads the way in directing scholarship on the expressive culture of religious communities, the methodological challenges of ethnographic work within those communities, and research and analysis of the religion of ordinary people diachronically and synchronically. Uniquely representing the theoretical and methodological perspectives of folkloristics on the study of religion, as well as consistently spotlighting the contextual material that folklorists see as significant evidence of religious belief and practice, this AAR Seminar allows a more permanent place at the annual meeting for the study of religion as associated with such topics as food, costume, vernacular art, architecture, material culture, medical and healing beliefs, narrative and song, performance, etc., as well as topics relevant to applied folkloristics such as the “paranormal” and the “supernatural”.

Call for Papers: 

In addition to paper proposals which generally apply the perspectives and methodologies of Folkloristics as a discipline to the study of religion, this year the Folklore and Religion Seminar particularly welcomes paper submissions focused on the following specific themes:

• Public Sector Folklore and Vernacular Religion
Folklore studies has long been actively engaged with the public sphere, and with the representation and promotion of our discipline, its perspectives, and its subject matter in public forums. A substantial number of folklorists work outside of exclusively academic settings – in national and regional museums, Folklife Centers, regional arts or heritage management programs, state folklife programs, as well as serving as consultants for corporate communities. Programs like the Public Sector Track in the University of Oregon or Western Kentucky University’s Folklore Programs demonstrate the unique store of theoretical frameworks and practical training in public outreach and engagement offered by folkloristics. In light of the AAR’s newly expanded mission statement – which now includes “to enhance the public understanding of Religion” as an articulated goal – and the conference theme for 2018 (Religious Studies in Public) Folklorists offer a substantial and meaningful contribution to this conversation. The Folklore and Religion seminar seeks submissions that explore the intersections of Religious Identity and Public Sector Folklore. In particular, we welcome papers that discuss specific instances of outreach to vernacular religious movements and communities, or that explore the benefits and challenges of heritage management, traditional arts, or cultural preservation programs focused on religious beliefs, practices, or material cultures.

• Cannabis Culture, Folklore, and Religion
Folklorists – at least according to Elliot Oring (1986) – have a proclivity for studying phenomena that might be described as “marginal” (in relation to the centers of power and privilege). Since at least 1920 – with the publication of Eugenio Gomez Maillefert’s “La Marihuana in Mexico” in the Journal of American Folklore – folklorists have found fertile ground in the vernacular speech, material culture, foodways, narratives and beliefs of the marginalized cultures and counter-cultures associated with the (heretofore) illegal use of cannabis products. Scholars of Religion and Folklore alike have found similarly rich territory to mine in exploring traditional ceremonial or healing practices involving cannabis drawn from Asia, the Middle-East, and the Caribbean. Indeed, hundreds of articles in Religious Studies and Folklore Journals reference cannabis and its attendant – often marginalized -cultures. But what happens to these intersections when the marginal becomes the mainstream? With the enactment of Amendment 64 legalizing recreational cannabis use in Colorado (along with attendant measures adopted in several other states), Denver has seen the emergence of the first International Church of Cannabis, a kosher deli that cures its gravlax with THC, and fierce ongoing debate between local pastors and ministers about the relative morality of legalization. To capitalize on the location of our 2018 meeting, the Folklore and Religion seminar welcomes papers and presentations that explore the intersection of Cannabis culture and Vernacular Religious traditions. Papers that explore emergent communities (like the Church of Cannabis) or those with a long history of ritual cannabis consumption are equally encouraged. We would also welcome papers that discuss the relation between cannabis consumption and trance, numinous, or ecstatic states; questions of taboo (including debates about marijuana’s kosher status); and especially explorations of vernacular religious responses (positive and negative) to drug legalization.

The ultimate direction taken by the Folklore and Religion Seminar at the 2018 Annual Meeting will depend upon the number and quality of submissions in each category. Submissions that mediate or unify these themes are especially welcomed as well.

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