PAPERS Resources

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

2017 Annual Meeting Program (PDF)

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Preliminary 2017 Annual Meeting Program (MS Word)

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Mysticism Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit began as a Consultation within the AAR in 1987 and achieved formal Unit status in 1989. While its early focus was primarily Christianity and Western religions — and the study of experience and textual interpretation within those areas — the Unit has grown and changed over time, paralleling the change and growth in the AAR itself. Today, our conversations cut across boundaries that characterize many of the Program Units within the AAR — boundaries of discipline, tradition, temporality, and region. Members of our Unit use different methodologies and work across a variety of disciplines, among which are the psychology of religion, sociology of religion, history of religions, hermeneutics and textual analysis, biographical analysis, feminist studies, film studies, philosophy of religion, mysticism and science, art criticism, postmodern theory, cultural studies, and anthropology of consciousness, among others. This interdisciplinarity has importance not only to our work as scholars, but also to our work as teachers and public educators. We post our current call, past sessions, a selection of past papers, as well as links in the field of mysticism to our Website at We have also started a listserv, and those interested may write to or sign up through the Website.

Call for Papers: 

• Mysticism, Social Justice and Political Activism

• Mysticism and the Arts

• Defining Mysticism: The issue of definitions – both their content and their utility – has resurfaced as a topic of debate in religious studies, and the phenomena embraced by the rubric “mysticism” present an especially intriguing opportunity for this kind of categorical reflection. We invite papers that consider the question of how “mysticism” has and should be defined, and what the role of a definition of mysticism should be. Papers might propose definitions of mysticism, reflect on past and present engagements with that question, or consider the role of definition itself with regard to mysticism. For a possible co-sponsorship with the Cultural History of the Study of Religion Unit.

• Bodies and Boundaries: The Body as breaking/testing/pushing boundaries in Mysticism and Asceticism. For a possible co-sponsorship with the Body and Religion Unit.

• Mysticism and the Self: we invite proposals that explore how mysticism constructs and deconstructs models of the self and subjectivity. Papers might consider how individual mystic thinkers or traditions have conceptualized the self, what mystical experiences suggest about how the self should be understood, or what philosophical or psychological implications mysticism might present for our understanding of subjectivity. For a possible cosponsor with Psychology, Culture and Religion Unit.

• Mysticism and the Feminine: we are interested in papers on the broad topic of "Mysticism and the Feminine." Such papers could include analyses of the regulation and resistance of female and female-identified mystics, the feminization of certain mystical states, the category of the symbolic feminine in mystical approaches, female divinity, and/or mysticism and the "monstrous feminine." For a possible co-sponsor with Women and Religion Unit.

We do NOT accept proposals by email.
Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection
We actually insist on anonymity and we do not accept email submissions for that reason.
ChairSteering Committee