AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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The Religion in the American West Unit is a forum for graduate students, independent scholars, and faculty who situate their work regionally in the North American West, broadly conceived. The study of religion in this region allows scholars to use a broad array of methodologies (historical, anthropological, literary, sociological, and others) to explore the most pressing questions in the field of American religion and in Religious Studies more generally. These include, but are not limited to: the history of empire and colonialism; the connections between religion and violence; the construction and deployment of racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities; transnational movement of people and ideas; religion and the natural and built environments; myth-making and its role in the construction and critique of nationalist ideologies; and the development of the category of religion. The purpose of this subfield is not to remain in the American West, to define the West, or to argue that religion in the West is unique. Instead, by situating scholarship regionally, scholars of the American West are able to develop theories and methods that can be useful interpretive lenses for other regions defined by land, transnationalism, migrations, diversity, and colonialism. Moreover, the Unit supports the development of a rigorous intellectual community by pre-circulating papers in advance of the national meeting and maintaining a blog.
American West Imaginaries: Frontiers, the Future, Border Control, and Protests
The frontier, as it is imagined in the American West, has held possibilities for numerous religious people, and has served as inspiration for ideations of a better life. However, the West has also been the site of immense tragedy due to these imaginaries, as the implementation of utopian landscapes rests on exclusion, dispossession, border control, and other acts of systemic and physical violence.
Drawing on this paradoxical relationship between the vision and its realization, we solicit paper and panel proposals on the multiple representations of the American West as the place of the future, both by religious groups and by groups adopting the language of purity and promise. What religious futures have been imagined in the West? How has the American West served as a rhetorical flashpoint for imagining a future predicated on exclusion and violence? What secular futures have the West inspired? How has the reality of the West’s indigenous population challenged the implantation of imagined futures? How have racial, ethnic, gender, and religious identities been co-constituted in the space of imaginaries on the frontier? How have protests shaped the religious landscape of the West?
We are particularly interested in papers exploring minority religious traditions and in papers that examine the role of gender in shaping the rhetorics of the future, connecting with the presidential theme of religion and the most vulnerable.
Please note that the format for the session will feature pre-circulated papers as is the long custom of this unit.
We are also in interested in papers for a co-sponsored session with the New Religious Movements units around the topic of Futures and Frontiers of Religion, considering the questions: what role do violence, exclusion, and/or extremism play in the building of--or failure to build--utopias?