PAPERS Resources

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

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Religion in the American West Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

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.

Call for Papers: 

The theme for the 2018 annual meeting is “The Civic Responsibilities, Opportunities, and Risks Facing Scholars of Religion.” As a response to that theme, we invite paper proposals that in some way address public memory or memorialization in relation to religion in the American West. We use the terms “public memory” and “memorialization” broadly, to encompass various means by which invested communities represent, reassess, or reclaim the past, including monuments, festivals, pageants, re-enactments, anniversaries, apologies, literature and art, television and film, music, history education in schools, museums, archives, cemeteries, historic preservation, repatriation of artifacts, or revivals of historic styles.

Recent confrontations, sometimes violent, around Confederate memorials offer vivid reminders that works of public memory deploy specific politics in the present and embody rival visions of the future. Viewing religion in the American West through the lens of that concern raises questions such as these:

• How is religion present in—or absent from—the memorializing of the American West?
• How significant are religious institutions or practices today in shaping public memory?
• What lessons might case studies of contested memorialization offer to other invested parties who seek to reshape communal memory?
• How do stories about religion in the American West complicate or challenge widely reproduced narratives about the nation?
• What would a public history of religion in the American West look like—or what does it look like at present?
• How might religious studies scholars collaborate with other professionals, in venues such as museums, to shape public understandings of the history of the American West?
• How do we as scholars navigate a religious group’s “politics of memory” when we research or write about their past?

We are especially—but by no means exclusively—interested in papers that examine religion and public memory or memorialization in the annual meeting’s host city, Denver, or elsewhere in the state of Colorado. We will consider proposals that do not address public memory or memorialization; however, our preference is to select a slate of papers on that theme.

• We are seeking individual or session proposals for a co-sponsored session with the Music and Religion Unit and the Religion in the American West Unit around the theme of "Music and Religiosity in the Mountain West”. Potential topics include but are not limited to Native American musico-religious and sonic traditions, Latter-day Saints musical traditions, the music of evangelical megachurches and institutions (e.g., New Life, Focus on the Family), uses and critiques of music, Latino/a religious music in the West, musical hagiography of the West in the American imagination (e.g., religious themes in cowboy songs), sonic environments erased from the American imagination, music and the Rocky Mountains, and local music institutions (e.g., University of Colorado, University of Denver, local music archives, Gospel Music initiative).

Deadline for completed papers: As is the long custom of this unit, our session will be formatted as a group discussion of pre-circulated papers. Each presenter will deliver a 5-minute oral précis of their work at the beginning of the session but will not read their entire paper aloud. This format allows presenters to circulate article-length or chapter-length manuscripts to the group (rather than condensed, 20-minute versions) and greatly increases the amount of time available during the session for offering feedback to presenters. However, the pre-circulated format also requires presenters to submit their completed papers for circulation to the seminar by October 15, 2018.

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection
ChairSteering Committee