AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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This Unit is focused on scholarship that explores the dynamics of religion in urban contexts. We draw largely, though not exclusively, from social research in looking at the ways in which the cultures, economies, space, and politics both shape and are shaped by the presence of an increasing diversity of faith traditions in cities.
The 2016 presidential election revealed disparity in voting patterns between urban and rural dwellers. In what ways do these patterns mirror disparate religious imaginings of cities? In Gods of the City (1999), Robert Orsi argues that scholars of religion in cities cannot contend with the religious lives of city dwellers without also contending with the morally charged fantasies of the city that infuse American perceptions of those religious lives. Orsi writes, "Spaces within the urban landscape are both geographical sites where real people live, and constructions of terror and desire among those who live elsewhere." (6) This session calls for papers that address the use of rhetorical and symbolic constructions within American religious rhetoric (e.g., the city on the hill, the New Jerusalem, Sodom and Gomorrah) as well as constructions within the US’ moral imaginary, where the highest ideals and values are perceived to either be affirmed or deformed.
Papers should focus on the current political climate or its recent past, and topics may include rhetorical descriptions of US cities through religious language, examinations of cities in the religious moral imagination, or connections between religion, anti-urban rhetoric, and American identity. Individual paper proposals will be given priority, but we will consider panel proposals that present a multi-faceted approach to a unified topic.
The 2017 AAR meeting to be held in Boston also opens up possibilities for using a regional lens in discussions about religion and cities and their contested historical meanings. For a potential co-sponsored panel with the Afro-American Religious History Unit, we are looking for papers that focus on Black historical landmarks (such as Lewis and Harriett Hayden House, African Meetinghouse, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Black Heritage Trail, the Underground Railroad, etc.) and their sacred histories in