PAPERS Resources

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

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Religion in South Asia Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit’s mission is to provide a venue for new and important research in the many religious cultures, texts, and histories of South Asia. Within the area of South Asia, all world religions exist in unique forms, from religions that originated in India — such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Tantra, and tribal religions — to religions that have taken on longstanding and distinctive forms in South Asia — such as Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. The focus of our work is thus on a geographical area, the religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions of that area, and changes that have occurred in those traditions over several millennia. Scholars of South Asia explore the distinctive manifestations of religious traditions in the subcontinent, their interactions, and their movements to and expressions in other parts of the world. This Unit encourages contextualizing religion within debates on a broad array of parallel and intersecting issues, such as (but not limited to) politics, secularism, literature, philology, globalization, modernity, colonialism and postcolonialism, history, society, media, popular culture, material and visual culture, and economics. Our scholarship often emphasizes sessions and papers that look at more than one tradition and thus frequently entail some degree of comparative approach. Our website is We also have a listserv, which is essential to the work of our Unit. Information on joining the listserv can be found on our website.

Call for Papers: 

2018 Call for Papers: Religion in South Asia
Deadline for submissions: March 1, 2018.

RISA’s mission is to provide a venue for new research on the many religious cultures, texts, and histories of South Asia. We have a strong preference for sessions in which the papers cover a range of traditions, regions, and languages of South Asia. The theme for the 2018 AAR is “The Civic Responsibilities, Opportunities, and Risks Facing Scholars of Religion,” so panels related to this theme are also encouraged. The steering committee of the Religion in South Asia (RISA) unit invites colleagues to submit proposals for the 2018 AAR meeting in Denver, Colorado, according to the following guidelines:

2018 Individual Paper Proposals

"New Directions" Panel: The RISA Steering Committee dedicates one paper session to showcasing new scholarship in our field. Applicants for this panel must: (1) be doctoral students or recent grads from a Ph.D. programme in South Asian religions and (2) never have presented at the national AAR meeting. Accepted panelists will be mentored by a senior colleague with appropriately specialized expertise. To apply, upload your individual paper proposal in the AAR’s PAPERS system, explicitly labelled as a "New Directions” submission, and also email your proposal (and any other queries) to Elaine Fisher, convenor of the panel for 2018 (

Joint Session on Decolonization as Healing: The Religion in South Asia unit joins eleven other units in co-sponsoring up to two additional joint sessions on the theme of decolonization as healing, recognizing that colonization has resulted in both historical and ongoing threats to health and wellbeing. We are looking for papers that address facets of this theme, such as, but not limited to: “Place, Land, and Environmental Degradation,” “Decolonization/Restoration of Identities,” “Vocabularies and Pragmatic Applications of Rituals and Ceremonies,” and “Tradition as Healer.” Individual papers on this theme should be submitted to RISA and marked with the title: “Decolonization as Healing.”

2018 Papers Session Proposals

In the past, RISA had been allotted five paper sessions, with four at the standard length (150 minutes) and one in a shorter format (90 minutes). RISA can also sponsor one additional paper session if it is co-sponsored with another unit.

With the new schedule at the Annual Meeting this year, RISA will have more flexibility and more panels. The Steering Committee will be able to put together a program with six or seven panels that combines 150-minute, 120-minute, and 90-minute sessions. While more of the RISA panels will be shorter than in previous years (90 minutes instead of 150), we will have more panels overall.

Generally, 150-minute panels consist of 6 participants (4 paper presenters, a discussant or respondent, and a presider), and 90-minute panels consist of 5 participants (3 paper presenters, a discussant, and a presider). However, you are encouraged to consider experimenting with these formats, given the changes being implemented by the leadership of the AAR for the upcoming Annual Meeting.

In your proposals, please specify your preferred formats (150, 120, or 90 minutes). If relevant, list any potential co-sponsoring unit with your proposal. Co-sponsorship adds one additional 90-minute session to RISA's standard allotment of panels. All participants must be current AAR members to complete your submission.

If you are looking for collaborators towards proposing a papers session, please feel free to reach out to colleagues on the RISA listserv, or to contact the RISA co-chairs for assistance (Andrea Pinkney,; Hamsa Stainton, Some themes already identified as potential papers sessions are listed below. Please contact the associated colleagues for details.

• Hindu Appropriations of Buddhism—Joel Bordeaux and Brad Clough (;
• Hindus and Hindu Traditions in Pakistan—Jürgen Schaflechner (
• Memory and Materiality—Prea K. Persaud (
• Migration and Sacred Matters—Priyanka Ramlakhan (
• Premodern Buddhist-Hindu Interactions—Bradley Clough (
• Relevance of Theory in Fieldwork: Case Studies—Mani Rao (
• Religion in Northeast India—Rodney Sebastian (
• Religion and the Politics of Cow Protection— SherAli Tareen (
• Religious Encounters in the Early Modern—Anne Murphy (
• Religious Minorities in South Asia—Borayin Larios (
• Roundtable: Theorizing Secularism in Taneja's Jinnealogy —Richard McGregor (
• Session Honoring H. Daniel Smith—Purushottama Bilimoria and Sudhakshina Rangaswami (;

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