PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Ritual Studies Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit provides a unique venue for the interdisciplinary exploration of ritual — broadly understood to include rites, ceremonies, religious and secular performances, and other ritual processes — in their many and varied contexts, and from a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives.

Call for Papers: 

The Ritual Studies Unit invites individual papers and full panel proposals from a variety of religious and cultural traditions exploring ritual in various local and transnational contexts. We are interested in sessions that experiment with new formats (for instance, two papers and two respondents) and we particularly encourage papers/presentations that involve actually doing ritual practices.


● Ritual, Humor, and Irony -
In keeping with this year’s Presidential theme of scholarly workers in public spaces, we invite papers that explore the role of irony and humor in ritual, and public rituals that use irony and humor in the service of protest and political activism, for example: 1) ritualized humor as a form of social criticism (satire) vs. ludic celebrations that lack a critical, self-reflexive edge (such as caricature) 2) humor of the unplanned – i.e. examples of ritual failure/mishaps which generate humorous reactions (what is the dynamic behind this? are such mishaps necessarily disturbing or can they generate some type of specific energy that can then be used by the ritualists?) and 3) ritual specialists tasked with eliciting humor (for example, the phenomenon of "hospital clowns")

● Ritualized Bodily Contact -
We are interested in exploring (in a cross-cultural perspective) the (performative logics of) more or less ritualized conventions of purposeful touching between non-intimates, such as laying on of hands, or greetings in both religious and secular contexts.

● Ritual, Environment, and Disaster -
Ritualized responses to environmental disasters and/or the effects of disasters on ritual practices. Topics might also include memorials for disasters that involve ritualization.

● For a possible co-sponsored session with the Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Unit. Most socio-religious cultures engage rituals, or sequences of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, in particular spaces and places, formally and informally to build community, practice traditions, and codify belief systems. Black women engage ritual in everyday life as well as in Black women's literary traditions. This co-sponsored session invites papers that explore rituals as resistance practices, domestic practices, and womanist interdisciplinary engagement. These activities can include spiritual coping, liturgical celebration, prophetic homiletics, creative arts, and/or socio-religious ethics that take seriously the participation and appreciation of Black bodies.


● For a possible co-sponsored session with the Women and Religion Unit, we solicit paper proposals that critically and innovatively engage reproductive rituals such as rituals around birth, miscarriage, abortion, menstruation, and fertility. These ritual studies may analyze the social, cultural, and political implications of the practices, the healing of individuals and communities, and/or women's leadership and activism.

● We are also seeking papers for a possible co-sponsored session on ritual theory in India and/or China. What theories have Indian and Chinese intellectuals formulated to explain rituals? What function do rituals serve? How and why do they work? Are there necessary ingredients, and if so, what? To what extent are these theories context-specific, and to what extent might they yield insights that could be applied outside their original contexts? Comparative proposals are welcome, as are proposals focusing on a particular tradition or thinker from either India or China. Examples include (but are by no means limited to) ritual theory in the Brāhmaṇas, Mīmāṃsā theories, Confucian debates on li 禮, Daoist ritual theories, Daoxuan’s 道宣 theoretical framework, etc. Co-sponsored by the Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit.

● Ritual Theory -
We are interested in papers that engage with the “ritual theory canon.” Relevant papers may offer new approaches to understanding and utilizing “canonical” ritual theorists or propose new theoretical resources for ritual studies scholarship.

Our sessions that are not co-sponsored 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, 2019.

Method: 
PAPERS
Process: 
Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members until after final acceptance/rejection
Leadership: 
ChairSteering Committee