This is the most up-to-date schedule for the 2023 AAR Annual Meeting. If you have questions about the program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. All times are listed in Central Standard Time.
This panel explores how religion is embodied and materialized across diverse contexts and faith traditions. The first paper presents a novel denotative using participant-produced photographs approach to understand lived religion in three Latin American cities. The second paper examines how members of two Sikh communities in the US and England negotiate their religious and racial identities. The third paper analyzes the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi as a case study for how religion is materialized and theorized in the Arab world. The fourth paper takes a historical sociological approach to investigate how women in the African Methodist Episcopal Church have acquired and exercised power to resist patriarchal social structures and white supremacy. Overall, the panel offers a nuanced understanding of the materialization and embodiment of religion across diverse contexts and highlights the need for a more comprehensive understanding of religious identity, power, and meaning.
Can visual data provide insights that words do not reveal? Meanings of objects in visual studies are usually captured through elicitation meetings. In this article, we propose to explore them from a purely visual standpoint and assess the methodological and substantive benefits of such denotative approach. We used a database of 660 photographs produced by 228 participants in three Latin American cities. Following a “lived religion” approach, respondents were asked to present an object that was ‘meaningful’ for them. Analyzing these pictures beyond words, proved useful to operationalize a large corpus of visual data, facilitate the transmission of the results and build a representative classification of the types of objects most commonly brought by participants. We conclude that a denotative analysis of participant-produced visuals ‘beyond words’ represents an untapped opportunity to challenge existing representations and elicit new research directions, which, in turn, require returning to verbal data to be elucidated.
Sociologists and social psychologists such as Charles H. Cooley have long understood the self to be fundamentally social. In this paper, I apply Cooley’s theory of the self to Sikhs’ reflections on their identity as Sikh. I draw on in-depth interviews with Sikhs to unpack identity construction processes for members of minoritized communities. My respondents strive to present an idealized image of “Sikh” in contexts characterized by discrimination towards Sikhs. They actively seek to present an idealized image of Sikh in response. Further, I find unpack the implications of Sikhs’ views of their interactions with non-Sikhs for racial identity. Through a comparison of Sikhs in racially distinct groups, we are able to better understand the role of both race and religion in influencing the looking glass self. This has important implications for our understanding of the social processes that underpin racial identity and the flexibility and durability of whiteness.
This paper aims to analyze the Abrahamic Family House (AFH) in Abu Dhabi, UAE, as an example of how religion is theorized and discourses on religion are materialized in the Arab world. The AFH is a larg government-sponsored multi-religious space, which includes a mosque, a church and a synagogue with a shared garden and a central forum, which “functions as a visitor experience center, where an immersive exhibition will introduce visitors to the [project] and invite reflection on the three faiths” involved in it. The AFH was inaugurated on 16th February 2023 and has been opened to visitors since 1st March 2023. It represents the materialization of the principles (among other, the importance of dialogue among religions believing in God and the rejections of any forms of religious extremism) set out in the 2019 Document on “Human Fraternity” signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahamad al-Tayyib.
This paper reports on historical sociology research that conceptually centered ‘power’ as the ability to impose ‘will,’ no matter opposition, and viewed ‘power’ as a dynamic, interactive social phenomenon, not static organizational position. It is an exploration of African Methodist Episcopal Church women acquiring and using ‘power’ to extraordinary impact on the denomination’s first century of emergence and organization. Consideration of slavery, sexism, and racism are explored as social context AME women had to encounter as they adjusted and struggled against the Church’s male-domination structure. ‘Everyday’ women, not necessarily leaders, prominent or renowned, are the paper’s focus. The research demonstrates women’s effectiveness in causing changes in denomination authority structure to include women. An exemplary and contemporary consequence of their struggles was the 21st century election of a woman Bishop. The paper will surely generate cross-fertilization between Sociology of Religion and other disciplinary arenas.
The rise of “Trumpism” in the U.S. has heightened public discourse on the relationship between race, politics, and white Christianity, with much of the focus on evangelicals. The papers in this panel broaden the frame by placing scholarship on white evangelicalism and Christian nationalism in conversation with white Christian progressivism. Papers explore how whiteness shapes Christianity on the right and the left in terms of political practices, behaviors, and perspectives, and how this impacts our common life in the U.S. Authors discuss white Christians' involvement in racial justice movements, social sources of divides within evangelicalism, racism in U.S. sermons, and Christian gun ownership.
This paper examines the theory, methodologies, and findings of a larger study exploring the impacts of whiteness - and specifically, White Christianity - on racial justice movements within the state of Texas. Employing Critical Whiteness Studies as a methodological tool, community organizers working in the areas of incarceration and immigration reform/abolition were interviewed for two primary purposes: to better understand how White Christians engage in and are impacted by organizing for racial justice (do these movements have the potential to “un-suture” White Christians/Christianity from whiteness?); and to better understand how the presence of White Christians impacts the work of such organizations and movements (what are the benefits, as well as the costs, of allowing White Christians into power-building spaces/movements for BIPOC communities?). This paper reflects on the findings of this study while also calling into question the impact of the primary researcher’s identity on its relational dynamics and outcomes.
What generates divides within evangelicalism over individualist and structural frameworks for understanding racial inequity? Some research has pointed to gender and education as key factors in shaping racial attitudes (Edgell and Tranby 2007). We investigate these claims with recent national survey data, while considering other sources of contemporary evangelical divides, including Christian Nationalism, generation, and urbanicity. We argue that divisions within evangelicalism reflect generational and class shifts within evangelicalism, especially due to the effect of the Trump movement on evangelicalism. Evangelicals who are supportive of Christian nationalism are at odds with those skeptical of the uniting of God and Caesar. National survey results from 2022 provide support for generational, class, and political divides within evangelicalism on issues of racial inequity.
This paper draws from the author’s ethnographic fieldwork with Christian handgun owners and Christian anti-gun violence activists in the Triangle region of North Carolina to develop an immanent critique of Christian handgun ownership as encountered in the field. Drawing from the work of Luke Bretherton and Willie Jennings, it explores how an ethnographically grounded analysis can make an ethico-political intervention into the place of guns in US American life, one that employs practices of listening and joining across vectors of difference as a way of responding to the continued harm of guns on our common life in the United States.
While religion and race have separately been established as meaningful drivers of elite and public behavior, I argue that we cannot truly understand their impact on American politics without being considered together. In this project, I ask whether the ways in which religious experiences shape U.S. race relations by investigating how racism is discussed during religious services. I examine the contexts of discussions about racism in 10,900 sermons from 1,047 U.S. congregations through the use of computational text analysis methods. I show that there is variation in how clergy discuss racism during religious services, an established avenue through which religious experiences shape political behavior. I connect these quantitative results to previous literature that shows white evangelicals are hesitant to connect issues related to race/ism to politics.
This panel investigates the experiences and identities of the religiously unaffiliated using a variety of methods. The authors focus on the experiences of Black "Nones," secular Muslims, atheists, and long-distance runners. Using a mixed-methods approach, the first paper investigates the growth of Black individuals who disaffiliate from the Black Church yet who retain supernatural beliefs. The second paper employs multiple methods, including focus groups and surveys, to understand how identity can be separated from belief and practice for secular American Muslims. Using computational methods, the third paper examines the representation of scientific and religious authorities in the online discussion group alt.atheism. The fourth paper draws on autobiographical narratives to explore the role of long-distance running in developing a sense of transcendence. Overall, these papers demonstrate the potential of sociological methods to provide fresh insights into the multifaceted experiences of the religiously unaffiliated.
Quantitative research has revealed a recent increase in measures of Black individuals who identify under the category of ‘None’ meaning (in general) those individuals who find their identities and meaning making not attached to particular religious traditions. But what does this mean? The category of 'nones' has received significant criticism due to its inherent complexity. Furthering this critique, we add that the categorical 'none' has largely been spoken about through White Christianity. Combining our quantitative data with qualitative research, we found a pattern in which an increasing number of Black individuals find the Black Church to be irrelevant to their identities. Cognitive research into 'unbelief' has shown a pattern of retaining beliefs in souls, afterlife, and supernatural forces. While not deconverting nor espousing identities associated with atheism, the Black Church is increasingly less central to Black Identity. This research offers a more complex and descriptive view into understandings of Black secularism.
While theologians may proclaim that no one can be both an atheist and a Muslim at the same time, some American Muslims assert simultaneous claims to these identities. This paper examines results from focus groups and semi-structured one on one interviews to highlight the ways in which identity is separable from both belief and practice for some Muslims in the U.S. It also discusses the ways in which survey questions about religious identity often obscure the potential for this kind of separation. Finally, it will suggest some alternative approaches for scholars interested in quantifying the prevalence of this phenomenon.
Criticisms of religion from scientific perspectives gained further prominence in the 2000s and 2010s with the rise of the ‘new atheism’. Online discussion groups that focused on atheism were a significant site of such discourse at a popular level. They were important socially since (1) they connected isolated individuals who disavowed religion, (2) participants’ interactions fostered cohesion and sparked conflict in their online communities, and (3) interactions could influence participants' broader social lives.
Substantial archives of historical online interactions within these (and other) communities exist. However, technical barriers regarding the archives’ formats, heterogeneity and size must be overcome before using them. This paper presents a novel computational methodology which is used here to organise archived data and analyse engagement within historically influential online spaces set up to discuss atheism. This methodology is of wider relevance to the sociology of religion and the paper will discuss potential future uses and impact.
This paper explores how Hartmut Rosa's sociological theory of resonance (2019) may prove fruitful for understanding better the spiritual dimensions of long-distance running. The study focuses particularly on the material dimension of lived religion in long-distance running, and uses Rosa's theory to analyze stories about lived religion in written autobiographical narratives of long-distance runners. Rosa defines resonance as "a specific mode of relation – i.e., a specific way of being-related-to-the-world", where you experience a special connectedness, a vibrating and responsive relationship to something or someone (Rosa, 2019). This paper's analysis demonstrates how long-distance running can be a resonant space for different axes of resonance, albeit axes regarding the subject's relationship to the material is dominant.
This roundtable will examine multiple threads that animate conversations in ethnographic theory and method, including issues of representation, embodiment, and colonial dynamics between student and studied. All critical religious ethnographers, the presider and five participants work across a variety of fieldsites and occupy relative insider/outsider positions in their research communities. Participants will discuss challenges from fieldwork itself; choices around representation of their interlocutors, themselves, and their relationships; and the ethical dilemmas involved in the phase of sharing writing. Central to these considerations are the participants’ affective investments in their topics and ethnographic relationships as well as their positionality in relation to the normative power structures of their fieldsites and communities. This roundtable will invite the audience to join a discussion about the analytical stages of ethnography, as the ethnographer transitions out of fieldwork and into writing. We hope this roundtable can foster a collaborative space for reflection and knowledge-building.
This Session aims to introduce and discuss the edited volume _Beyond Karbala: New Approaches to Shii Materiality_ (forthcoming with Brill, 2023). Examining manifestations and transformations of material and multi-sensorial expressions and experiences in the life-worlds of Twelver Shi‘is, Alawī-Nuṣayrī, and Alevi-Bektashi communities in diverse, understudied demographic and geographic contexts, _Beyond Karbala_ engages with conceptual debates in religious studies, material religion, anthropology of religion, and sociology of religion, and makes several propositions that push the frontiers of religious studies and scholarship on material religion. The contributions presented in this volume demonstrate how religious materialities make the _praesentia_ and _potentia_ of the sacred tangible, lock human beings into intimate relations with the more-than-human, and acting as tangible links and gateways to the Elsewhere, therefore facilitating imaginal engagements with the otherworldly. The volume also posits that ‘things’ and less thing-like materialities of religion are integral to processes of heritagization, and that these processes constitute a site of contestation between competing religious actors involved in the construction and canonization of religious—in this case, Shi‘i—heritage.
This panel evaluates the use of quantitative analysis in studying religion across diverse contexts. The authors use surveys, transnational comparative perspectives, and quantitative text analysis to explore the relationship between religion and society. The first paper analyzes the International Survey of Catholic Women to give voice to the concerns of Catholic women worldwide. The second paper uses a transnational comparative perspective to examine the relationship between changing religious landscapes in Argentina and Chile and religious support for anti- and pro-LGBTQ+ legislation. The third paper evaluates the effectiveness of a DEI training program for faculty and staff in a Christian university in the US. The fourth paper uses content analysis and text mining to examine the role of religion in Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, this panel demonstrates the value of quantitative research methods in understanding the complex relationship between religion and society in different institutional and national contexts.
The International Survey of Catholic Women (ISCW) represents an important database to understand the lived faith experiences of Catholic women across the world. Distributed widely, it collected 17,200 responses from 104 countries, making it the largest non-representative international survey of Catholic women. This paper will argue that large surveys such as the ISCW can be very effective in collecting data when they are oriented closely to the concerns of particular cohorts. In this case, the ISCW was commissioned by the network Catholic Women Speak to collect data for a submission to the Vatican’s Synod on Synodality. Its’ clear intent to listen to the voices of women on the current state of church culture and gender politics enabled it to capture the interest of Catholic women across the world. Indeed, many ISCW respondents described feeling silenced and ignored, and reported that they completed the survey so their voices might be heard.
Researching the religious dynamics of Argentina and Chile’s political developments is necessary to comprehend how anti- and pro-LGBTQ+ legislation has changed in these states. Argentina and Chile both encountered three significant phases of transformation in the actors that influenced LGBTQ+ civil rights, transitioning from the military and police (1887 – 1965) to the Catholic Church (1966 – 1990), then to Evangelical churches (1991 – present). These developments have been researched with a focus on the shift in LGBTQ+ civil rights, but not the religious perspectives that have developed and inhibited Argentina and Chile’s LGBTQ+ policies. Analyzing the doctrines, biblical interpretations, and political engagement of religious institutions, this essay proposes the following question to examine the religious impact on Argentina and Chile’s LGBTQ+ policies: How can the religious dynamics of LGBTQ+ civil rights help us take seriously the multiplicity of religious perspectives in these political developments?
Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) is a national, peer-led professional development program that promotes change through self-reflection and interpersonal dialogue, with the goals of widening and deepening school and college curricula and making communities more inclusive. This study examines a Christian university in the coastal Western United States which is currently in the seventh year of its own version of SEED conversations involving over fifty percent of the college’s full-time faculty and a quarter of the college's staff. In order to assess the outcomes of SEED training, the authors conducted a survey of staff and faculty who completed the program. This paper will present an overview of the benefits and issues with SEED training for staff and faculty in higher education and discuss preliminary results of the SEED program assessment.
The relationship between religion and the state has come to the fore during the pandemic also in secularized countries, mainly due to the impact lockdown restrictions have had on public religious gatherings, but also due to the role religious organizations played in advocating or undermining state restrictions and vaccination. The role of religion in societies in crisis gives insights into the processes of secularization. As part of the Trans-Atlantic Platform-funded project ‘The Changing Role of Religion in Societies Emerging from COVID-19’, we have analyzed documents produced by multiple religious organizations in Germany (Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Church of Germany, Muslim communities, and Anthroposophical Society) as well as secular journalistic press media between March 2020 and March 2023. The documents were analyzed with a mixed-methods approach (qualitative content analysis and text mining). In this paper, we answer the question, how do religious organizations perceive their role in society and how are they perceived by the public? How do they engage with individuals, public actors, and the state? Do processes of secularization change in times of crisis?
This panel explores the public manifestations of religion in various contexts, including civic organizations, public health science, and museums. The authors examine expressions and interpretations of religion across different global contexts and faith traditions. The first paper presents an ethnography of two American Muslim civic organizations that negotiate with Christian-centric cultural repertoires to express religion in public life. The second paper analyzes how members of Hindu temples in the U.S. navigate communal tensions to foster practical religious pluralism. The third paper examines how European and American museums categorize and display religion, revealing specific biases and definitions employed. Finally, the fourth paper explores the ways that public health scientists conceptualize religion as an institution, theology, and culture, and examines the stakes of these conceptualizations. Overall, these papers shed light on the diverse ways that religion is mobilized and understood in public contexts.
How do American Muslim advocates imagine the public role of religion in the U.S. today? Research on public religion in the U.S. has mostly focused on Christian groups. Empirically, this focus prevented researchers from asking the crucial question of how non-Christian religious groups adopt and adapt repertoires of public religious expressions circulating in U.S. civic culture. Theoretically, expanding our inquiry to non-dominant religious groups provides insights into the possibilities for imagining different modes of public religious expressions in U.S. civic life. What can non-dominant religious groups do to push the boundaries of Christian-infused modes of public religion? Through two years of participant observation in two Muslim advocacy organizations, I identified different styles of public Islam that American Muslim advocates use in U.S. civic life and theorize the filtering mechanisms that prevent certain expressions of public Islam to reach wider audiences, thus foregrounding the power imbalances that shape U.S. civic spaces.
How do American diasporas negotiate their faith, liberty, and public space in the face of both interreligious and intrareligious challenges? What kind of tensions and complexities arise, from inside and outside, when they opt for pluralistic approaches over confrontation and legal action? Addressing these questions at the intersection of civic space, religious pluralism, and public understanding of religion, this paper rethinks the category “public” in the context of religious diversity to argue that conflicts concerning religious publics can be solved by rising above the private-public, political-personal, secular-religious dichotomies in which public religion is usually understood. Drawing from the social scientific and ethnographic research conducted in the Swaminarayan-Hindu diasporic community in America that faced years-long resistance from native publics in constructing its temples and cultural centers, the paper further contends that self-reflective and constructive conversations with the self and co-religionists can help enhance public understanding of religion, thereby promoting harmonious coexistence.
Through categorization and display, museums identify some things as religious, some things as exemplary of religions, and in so doing, help shape the public's understanding of religion. By analyzing how museums have categorized and displayed religious objects, I argue the public encounters religion through specific biases and definitions of religion that museums employ in their attempts to exhibit material culture they believe to be "religious." Through the analysis and study of museums—like the Vatican Museums, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The British Museum, and the Brighton Museum—and the religious, scholars can investigate new ways of answering Laure Patton's question of "who owns religion," bolster Hugh Urban's claim that ordinary people help construct what counts as a religion, and shed new light on what Jonathan Z. Smith says counts as the academy in which he states religion has no place apart from.
Public health scientists often think about religion sociologically. Yet, many do not critically consider their assumptions and understandings of religion or cite scholars who define “religion.” This can lead public health scientists to draw on public assumptions of what “religion” is. Thus, I conducted a systematic analysis of scholarly work that included discussion of religion in the American Journal of Public Health to understand how religion is conceptualized among public health scientists. Three ways of understanding were most prominent: religion as institution, religion as theology, and religion as culture. Understanding religion as institution often led to seeing churches as resources; understanding religion as theology often led to seeing religion as negative beliefs to overcome; and religion as culture was often a stand-in for an ambiguous understanding of religion. This work urges sociologists of religion to examine the ways that public health scientists understand religion and reinforce biases within their scholarship.