PAPERS Resources

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

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  • Preconference Workshop
  • Presidential Theme: Religious Studies in Public
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Public Scholarship and Practical Impacts Workshop
Theme: Media Training and Work outside the Academy
Cristine Hutchison-Jones, Harvard University, Presiding
Andrew Henry, Boston University, Presiding
Hussein Rashid, Islamicate, LLC, Presiding
Friday - 9:00 AM-4:00 PM
Convention Center-105 (Street Level)

The Applied Religious Studies Committee is hosting a one-day workshop focusing on putting knowledge of religion into the public sphere. The first part of the day will be an introduction to working with the media with Auburn Media. Using a tested methodology that has put several AAR members into media conversations, we want to assist more individuals increase the public understanding of religion. The second part of the day will be a panel conversation exploring actual work that scholars of Religion are engaged with outside of the academy, and the social impact they have created. The workshop is designed for individuals who would like basic, professional training in TV and radio interviews.

The cost for attending the workshop is $100, which includes the entire day of sessions. Registration is limited to the first 20 participants. To participate, select this workshop when registering for the Annual Meeting. If you have already registered for the Annual Meeting, you may contact to reserve a space in this workshop.

The Applied Religious Studies Committee is eager to support scholars exploring or working in careers outside of the traditional tenure track. Additional support may be available to those for whom the cost of registration might be a barrier. For more information, please contact

Kelly J. Baker, Women in Higher Education
Diane L. Moore, Harvard University
Simran Jeet Singh, New York University
Andrew Aghapour, National Museum of American History
  • Preconference Workshop
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
THATCamp - The Humanities and Technology Camp
Candace Mixon, University of North Carolina, Presiding
Younus Mirza, Allegheny College, Presiding
Constance Kassor, Lawrence University, Presiding
Adam Porter, Illinois College, Presiding
Friday - 9:00 AM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-603 (Street Level)

The advent of digital technology and social media has not only transformed how today religious communities function, they have also changed how scholars teach about and conduct research on religion more broadly. If you are interested in how technology is changing—or can change—the work of scholars of religion, then we invite you to attend the THATCamp SBL & AAR unconference taking place the day before the SBL & AAR Annual Meetings begin. THATCamp brings together scholars to explore the role of technology in humanities scholarship. This is not a conference for techno-elites, it is a conference for every one of all skill levels. If you are new to digital humanities, come and learn. If you are a seasoned pro, come and share. For more information visit

The cost for attending the workshop is $15, which includes a coffee break and the entire day of sessions. Registration is limited to the first 100 participants. To participate, select this workshop when registering for the Annual Meeting. If you have already registered for the Annual Meeting, you may contact to reserve a space in this workshop.

  • Preconference Workshop
  • Presidential Theme: Religious Studies in Public
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Religion and Media Workshop
Theme: Theorizing the Public in Public Scholarship
Friday - 11:00 AM-6:00 PM
Convention Center-607 (Street Level)

The Religion and Media Workshop is a day-long seminar designed to foster collaborative conversation at the cutting edge of the study of religion, media, and culture. This year’s workshop will explore various dynamics of public scholarship:

• How are the intellectual, civic, and ethical obligations of the scholar to her public(s) mapped differently in various world regions and among varied religious groups?

• How are scholars called upon, or perceive themselves obligated to, comment, critique, or contribute to cultural debates and policy decisions in our interconnected lives, from the local to the international?

• How does the perceived collapsing of public/private boundaries in an era of new media challenge or otherwise modify our understandings of what it means to do public scholarship?

• How can theorizing the public/private (and its attendant categories of the individual, communal, etc.) help us better historicize what it means to do public scholarship? In what ways is any of this new? How has new media changed (if it has changed) the relationship between the scholar and the public?

The workshop will not be structured as traditional paper sessions, but rather as a workshop exploring public scholarship. Three to five readings will be circulated to participants before the event. Because of the nature of this year's workshop, it is essential that all participants commit to doing the readings ahead of time and prepare to participate in a seminar-style conversation.

The cost for attending the workshop is $70, which includes lunch and the entire day of sessions. Registration is limited to the first 75 participants. To participate, select this workshop when registering for the Annual Meeting. If you have already registered for the Annual Meeting, you may contact to reserve a space in this workshop.

Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania
Nabil Echchaibi, University of Colorado
Nathan Schneider, University of Colorado
Jenna Supp-Montgomerie, University of Iowa
Elizabeth Bucar, Northeastern University
  • Preconference Workshop
  • Presidential Theme: Religious Studies in Public
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Public Scholars Project Workshop
Theme: Practical Skills for the Public Scholar
Mara Willard, University of Oklahoma, Presiding
Friday - 2:00 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-601 (Street Level)

In this extraordinary time of political division and social unrest, with religion often at the center of cultural debates, scholars of religion are frequently called upon to share their knowledge and perspective with those outside the academy. In this role as public scholars, they may speak with journalists, write for a broad audience, engage with policymakers or elected officials, meet with religious communities or local schools, or more. At this workshop, participants will work with professionals from government, the media, advocacy groups and others in a series of case studies, simulations and conversations designed to hone the practical skills of the public scholar.

The afternoon will start with a one hour overview, which will provide briefings on institutional norms and legal accountability that may attend your bringing your voice into the public. Participants will then participate in two practically minded, participatory sessions of 50 minutes each. These interactive workshops will provide focused skills training by genre by a range of experienced professionals in new and old media to prepare you for visual and/or audio presentation.

For questions about the Public Scholars Project workshop, contact Mara Willard at

Sponsored by the AAR Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion

The cost for attending the workshop is $30, which includes the entire afternoon of sessions. Registration is limited to the first 60 participants. To participate, select this workshop when registering for the Annual Meeting. If you have already registered for the Annual Meeting, you may contact to reserve a space in this workshop.

North American Religions Unit
Theme: Producing Islam(s) in Canada: On the Politics of Knowledge Production
Rubina Ramji, Cape Breton University, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-702 (Street Level)

This panel examines scholarly knowledge production on Islam(s) and Muslims in Canada, a site that has grown significantly in a range of academic fields and which reflects a broad range of political and theoretical approaches and politics. Together, we aim to consider what academics, largely since 2002, have produced in this field. We ask: What have scholars working on Islam in Canada studied and what have they overlooked? Why? What, if any, has been their influence on the public imaginary? Given the history of immigration and settlement in Canada (most Muslim Canadians are first-generation immigrants) and the ethno-cultural and linguistic diversity among Muslim Canadians, our findings have some national specificities. Still, our panelists’ consideration and theoretical and empirical questions related to knowledge production will resonate with scholars of North American religion more generally.

Meena Sharify-Funk, Wilfrid Laurier University
Jason Sparkes, Wilfrid Laurier University
Expressions of Sufism in Canada

This paper seeks to diversify knowledge about Islam in Canada by examining the understudied phenomenon of Canadian Sufism. To do so, we will describe the variety of ways to witness Sufi Islam and how it differs from other Muslim discourses, especially anti-Sufi Muslim understandings. We also will explore the diversity of Sufi orders and provide details on their founders, distribution and networks. We will give particular attention to localized activities of two transnational Sufi orders that are evolving in the Canadian context: the Mevlevi and the Shadhili. By analysing patterns of similarity as well as differences between these orders, we will engage their genealogies, practices, and cultural influences.

Sadaf Ahmed, University of Toronto
A Case for a "Hijab-Ban" in North American Scholarship

This paper discusses the proliferation of ethnographic work on Muslim women’s veiling practices post 9/11, showing how most studies ‘un-flatten’ Muslim women by discussing veiling as an agentive and complex social practice with multiple meanings. I draw out two themes in this scholarship, namely, what I call ‘hijab-as-lens’, and ‘hijab-as-hypervisible’, alongside exploring power relations in the ethnographic research context. In so doing, I show how veiled Muslim women remain particularly visible and accessible to scholars in ways that mirror social and political discourses in Euro-North-American societies. Research that draws on veiling can thus ‘re-flatten’ Muslim women as subjects of research in spite of a desire to the contrary. In closing, I consider how both these broader socio-political discourses can obstruct the development of scholarly inclinations to think beyond veiling as an analytical frame, suggesting that self-reflection can and should move scholars toward new and fertile directions of research.

Jennifer A. Selby, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Amelie Barras, York University
The Interview Schedule as Site of Knowledge Production and Politics on Islam(s) in Canada

This paper interrogates the qualitative interview schedule as a site of knowledge production about Muslims and Islam(s) in Canada, in light of scholarship on the politics of knowledge production (i.e. Clifford, 1986) and from a feminist standpoint perspective (Smith, 1987; Naples, 2007; Neitz, 2011). Through analysis of 55 qualitative studies on Canadian Muslims published between 1997-2017, we show trends in their object(s) of study and analyze the kinds of questions that have been most regularly posed. We compare these with our own research interview questionnaire (Selby, Barras, Beaman, 2018), where we sought not to impose one definition of Islam (following Deeb and Harb, 2013; Schielke and Debevec, 2012). We conclude with challenges in implementing our questionnaire, which we argue inform the broader corpus of qualitative-based scholarly work on Muslim Canadians.

Melanie Adrian, Carleton University
Do Scholars Sway the Public Imaginary? Radio, Slander, and a Canadian Private Islamic School

Little is known about private Islamic schooling in Canada. National statistics are not kept about the number of schools in existence and there are few scholarly studies on the topic. Yet what messages the schools may be conveying routinely ignites the Canadian public imaginary. This is evidenced by, for example, a radio interview in December of 2012 with prominent critic of Islam, Djemila Benhabib. She told the Montreal listening audience that a local private Islamic school was teaching children to be "extremely violent" and "misogynistic." Benhabib had never stepped foot onto the school grounds. Using content analysis theory of Canadian media, this paper shows how the case around freedom of expression was framed, without due regard to the substance of what Benhabib had been arguing. This paper critically considers when/how scholars have impacted (or not) public discourse about Islam(s) in Canada, in relation to this private Islamic school in Montreal.

Aaron W. Hughes, University of Rochester
Amir Hussain, Loyola Marymount University
  • Exploratory Sessions
  • Presidential Theme: Religious Studies in Public
Exploratory Sessions
Theme: Chaplaincy Innovation Lab: A Proposal for an Exploratory Unit
Ronit Stahl, University of California, Berkeley, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hyatt Regency-Capitol 1 (Fourth Level)

Winnifred Sullivan’s award-winning book, A Ministry of Presence: Chaplaincy, Spiritual Care, and the Law, started a conversation about chaplains she calls “secular priests” or “ministers without portfolios” who have become, she argues, “strangely necessary figure[s] religiously and legally speaking in negotiating the public life of religion today” (p. 6). She marshals remarkable evidence to show how the law shapes and is shaped by the changing place of chaplains but stops short of considering how and why their places are changing on the ground and what those changes reflect about broader changes in American religious life (Sullivan 2014). We, an interdisciplinary group of twenty scholars that includes social scientists, historians, legal scholars, religious studies scholars and theological educators, aim to pick up the conversation here drawing together historical and ethnographic research about the daily work of chaplains in a range of settings in the United States. We aim to combine solid scholarship with a commitment to the public understanding of religion which, in this case, includes engaging chaplains, chaplaincy educators, and the leaders of professional chaplaincy organizations in our conversation.

Wendy Cadge, Brandeis University
Shelly Rambo, Boston University
Spiritual Care in Transition: A White Paper

This paper, co-authored by several members of the unit, seeks to provide an overview of the state of chaplaincy and spiritual care as a field of intellectual inquiry in the United States drawing on a range of historical and contemporary sources. Topics to be covered include the professional mandate for chaplains by sector, the demographics of chaplaincy and changes over time, training and preparation through accredited and non-accredited means, the work of chaplains, and responses to the challenges of religious diversity and growing numbers of people who are not formally religious in any sense. We situate this review in the context of broad trends in American religious life to highlight what the study of chaplaincy can help scholars of religion consider both theoretically and substantively. The review synthesizes current literature and also draws from interviews with 20 national leaders in professional chaplaincy conducted in 2017. We intend for this document to serve as a jumping off point and focus of discussion for the unit.

Irene Stroud, Princeton University
Theological Education for Chaplaincy?

This paper will present findings from the first 18 months of a Luce-funded study of the current state of education and training for healthcare chaplaincy. As formal religious affiliation and theological school enrollment in the United States declines, we see evidence of a growing interest in professional religious leadership outside the structures of cohesive religious communities. The most measurable example of this phenomenon is in the field of chaplaincy. We are finding not only that increasing numbers of students are interested in chaplaincy careers and demanding chaplaincy education from theological schools, but that the nature of chaplaincy itself challenges fundamental notions of the nature of religious leadership and the task of theological education.

Brad Stoddard, McDaniel College
Prison Chaplains: Regulating Participation in Faith-Based Correctional Facilities

Drawing largely from critical theory, from extensive ethnographic research inside Florida’s FCBIs, and from interviews with FCBI chaplains, the proposed essay will challenge the idea that Florida’s FCBIs are as open and accessible as FCBI administrators suggest. Specifically, the proposed paper will consider the role of the FCBIs’ chaplains who regulate inmate participation and experiences in FCBIs. Chaplains play important roles in FCBIs as they are the senior administrators tasked with tracking inmate participation in the program, with scheduling and organizing the rehabilitative programs, and with creating the dominant culture in FCBIs. Since these chaplains are exclusively conservative Protestants, they create and enforce strict participation requirements that normalize conservative Protestant theologies and that subsequently exclude large groups of inmates from participating in FCBIs.

Michael Skaggs, Brandeis University
Serving Seafarers at the Water’s Edge: Code-Switching in the Daily Work of Port Chaplains

This paper offers a brief overview of the history of port chaplaincy in North America and an outline of its present state and activity. It then argues for port chaplaincy as a neglected exemplar of religious work that necessarily embraces the spiritual ambiguity that only now are traditional religious organizations coming to perceive as an existential problem in the American body religious. Finally, while acknowledging the unique professional requirements of port chaplaincy, it shows how even this highly specialized iteration of religious work can point to a shared vision of chaplaincy work across sectors that is well-prepared to face the reality of contemporary belief and affiliation and thus relieve spiritual distress that has persisted despite a national decline in religious affiliation.

James Dennis LoRusso, Princeton University
Is it the Ministry or the Presence? A Garbage Can Model of Corporate Chaplaincy

This papers challenges prevailing scholarly explanations of corporate chaplaincy as a response to a perceived social problems such as religious pluralism or a secularized workplace. Instead, it employs the “garbage can” theory (Cohen, March, and Olsen, 1972) of decision-making from organizational theory, which states that pre-existing solutions search for problems to which they might be the answer. In this vein, the paper argues that corporate chaplaincy is a supply-side phenomenon specific to the conditions of neoliberalism. Neoliberalization established socioeconomic conditions that produced a supply of potential chaplaincy labor. This paper considers how the presence of this supply of chaplaincy labor encouraged the articulation of “problems” in the workplace that corporate chaplains could therefore resolve.

Harvey Stark, California State University, Sacramento
American Muslim Chaplains and New Forms of Religious Identity in America

As a minority American religion confronted and emboldened by its growing
diversity, American Islam has faced many challenges not the least of which is
how to define religious leadership. The fluidity of Islamic leadership alongside
the racial, ethnic, and religious diversity of American Islam has left the door open
for Muslims to engage in new forms of leadership. The chaplaincy is one of these
forms. As relatively new entrants into the American chaplaincy, Muslims are
finding a site of challenge and creativity within the institutional boundaries of the
chaplaincy and within the institutions that bound its professional practice. This
paper treats the chaplaincy as a site for thinking about how globally relevant
Muslim questions of religious authority and leadership are negotiated, debated,
lived, and transformed in their American context. Drawing on my interviews with
male and female Muslim chaplains, this paper examines the constraints and
opportunities for ritual and theological creativity they encounter in the institutions
where they work.

Cyrus O'Brien, University of Michigan
Security, Conspiracy, and Love: Spiritual Care in an Era of Mass Incarceration

As U.S. prison chaplains perform increasingly administrative functions, their duties have become more deeply implicated in the prison’s security apparatuses. They ensure compliance with religious diet programs, monitor religious gatherings for signs of gang activity, and mete out punishments for rule violations. Complicating a mission to administer to spiritual needs, chaplains and prisoners often regard each other with a degree of circumspection and are attuned to attempts to manipulate or deceive. This paper brings close ethnographic attention relationships between chaplains, prisoners, and religious volunteers, who, given chaplains’ administrative burdens, provide the bulk of spiritual care in prison. I argue that distrust and conspiracy animate the provision of spiritual care in prison, complicating chaplains’ abilities to care while bolstering those of community volunteers. Unaware of the “games” that take place in prison and naïve to concerns about conspiracies, community volunteers are uniquely well-positioned to love and provide spiritual care for prisoners.

Barbara A. McGraw, Saint Mary's College of California
RFRA, RLUIPA and Ideological Change in Courts, Correctional Institutions, and Society

The paper will investigate to what extent the enactment and application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
of 2000 (RLUIPA) have given rise to change over time in ideological perspectives about religion, especially minority religions, and about accommodation of, or impediments to, religious liberty rights. To determine the extent of change over time, research will include exploration of courts' reasoning and holdings in federal and state prison religion cases, in state correctional agencies' policies, and among court and correctional agency key actors. This interdisciplinary and multi-methodological research will involve a comprehensive analysis of the impact of RFRA and RLUIPA over time on attitudes and perspectives of courts (reflected in prison religion legal cases), correctional agencies (especially reflected in policies), and key actors (reflected in interviews and professional corrections literature) about religion and those laws. In so doing, this paper will contribute to knowledge about changes in attitudes and assumptions in government institutions about religion generally and religion in its varieties and practices, and what the implications of those changes in attitudes and assumptions are for the larger society. Such knowledge no doubt will intersect with arguments and tensions around social and political change in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, with implications for a possible rearrangement of U.S. understanding of the secular/religious divide legally, politically, and socially. Hence, the research for this paper likely will anticipate a transformative social effect in progress beyond the prison walls, particularly as regards religious minorities.

Winnifred Sullivan, Indiana University