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Animals and Religion Unit

Call for Proposals

This Unit addresses the study of animals and religion and seeks to engage scholars of religion with the emergent field of animal studies. We welcome theoretically informed paper/panel proposals on all topics related to these themes. We value papers that attend to real animals alongside theoretical constructs, imagery, or representations pertaining to them, and papers that attend to intersectionality with key issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and disability.

In addition to such proposals, the Animals and Religion Unit is interested in organizing sessions around the following topics, with an eye toward the 2021 Annual Meeting’s presidential theme: “Religion, Poverty and Inequality: Contemplating Our Collective Futures.”

• Religion and religious language have been prominent in responses to COVID-19: some are asked to sacrifice in the work to save others, invocations of the common good and freedom have been used to excoriate leaders and citizens alike. Somewhat less visibly, animals’ lives have been caught up in the same religious and quasi-religious discourses: wet markets have been vilified with racist and classist ideas, while simultaneously, slaughterhouse workers in the industrialized food chain have been exposed to danger because their work is deemed “essential.” 17 million mink have been culled in Denmark and countless animals have been utilized in vaccine development and production. We welcome proposals analyzing and addressing such dynamics.
• Similarly, as a zoonotic disease that has interrupted human political and economic systems, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically exposed the porosity of human-animal boundaries. We welcome proposals addressing animal-human relationships at the microscopic scale: tiny animals, animacy, and the boundaries between matter and life.
• Drawing on the presidential theme for the meeting, we welcome proposals that address the lives of animals as they intersect with “religion, poverty, and inequality.” In what ways are poverty, homelessness, and inequality helpful concepts for analyzing animals and animal-human relationships? How does racialized capitalism prey upon animals’ lives and play out through constructions of animality?
• Finally, as mentioned above, we welcome paper proposals and proposals for full panels that advance scholarship in the area of Animals and Religion.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this Unit is to advance scholarship by providing a forum for scholars whose work addresses the study of animals and religion, and to engage religious studies scholars with the emergent field of animal studies. The Unit emphasizes the theoretical implications of attention to animals for the study of religion and a diversity of approaches, including, but not limited to:

• Cultural and comparative history of religions
• Critical theory
• Ethnography and anthropology of religion
• Descriptions of the role(s) religious/theological traditions have played in mediating images of nonhuman animals
• Assessments of relationships between religious constructions of animals and those animals


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members

Review Process Comments

The Animals and Religion Unit is committed to diversity and inclusivity. Pre-arranged panels should reflect gender and racial/ethnic diversity as well as diversity of field, method, and scholarly rank. Papers and pre-arranged sessions are first reviewed anonymously by the entire steering committee, including co-chairs, and rated on the basis of merit and fit. The co-chairs then look at the names of submitters to support diversity and to consider factors such as the number of times the scholar has presented in our group (we give preference to scholars who have not presented in the group in the last five years).