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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 race, gender, sexuality, disability and other matters of justice.

In addition to this open call for papers, the Animals and Religion Unit is interested in organizing sessions around the following topics, with an eye toward the 2022 Annual Meeting’s presidential theme: “Religion and Catastrophe.”

• Animals, Moral Injury, Trauma, and Catastrophes of Conscience: Can the concept of moral injury illuminate animals’ interactions with humans (and vice-versa)? Where does moral injury among humans (rooted in racial, colonial, or national traumas) come to involve animal lives? How do the concepts of delusion, karma, sin, evil, or alienation open insights into dimensions of moral injury that extend into multi-species interactions? Can the study of religion help to explain or analyze the violence perpetrated on animals living amidst human institutions by thinking about catastrophe of conscience or the formation of willful ignorance?
• Catastrophe and Life at Other Scales: We often think of human-animal interactions at the scale of discrete bodies or at the scale of species, but how might the study of religion help us think about boundaries and interactions at other scales? We might think “large” at the level of populations, ecologies, or ways of life. We might think “small” at the level of microorganisms who affect other bodies from within. The climate crisis, migration, deforestation, pandemic infections—these are all catastrophes that play out across scales large and small, across communities of all kinds. We welcome proposals that analyze or illuminate these dynamics.
• Christopher Carter, The Spirit of Soul Food: Race, Faith, and Food Justice: Christopher Carter’s book examines the way that questions of food justice intersect with Black experience in the United States, historically and at present. The culinary tradition of soul food tells stories of harm, resistance, and struggle—stories that intersect with questions of humanity, animality, and justice in complex ways. We welcome proposals responding to Carter’s book.
• Innovative Pedagogies around Animals and Religion: We encourage submissions for a roundtable discussion composed of short presentations on innovative pedagogical assignments, tools, and strategies. How do animals help you teach about religion? How do religious ideas and practices help you teach about animals? How can the study of religion illuminate and transform relationships among human beings and other animals?
• Animals, Poison, & Religion: We invite proposals for a session (potential co-sponsorship with the Comparative Studies in Religion Unit) on the religious valences of animals, venom and poison, and poisoners, as represented in diverse religio-cultural contexts and communities. This session would continue a conversation from the 2021 annual meeting by advancing two open-ended, holistic queries: In what ways can poison and poisoners be best understood as comparative categories in the study of religion? What roles do venom, poison, and toxicity play in the religious roles and religious worlds of animals?
• 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 representations 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).