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
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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?
We seek to assemble a panel to compare religious valences of animals and venom, poison, and poisoners, as variously manifest across diverse religio-cultural contexts and communities. This panel would be the second in a series of panels on the topic, following a panel at the 2021 AAR that included papers on witchcraft as a comparative lens for the spiritual meaning of poisonous pesticides in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and a paper on poison (Tibetan: dug) “casting” and cancer in Gyalthang, Tibet. We aim to continue this conversation surrounding two central holistic queries: in what ways can poison and poisoners be best understood as comparative categories in the study of religion, and 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
Steering Committee Members
Barbara Ambros, University of North Carolina1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Geoffrey Barstow, Oregon State University1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Andrea Dara Cooper, University of North Carolina1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026
Adrienne Krone, Allegheny College1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Katharine Mershon, Western Carolina University1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026
Jeania Ree Moore, Yale University1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025