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Anthropology of Religion Unit

Call for Proposals

We invite proposals from the full range of ethnographic theories and methods exploring diverse traditions, regions, topics, periods, and standpoints from across the discipline. The steering committee has identified the following areas to be of particular interest for individual and panel submissions:

Ethnography Is, Ethnography Ain’t. This theme critically engages the definition, practices, and boundaries of ethnography as a research methodology. We take inspiration from John L. Jackson’s 2012 article by the same name, and encourage submissions that think alongside his contribution but are not constrained by it. For example, we are particularly interested in the ways in which anthropologists, religious studies scholars, and others mobilize ethnography differently (perhaps, divergently) and integrate ethnography with other methodologies (e.g., archival). We encourage co-sponsored submissions with the Critical Theory and Discourses on Religion Unit.

• Dirty and Dirtier. Exploring “matter out of place” (Douglas, 1966) in religious life, the socio-historical conditions of naming the dirty, ideologies of dirt, regimes and practices of purifying, and the diverse sensory expressions of disorder (from interference and contagion to distortion, repugnance, pollution, and/or sensory foulness).

• Religion and Technology. Ethnographic and historical analyses that explore religion as technology and religion as mediated by technology. Papers might explore the world-making capacities of technology, ideologies of hyper-mediation and media erasure, and mobilizations of technology to shape the public presence of religion.

• Consuming the Past. How is the material culture of religion integral to practices of heritage-ization, remembering, erasure, nostalgia, and memorializing? Where do we encounter religious material culture from the past in the present?

• Non/areligion. What can anthropologists offer to expanding new scholarship on the non- or areligious? What theoretical lenses work best to situate these phenomena ethnographically?

Place and Religious Performance. We encourage co-sponsored submissions with the Space, Place, and Religion unit on this theme, namely papers that analyze the relationship between space, place and religious performance. Possible themes include without being limited to spatial analyses of the way the emplacement and movement of body(-ies) affect the places and spaces in which they perform; the way spaces and places foster or complicate ritual performance; performing arts in/creating/subverting sacred spaces; religious performances that traverse diverse spaces and places. Please contact Joy Palacios ( with a short description of your proposal if interested in submitting.

• With the History of Christianity Unit, we invite co-sponsored papers and panels at the methodological crossroads of history and anthropology on the theme: “Of Pilgrimages and Objects: What History and Anthropology Can Learn Better Together." While the topic of “lived religion” has gained increasing currency in historical and ethnographic research, we seek to push the conversation further by identifying key elements of how concepts from the two disciplines find productive overlap in current research. Heeding to works such as Caroline Walker Bynum’s Christian Materiality: As Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe, we also encourage papers that draw out insights of pre-modern religious cultures around pilgrimages and objects."

Further, we encourage panel proposals that use creative and alternative formats that elevate critical dialogue and engage multiple senses, for example:

• Flash Formats. An increased number of presenters are allotted ~7 minutes, followed by a robust, guided discussion. One suggestion would be to choose a (number of) key term(s) in the anthropology of religion, to which panelists can respond.

• Sensory Props. Presenters engage with a material form that bears fieldwork significance, such as physical objects, visual images, and/or sound recordings.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit draws together scholars who utilize the methodological tools and theoretical perspectives of anthropology in the study of religion as a social and cultural phenomenon. Given the increasing importance of anthropology and ethnography for the academic study of religion, we serve the academy as an important forum for sustained discussion and critique of anthropological approaches that can connect scholars working on diverse traditions, regions, and eras who otherwise might not have the opportunity to learn from each other. Interested members are encouraged to join our (low volume) list-serv:


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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

Review Process Comments

We prefer this format so we can ensure diversity in panels, while maintaining anonymity in the initial adjudication by the steering committee.