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Anthropology of Religion Unit

Call for Proposals

AAR 2022: Anthropology of Religion Unit Call for Submissions

We invite proposals from the full range of ethnographic theories and methods exploring diverse traditions, regions, topics, periods, and standpoints from across the disciplines of Anthropology and Religious Studies.

The following areas are of particular interest for individual and panel submissions for the 2022 meetings in Denver:
● Religion and the Environment. Engaging environmental concerns as part of religious identity and practice (e.g., pollution, sustainability, preservation); landscape and materiality; inequalities related to consumption, extraction, and/or climate change.
● Religious Activism in Pursuit of Justice. How projects of compassion, humanitarianism, and the civic good are imagined and orchestrated within and across religious traditions and communities.
● Religion & the Arts. Critical explorations of religious artistry and processes of cultural production at the intersection of religion, art, and public life.
● Teaching the Anthropology of Religion. Best practices for doing the ethnography of religion in undergraduate and graduate contexts, including the conceptual, pragmatic, and ethical challenges of students conducting fieldwork.
● Scriptural Materialities. Historical and ethnographic analyses of the diverse ways in which scriptural stories are materialized. Proposals should make clear how particular performances are enmeshed in assemblages of identity, ideology, and power.
● The Habitus of the Nonreligious. Ethnographic examinations and/or theorization of nonreligious/secular/atheist/humanist communities. We are particularly interested in proposals that grapple with theorizations of the self, embodiment, and naturalization via Pierre Bourdieu and others.
• After the field. Budget cuts across higher education have led to loss of research
travel funding for research, and recent COVID-related visa and travel restrictions have made it impossible for many ethnographers to undertake in-person visits to the field. This roundtable seeks to address these as well as more permanent obstacles to fieldwork, such as the teaching and service expectations that bind scholars lucky enough to secure tenured employment. How do anthropologists of religion cope when the excitement of adventure and discovery that fieldwork delivers is replaced by the tedium of unremitting institutional expectations that require continuous presence on campus? This roundtable welcomes papers reflecting on the adjustments necessary when an embodied and visceral connection to long-term field sites is no longer feasible.

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 ~5 minutes, followed by a robust, guided discussion.
● Sensory Props. Presenters engage with a material form that bears fieldwork significance, such as physical objects, food(s), visual images, and/or sound recordings.
● Author Meets Critics. Traditional and creative arrangements, including single authors, books from multiple authors on a related or contested theme, and prominent writers of religion in the public sphere.

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:


  • James Bielo, Miami University
    1/1/2017 - 12/31/2022
  • Jennifer A. Selby, Memorial University of Newfoundland
    1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024

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.