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Catholic Studies Unit

Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals

The Catholic Studies Unit invites submissions on diverse subjects in the study of Catholics and Catholicism across time and place. We are interested in proposals that are attentive to the ways in which history and theory relate to one another within the field of Catholic Studies. Co-chairs are happy to consult with those who are developing individual papers, paper sessions, roundtable proposals, or other creative formats.
The Unit encourages proposals on the following topics for the 2021 meeting in San Antonio, Texas:

Sounds Like Catholics– What does Catholicism sound like? The tradition has long been associated with the “bells” marking the high point of the liturgy. Catholic singing voices have been both celebrated and lampooned. In some contexts, even a bar or two of Gregorian chant has the power to evoke the tradition in an instant. Within and beyond these tropes are vast sonic dimensions that have defined, expressed, and shaped Catholic experiences. We invite scholars to identify one sonic expression (a sound or collection of sounds, past or present, human or not) that captures the density and complexity of Catholicism in specific social and cultural contexts. Presenters will be expected to provide audio representations of the sound and to speak for approximately 3-5 minutes about the Catholic-ness of the sound (whatever that means). Taken together, the presentations of the sounds are meant to foster a larger discussion about the sonic culture of Catholicism and the diversity (gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, nationality) of Catholic experiences and perspectives as witnessed in sonic form.

Catholic Cities- What does it mean to say a city is or was “Catholic”? We seek proposals that explore the idea of Catholic urbanism, both past and present, around the world. How has Catholic influence or power manifest as part of particular urban landscapes? How has that presence been contested, rejected, or transformed in the hands of a city’s inhabitants, either Catholic or not? How has it faded or gained a new presence? Papers or panels that offer explicit (not just incidental or implied) comparison of “Catholic” cities (Panaji and Boston, the different “new Jerusalems” of Latin American colonialism, Constantinople and Rome, etc.) are also welcome. In all cases, we seek proposals that zero in on urban spaces and their sensory and material realities.

Indigenous Catholicism in the Americas- In conjunction with the Native Traditions in the Americas Unit, we seek proposals that explore the ways Native communities in the Americas have been shaped by, engaged with, resisted, and/or indigenized Catholicism. Proposals might include analysis of indigenous Catholic practices, including memorialization, ritual, protest, education, or family life. We likewise welcome proposals that shed light on the borders between indigenous communities and their non-indigenous contemporaries, as these borders have been defined in conversation with Catholicism.

Catholic Abuse in Transnational and Historical Perspective- In 2002, when Boston reporting brought clerical sex abuse to the news with renewed force, leaders in the Vatican initially sought to blame the cultural context of the United States since the 1960s. This was an “American” problem associated vaguely with sexual permissiveness, cultural relativism, and a supposed “tolerance” for homosexuality. Since that time, we have learned that the crisis extends well beyond the borders of the U.S. into every corner of the Catholic world. It also has a much longer history than previously understood. We have learned that it extends beyond specifically sexual abuse at the hands of clerics and into other kinds of abuse by clerics and other Catholic authority figures. Seeking to offer a broader frame in which to situate the current situation, we seek proposals that shed light on Catholic abuse as a phenomenon that may include, but also exceeds the U.S., the late twentieth century, and the sexual. Papers or panels that offer explicit (not just incidental or implied) comparison of contexts of abuse across place and/or time are welcome.

Fifty years of Teología de la Liberación – Examining Gustavo Gutiérrez’s influence and the task of the liberation of theology
In 1971 Gustavo Gutiérrez published the article “Hacia Una Teología de la Liberación”, followed by one of the most influential books of the 20th century, Teología de la Liberación: Perspectivas. To mark this year of celebrations, reflections, and conversations on this important anniversary we invite proposals that creatively engage Gutiérrez’s work from a variety of interdisciplinary lenses and contexts. We especially invite proposals that bring Gutiérrez’s contributions in contact with current challenges and future visions of the liberation of theology and theologies that seek to liberate, including problematizing the meaning(s) and praxis of liberation across the theological disciplines. Co-sponsored by Black Theology Unit, Class, Religion, and Theology Unit, Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society Unit, Liberation Theologies Unit, Religion and Economy Unity, Religion in the Latina/o Americas Unit, Roman Catholic Studies Unit.

2020 in U.S. Catholic Politics- U.S. political life in 2020 was full of Catholics. The appointment of Judge Amy Coney-Barrett to the Supreme Court, bishops fighting legal battles to hold Masses in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the election of Joe Biden as the second Catholic president in U.S. history. We seek proposals that investigate the role of Catholic political life across the span of 2020. How did arguments about religious freedom interact with public health messaging? How can we interpret the role of Catholicism on the Supreme Court? What are key analytic tools for understanding the Catholicism of the second Catholic president? Papers or panels that consider the conflicting interpretations of Catholic politics, Catholic political life, and/or styles of Catholic political rhetoric are invited.

We urge all paper and panel proposals actively to address questions of format and timing. It is the Roman Catholic Studies Unit’s preference to have individual papers never exceed 12 minutes in length and for every panel to include well-planned allotment of time for audience involvement. We strongly encourage proposals that include innovative, interactive, and dynamic formats.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit provides a scholarly forum to study the global Catholic community. We welcome critical studies, cultural, ethical, historical, and theological perspectives. We seek to mirror the subject community’s diversity in pursuing equally diverse methods to study that community.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection

Review Process Comments

In an effort to guide the selection process toward maximum diversity, chairs do review proposers' names prior to final acceptance or rejection.