This Unit’s overall aim is to investigate the complex and multifaceted relation between religion and childhood. The specific goals of the Unit are as follows: • Provide a forum for focused interdisciplinary and interreligious dialogue about the diverse relations of children and religion • Heighten academic interest in this topic in all fields represented in the AAR • Prepare scholars in religious studies to contribute to wider academic discussions about children and childhoods • Lend the voice of the academy to current questions of public policy and child advocacy The focus of the Unit is both timely and significant given the present concern for children across the globe and the rising interdisciplinary academic interest in childhood studies. The Unit functions as a forum at the AAR for advancing childhood studies as a line of scholarly inquiry; we also welcome collaborations with other AAR program units for which childhood studies represents a "new" intervention.
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Childhood Studies and Religion Unit
Call for Proposals
The Childhood Studies and Religion Unit welcomes proposals for individual papers and sessions that engage the intersection of religion and childhood or children, broadly construed. We are especially interested in proposals from non-Euro-American and non-Christian perspectives, and we welcome a range of methodologies from across the humanities and the social sciences. Our unit's sessions will reflect our commitment to diversity, including gender, race and ethnicity, field and/or method, and scholarly rank.
For the 2022 AAR meeting, we hope to organize sessions around one or more of the following topics:
- "The child" as a category in religion and law (Co-sponsored with the Law, Religion and Culture Unit). This topic includes issues such as age of consent for religious identity/practice, the problem of religion in family law, and child welfare in relation to religious communities, especially in the context of legal frameworks such as the U.S. Indian Child Welfare Act (currently under debate in the U.S. Supreme Court). We also welcome paper or panel proposals about the closely related topic of law and education and childhood (e.g., recent U.S. school-board wars over "Critical Race Theory" and other types of claims about parental autonomy and parents' rights).
- The State of the World and Childhood Identity: The Impact of Pandemic, Isolation, Racial Tension and Climate Catastrophe on Child Development and Wellness (Co-Sponsored with the Psychology, Culture, and Religion Unit)
In the two years of the Covid pandemic, the upheaval in children’s lives has been significant. Given the rise in teen suicide, social isolation, interpersonal and public violence, and palpable racial tension, how might we adequately care for children, their development/formation, and spiritual lives?
- Children, play, and religion. While childhood is strongly associated with play in many cultures and eras, what types of childhood play are encouraged and discouraged in certain religious environments? What types of play are seen as religious preparation or initiation? What cultural objects (games, costumes, toys, etc.) are mobilized for religious play? Is there a line between childhood play and ritual? And when - if ever - do children outgrow religious play?
- The challenges of research into children and religion, especially for research methodologies that involve working with children (rather than exclusively with texts or artifacts). This is a perennial Childhood Studies and Religion topic, as we struggle with institutional review boards and professional codes that identify children as especially "vulnerable," while at the same time we are often seeking to grant children more agency and encourage their participation in research projects that cannot progress without involving them.
For session proposals, please indicate the type of session you are proposing (panel or roundtable); innovative and interactive sessions are especially welcome, and our co-chairs are happy to discuss what category might best fit any given proposal. In keeping with our commitment to presenting diverse perspectives and voices in each of our sessions, we also urge you to indicate what types of diversity your proposal or participants might represent.