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Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence Unit

Call for Proposals

Theories of Violence
In conjunction with this year's Presidential theme of "The AAR as a Scholarly Guild," CARV is taking the opportunity to return to the foundations of our Unit, asking the very basic question, "How should we think about violence?" We hope to have two panels on this topic:

• We are seeking short communications (of 10 minutes or less) on how you have used a theory of violence in your own work. What theories have been effective for you? What theories of violence, however promising, did not pan out in your own research? How have you combined theories to greater effect? We are looking to represent a diversity of both theoretical models and issues of focus, and invite papers that deal with any tradition and any time period. Papers may deal with any form or manifestation of violence, including but not limited to: physical violence, psychological violence, gender-based violence, racialized or ethnic violence, economic violence, political violence, ecological violence, and violence related to war, protest movements, and climate change.
• We also plan to convene a pre-arranged panel in which theorists of violence provide their working definitions of violence, explain how their theory of violence works regarding why violence occurs, and the role religion plays in it. While the papers will be relatively brief, there will be an extensive facilitated discussion with the goal of generating ideas for how these theories work in contrast and complement to one another.

Religion, Violence, and Surveillance
Co-Sponsored with Religion and Politics Unit
Religious communities are both targets of and consumers of surveillance. State monitoring of faith groups has a lengthy history, with particular strategies deployed in different periods and unique contexts. Yet academic analysis of religious practice as a site of and for violent or violence-inducing security surveillance remains in its infancy. This panel seeks to encourage discussion about the ways in which religious identity is invoked by socio-political authorities as a justification for its surveilled gaze of "others"; how some members of religious groups or other agents deploy surveillance tactics, like social media "trolling," to advance their own agendas and possibly silence vulnerable members of society; and the complicity of technology companies in engaging in overt and covert surveillance, oftentimes supported by the state apparatus. Ideally, these and other topics will be explored across a range of geographical contexts and faith traditions.

Saints in Divided Societies
Co-Sponsored with Comparative Studies Unit
In societies where interaction and understanding across diversities of wealth, ethnicity, religion, or political values give way to fear and blame between identity groups, such diversities can ossify into intractable divisions—often (though not always) manifesting as sectarian violence or the closing of physical borders. In such societies, religious phenomena are only ever part of the picture, yet their symbol-systems and invitations to identification and exclusion become particularly motivating in the dynamics of division. This panel focuses attention on how holy people, religious exemplars, or saints (these themselves being contested categories) are constructed and mobilized in divided societies, exploring the ways that saintly figures are understood and used so as to reinforce, undermine, or reconfigure the social divisions in whose interstices they are perceived to move. This panel will be by invitation, but if your work fits the theme and you would like to be considered for an invitation, please email Aaron Hollander (

Religion, Violence, and Xenophobia
Co-Sponsored with the SBL Violence and Representations of Violence in Antiquity Unit
Fear of the “other” has been and continues to be a frequent contributor to violence. We seek papers addressing any intersection of xenophobia and violence from antiquity/late antiquity to our present moment. What constituted xenophobia in the past and/or in the present? Is xenophobia a form of violence? Or rather, does xenophobia lead to or exacerbate violence, and if so in what ways?

Spiritual Dimensions of Memory Loss
Co-Sponsored with Religion and Disability Studies Unit and Moral Injury Recovery in Religion, Society, and Culture Unit
We invite proposals at the intersection of psychology, religion, trauma, and disability on the threats, experiences, and care for those experiencing trauma effected by violence and/or moral injury, particularly persons with disabilities, veterans, survivors of diverse violences, and other vulnerable populations.

Statement of Purpose

Since the end of the Cold War, acts of religiously motivated violence have all too often become part of our quotidian existence. Scholars from various disciplines have attempted to account for these incidents, noting such issues as a resurgence of anti-colonialism, poverty and economic injustice, the failures of secular nationalism, uprooted-ness, and the loss of a homeland, and the pervasive features of globalization in its economic, political, social, and cultural forms. What are the religious narratives that help animate these violent actors? This Unit contends that the theories, methodologies, and frameworks for studying the expanding field of religion and violence remain under-explored and require interdisciplinary work and collaboration to provide greater insights into the complex issues involved. The sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, economics, and political science of religion all have provided great insights into the nature of religion and violence over the last few decades and all are arguably interdisciplinary by nature. This Unit provides a venue devoted specifically to interdisciplinary discussions of the subject. We hope to channel and enhance contributions from the historically delineated (albeit constructed) humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. In that vein, we hope to hear papers presenting cross-disciplinary dialogue and research on the topic of religion and violence.


Steering Committee Members


E-mail with Attachment (proposal is in attachment, not in body of e-mail)

Review Process

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

Review Process Comments

We keep the names anonymous to chairs and the steering committee members during review. However, once we decide on the submissions, we had to change the settings to make visible the author's names and email addresses (for facilitation purposes, such as requesting a panel to take on additional papers or to give feedback to an individual whose submission was rejected).