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Comparative Religious Ethics Unit

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

Reflecting this year’s presidential theme of “Violence, Nonviolence, and the Margin,” our call for papers focuses on how comparative religious ethics might contribute to discussions of violence and nonviolence in a way that is attentive to the experiences of marginalized communities. Themes especially welcome this year include the following:

  • Religious nationalism: What kinds of contributions might Comparative Religious Ethics and contemporary theological scholarship make to discussions of religious nationalism? Specifically, (with regard to the AAR's 2024 theme "Violence, Nonviolence, and the Margin",) how have religious traditions constructed militarism, violence, and the state in relation to nationalism? Contemporary or historical analyses are welcome. (Co-sponsored with the Schleiermacher Unit)
  • Ethics and resistance: How have moral and religious traditions conceived of the moral right or duty to engage in resistance, whether in nonviolent or violent forms? What kinds of moral guidelines or limits are appropriate for resistance movements?
  • Violence against LGBTQ people and communities: In the contemporary context or historically, how have religious traditions and communities legitimated and/or resisted violence against LGBTQ people? How might queer and trans theories and/or theologies contribute to comparative religious ethical analyses of, and solutions to, these issues? We especially welcome proposals that address the raced, socioeconomic, and femme-based dynamics of some of this violence. (Co-sponsored with the Queer Studies in Religion Unit)
  • Ethics and advocacy in comparative contexts: How do we distinguish–or should we–the work of ethics from that of advocacy?

Statement of Purpose

While comparative assessment of the ethics of different religious groups is an ancient and widespread pursuit, the modern field of comparative religious ethics arguably dates from the founding of the Journal of Religious Ethics in 1973. (For the purposes of this statement, “ethics” as a subject will refer to reflection about how best to live as human beings; an “ethic” is one more or less determinate position on the best mode(s) of life.) While there have been a variety of motivations for the attempt to study “religious ethics” rather than or in addition to “Christian ethics,” one animating idea has been the growing recognition that people from numerous religions propound sophisticated and powerful moral visions, which possess intriguing similarities and differences and are not easily reducible to a common denominator. In addition, the variety and particular characteristics of such visions are historically and politically significant in the modern era of increasingly pervasive globalization. Indeed, comparative ethics may be desperately needed in our contemporary context of global interdependence, misunderstanding, and mutual mistrust. There are thus ample grounds, both social and purely intellectual, to suggest that this ethical variety needs to be engaged directly via rigorous comparison. Comparative ethics makes such diversity central to its analysis, which includes three main aspects: • Describes and interprets particular ethics on the basis of historical, anthropological, or other data • Compares such ethics and requires searching reflection on the methods and tools of inquiry • Engages in normative argument on the basis of such studies, and may thereby speak to contemporary concerns about overlapping identities, cultural complexity and plurality, universalism and relativism, and political problems regarding the coexistence of divergent social groups, as well as particular moral controversies Ideally, each of these aspects enriches the others; for example, comparison across traditions helps generate more insightful interpretations of particular figures and themes. This self-conscious sophistication about differing ethical vocabularies and the analytical practices necessary to grapple with them is what makes comparative ethics distinctive within broader conversations in religious and philosophical ethics. Comparative ethics as envisioned here induces conversation across typical area studies boundaries by involving scholars of different religions; all sessions in this Unit are constructed with this goal in mind, so that data from multiple traditions will be brought to bear on any comparative theme.


  • Shannon Dunn, Gonzaga University
    1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
  • Rosemary Kellison, Florida State University
    1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028

Steering Committee Members


Review Process

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