You are here

Foucault and the Study of Religion Seminar

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

We invite papers for the third year of our seminar on Foucault and the Study of Religion. Following our first two Foucault Seminars in 2022-23 and exploratory session in 2021 on Michel Foucault’s posthumously published Confessions of the Flesh (2018), we seek to gather scholars engaging the work of Foucault and the study of religion from a number of approaches and traditions.


Methodologically, this can include critical analyses of Foucault’s use of religious sources, including his engagement (or lack thereof) with primary or secondary literature in his published works. It may include analyses or approaches to particular forms of religious thought and practice from Foucault’s theoretical and philosophical perspectives, as well as research carried out in a critical-genealogical spirit in the same or adjacent religious sources that Foucault takes up.


We encourage submissions that raise questions around Foucault’s engagement with traditions beyond Catholic Christianity including: Jewish traditions, Foucault’s brief engagements with Islam in Iran, parallels and discontinuities between the “ethics of the care of the self” in western antiquity and South- and East-Asian traditions, among other possibilities. We are interested in exploring the ways that Foucault may help us challenge notions of “tradition” and “religion” that have been so central to both the study of religion and religious life more broadly. 


2024 Call for Papers include (but are not limited to):

  • Foucault and methodology in the study of religion: how does the study of religion offer methods by which we can better understand the work of Michel Foucault, and vice versa? How can we use Foucault’s concepts and genealogies both with and against him, by engaging other religious practices and contexts than those he took up? Consider traditions across the Silk Road, in Latin American liberatory practices, in relation to technology & biopolitics in the 21st century. We want to problematize what his genealogy of “western subjectivity” offers and occludes.
  • How has Foucault influenced your fields of inquiry (be it through historical studies, discourse analysis, social analysis, political problematizations, philosophical critique) ?
  • How has Foucault been a cultural problem — as maligned or glorified across the ideological spectrum — and how do you evaluate these diagnostics for their merits and faults?
  • Foucault and comparative monasticisms, perhaps in relation to Buddhist, Hindu, or other Asian traditions
  • Foucault, Islam, Iran, and Beyond: What do we make of Foucault's Iranian intervention over 40 years later? How do those texts and the controversy around them help us understand Foucault himself, post-revolutionary Iran, and broader questions around religion, spirituality, mass-movements, and political transformation? What do we make of Foucault's interventions on the other side of the Masa Amini protests? What, if anything, can Foucault contribute to understand that movement, and what can such recent movements contribute to our critique and understand of Foucault? Proposals that overlap or are in dialogue with more general questions of "Foucault and Islam" may be combined into one meeting/
  • Religion, Enlightenment, and critique, including the construction of “religion” in critical philosophy and theology from the modern period to the present, or in relation to Foucault’s use of parrhesia.
  • Religion and the early Foucault, including early engagements with phenomenology and psychoanalysis, or material from the “archeological” period of the 1960s.
  • Foucault and/as Queer Experience.



Call for Proposals for Online June Meeting

We invite papers for the Online session of the AAR in June on the theme of "Foucault And ..." Specifically, we are in focused engagements with Foucault and either specific religious traditions and subtraditions, or central themes in the study of religion. This may include, for example, "Foucault and Islam," "Foucault and the Reformation," "Foucault and Evengelicalism," "Foucault and the Politics of Religion," and so on. It may also include examples like "Foucault and Religious Experience," "Foucault and Functionalism in the Study of Religion," or other methodological themes. Proposals may be constructive, bringing Foucault to bear on given traditions, or challenging and expanding Foucault's resources by approaching his work from the perspective of given traditions. They may also be exegetical, engaging, for example, Foucault's very brief comments on events like the reformation, or his short engagements with Buddhism, and so on. Other proposals may bring Foucault and religion to bear on other themes, such as sexual politics.

This session is intended as a very tentative plenary or testing ground for the possibility of gathering materials for a reader in Foucault and Religious Studies. We seek short, clear, and focused papers that say something new about Foucault and raise productive questions.

Statement of Purpose

The Foucault and the Study of Religion Seminar is dedicated to collaborative research in a public setting, gathering scholars of religion whose research engages theoretical and historical approaches to the work of Michel Foucault. Foucault's work has been transformative for scholarship in the humanities and social sciences over the last fifty years. We aim to continue Foucault’s tradition of public intellectual discourse in a way that illuminates the importance of the study of religion for understanding and critiquing his work on questions of gender, race, sexuality, and class. We hope to convene scholars of various religious practices and traditions to expand Foucault’s critical approach and enliven the contributions of this research for the public domain.

We understand this work to be ongoing, developing the complex questions that emerge from Foucault’s analytics of power, knowledge, and subjectivity central to many disciplines. The 2018 posthumous publication of his History of Sexuality volume on early Christian sexual ethics (Confessions of the Flesh) foregrounds the need for such critical and constructive engagement by scholars with expertise across religious traditions and methodologies. We hope to bring together scholars within the AAR and SBL—particularly those in philosophy of religion, queer theory, black studies, feminist theory, religion and literature, diasporic studies, affect studies, African American religion, religion and ecology, and the histories of differing religious traditions (ancient and early modern)—in order to pursue work that is historically and theoretically rigorous, reflecting Foucault’s own interdisciplinarity and the relevance his work has had across fields.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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