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Foucault and the Study of Religion Seminar

Call for Proposals

We invite papers for the second year of our seminar on Foucault and the Study of Religion. Following our first Foucault Seminar in 2022 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. Over the five years of our seminar, we hope to co-sponsor panels with other AAR program units.

2023 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?
  • Foucault and comparative monasticisms, perhaps in relation to Buddhist, Hindu, or other Asian traditions 
  • Foucault and Islam, including but by no means limited to Foucault’s engagements with Iran, political Islam, and notions of revolutionary subjectivity. 
  • 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.
  • In light of the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, we invite papers on Michel Foucault and the relation between religion, sexual ethics, and sexual law: including the role of religion in the History of Sexuality; the formulation of Christian sexual ethics in v4 (and their significance today); religious formulations of sexuality, legality, and abnormality; formulations of sexual ethics and sexual laws across religious traditions; and, understanding Dobbs through Foucault and religion.
  • Proposals related to the 2023 presidential theme La Labor de Nuetras Manos; possibly including this “labor” in relation to the ethics of “work on oneself,” critique, and resistance to domination. 
  • Proposals for a possible co-sponsored session with the Augustine & Augustinianisms Unit, including proposals which continue to engage Confessions of the Flesh from different perspectives. This may include the framework of “sexuality” across the four extant volumes of the History of Sexuality, or further themes and sources in ancient and modern Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and South- and East-Asian traditions (amongst others), for example.


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


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


Please email chairs with any questions about submitting an individual paper or a full panel proposal. Niki Kasumi Clements, and Daniel Louis Wyche,

Review Process

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