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Global-Critical Philosophy of Religion Unit

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

For the 2024 AAR annual meeting, the Global Critical Philosophy of Religion Unit is happy to welcome submissions on the following topics (longer descriptions below):


Looking forwards to our discussions!


Marie-Hélène and Nathan




Theodicies under suspicion

How might theodicies serve to mask and marginalize structural violence? (either tacitly or explicitly) “Theodicy” here works as a category for arguments that defend religious or metaphysical claims from contradictions based on events of the actual world. We seek proposals that articulate a theodicy, and then critically analyze how it functions to justify structural conditions such as inequalities, civil violence, xenophobia, political structures, or disparities of health, education, etc. Proposals may work with typical sources (e.g. texts, scriptures) or less-conventional sources (e.g. oral traditions, social media, laws, etc.). We wish to host a conversation that is typically on the margins of discourses in our field.


Ancestors, Co-sponsored with the Philosophy of Religion Unit

Ancestors—including reverence for ancestors, communication with ancestors, and conceptions of ancestral afterlives—are central to peoples' lived experiences of religions worldwide. And yet this topic receives little to no attention within the philosophy of religion. The Global-Critical Philosophy of Religion Unit and Philosophy of Religion Unit invite submissions to a co-sponsored session on this important area of inquiry.


Existential anthropology and the study of religion, Potentially co-sponsored with the Anthropology of Religion Unit

This session gathers contributors and critics around a new edited volume at the intersection of anthropology, philosophy, and religious studies. Between Life and Thought: Existential Anthropology and the Study of Religion (University of Toronto Press, 2024) explores the impact of the work of philosophical anthropologist Michael Jackson on religious studies, beginning from the premise that there is something significant about the fact that his turn from phenomenological anthropology to existential anthropology coincided with his appointment at Harvard Divinity School, thus with his institutional location being for the first time in a religious studies rather than anthropological program. Especially since that time, nearly twenty years ago, his work has come to be widely read, engaged, and admired by a range of religious studies scholars, particularly ethnographers and philosophers. The multidisciplinary character of this volume’s contributors, all dealing with religion through the lens of existential anthropology or existential anthropology through the lens of religion, illustrates a key claim of the volume as a whole: that in the ever growing space for ethnographic approaches to the academic study of religion, existential anthropology provides an organic bridge not only between anthropology and religious studies, but between the social sciences and the humanities at large. Existential anthropology offers a genuinely humanistic approach to anthropology, stressing such matters as indeterminacy, ambiguity, embodied everyday experience, and the limits of discursive knowledge. Moreover, existential anthropology draws on a deep reservoir of existential and phenomenological thinkers who have long and prominently figured in multiple areas of inquiry—philosophical, theological, and historical—in the academic study of religion.


Buddhist Critical Phenomenology

Potentially Co-sponsored by the Yogācāra Unit, the Buddhist Philosophy Unit, the Buddhist Critical-Constructive Unit, or the Theology and Continental Philosophy


Author Meets Author: The Two Truths in Buddhist, Potentially co-sponsored with the Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit, the Buddhist Critical-Constructive Reflection Unit, and the Buddhism Unit

This roundtable invites contributions to a roundtable discussion focused on challenging the categories deployed by Buddhist Studies scholars.  Each contributor must consider an English-language category currently or historically used for the study of Buddhist data. The category may be the translation of a doxastic term, a term of art in Buddhist studies discourses, a critical category of religious studies, an English philosophical term, or from another form of scholarly analysis. Contributors must critically examine their engagement with their chosen category by making an arguments for and an argument against the academic validity of that category. By doing so, the roundtable session will open a space to articulate the challenges scholars face in their work of producing English-language scholarship on Buddhist data.


Translation Panel: Akalaṅka's Aṣṭaśatī and its Non-Jain Interlocutors, Potentially Co-sponsored by the Jaina Studies Unit, the Buddhist Philosophy Unit, the Hindu Philosophy Unit, and the Yogācāra Unit

Traditionally on the margins of discourses in South Asian religions, the Jain philosophy of non-one-sidedness (anekāntavāda) provides a unique space for inter-doctrinal debates from a minority perspective. This opens new challenges and corresponding rewards when producing English-language scholarship on these texts, especially as it requires broad expertise in South Asian philosophies. This panel will present the draft translation produced by an international research team of scholars in Jain studies of one particularly important passage of Akalaṅkadeva’s Aṣṭaśatī, a rich commentary on one of the foundational Sanskrit texts of the Jain philosophy of non-one-sidedness: Samantabhadra’s Āptamīmāṃsā. The passage addresses the pitfalls of an absolute rejection of non-existence, raising problems for conceptions of how things appear in consciousness and of how auditory cognition arises. The audience will have a chance to read and discuss the translation, and formal responses will be offered that can address the various non-Jain interlocutors imagined by Akalaṅka. We invite proposals from prospective respondents with expertise in Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, Advaita Vedānta, Sāṃkhya, Dharmakīrti, and Yogācāra.

Statement of Purpose

The Global-Critical Philosophy of Religion (GCPR) Unit seeks to globalize and otherwise diversify the contents, categories, and methods of philosophy of religion, by critically reflecting on current practices of the field, by developing conceptual frameworks for cross-cultural philosophizing, and by exploring innovative methods for cross-pollination between religio-philosophical traditions.

GCPR is “global” and “critical” in distinctive ways—global, in facilitating panels and sessions that are always populated by scholars representing different religio-philosophical traditions; critical, in interrogating the vocabularies and methodologies used to carry out such cross-cultural, inter-religious philosophizing. Our two key goals follow from this mission: first, to offer and reflect on new categories of inquiry for cross-cultural, inter-religious philosophy of religion; second, to explore and implement new methods for philosophizing about religion cross-culturally and inter-religiously. This, in turn, involves experimenting with session formats that are designed to foster conversations that go beyond “description” or “presentation” to interactive philosophizing about religion, including the pre-circulation of papers, designing sessions that cultivate engagement between panelists, and empowering moderators to lead conversations into “deeper” hermeneutic, phenomenological, comparative, and evaluative topics and issues.


  • Marie-Helene Gorisse, University of Birmingham
    1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
  • Nathan R. B. Loewen, University of Alabama
    1/1/2024 - 12/31/2029

Steering Committee Members


Review Process

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members until after final acceptance/rejection