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Graduate Student Committee

Call for Proposals

Religious Studies and Catastrophe - Past, Present, and Future(s)

Inspired by this year’s Presidential Theme - Religion and Catastrophe - the Graduate Student Committee  invites papers that reflect on the topic of catastrophe itself, as well as how this concept is utilized in the academy.

Please note that submissions towards this session do not count toward the two-proposal submission limit within the PAPERS system.

We welcome submissions that reflect on this concept from different angles, asking:

What is “catastrophe”? 
●    The Presidential theme notes that “talk of catastrophe has become ubiquitous in recent years.” We invite papers that examine and complicate how the word “catastrophe” is utilized in the academy. What sort of events or trends are labelled as catastrophes? How does this classification frame responses or reactions to these crises? Finally, what crucial interventions can scholars of religion make to illuminate or understand these issues? 
We also welcome papers that explore this topic as it appears in the topics and contexts that scholars study. This may include:

“Catastrophe” in the past:
●    The past is rife with catastrophe. Particularly in the context of North America, settler colonialism represents a catastrophe that continues to enact oppression throughout society. We invite papers that reflect on global colonialism and imperialism, and the catastrophic effects that these systems have brought on different communities.

“Catastrophe” in the present:
●    Impossible to ignore is the catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic, which upended the world in 2020, and continues to shape daily life. COVID-19 created many new challenges, and also illuminated many issues that existed all along. This forum welcomes papers that reflect on the catastrophes that this pandemic has wrought, and ways that religions have responded. 
●    For some communities, an ongoing decline in participation also represents a catastrophe. To ensure their survival in a changing world, some religions have responded in creative ways. Other groups have been forced to shut their doors. We invite papers that analyze communities experiencing catastrophes of their own, whether the loss of leaders, loss of space, or lack of interest. 
●    Environmental catastrophe also comes to mind as a current and future issue. An ecological crisis has started to reveal devastating effects throughout the world. We invite papers exploring how religious communities have conceptualized, responded to, or in some cases, ignored, ecological crises. 
●    The academy itself might be in the midst of catastrophe. With increasingly polarizing views around such issues as Critical Race Theory, what scholars can teach, and on what issues they can speak, we invite papers that reflect on the intersections between scholarship and public outcry in the current cultural climate.

Future catastrophe:
●    The word catastrophe also conjures images of apocalypse. Many religions offer predictions for the end of days. What catastrophes supposedly signal that this time has come? How should communities best prepare themselves? We invite papers that reflect on visions of the apocalypse within  or across different traditions. 
●    For many students especially, the daunting prospects of the job market in academia might bring to mind the spectre of catastrophe. How are programs and departments preparing students for their future careers? How are students navigating these anxieties while still conducting research?

Through this forum, we hope to launch a conversation that shines a light on the diverse topics that scholars research, while also reflecting on how terms are used. How, when, and why do religious communities, popular media, or scholars invoke the term catastrophe? By classifying incidents as catastrophes, what antagonists are identified? What power structures are challenged or reinforced? What solutions, or idyllic alternatives,  are imagined? We also seek to explore the unique ways in which scholars of religion are equipped to explain or untangle these complex issues. 

Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals for papers which could be presented in 10-15 minutes. Please email your proposal (~250 words) and a CV to Maxine R. Katz ( and Chris Miller ( by March 8, 2022. 

Please note that this proposal does not count toward the two-proposal submission limit within the PAPERS system.



Steering Committee Members


E-mail without Attachment (proposal appears in body of e-mail)
E-mail with Attachment (proposal is in attachment, not in body of e-mail)

Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs and steering committee members at all times