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Law, Religion, and Culture Unit

Call for Proposals

As always, the Law, Religion, and Culture Unit welcomes proposals for individual papers, papers sessions, and roundtable panel proposals, including author-meets-critics sessions, on any aspect of the cultural, historical, critical, and comparative study of the intersections of law and religion in Asia, Africa, Europe, or the Americas, including legal categories in religious traditions, the treatment of religion within legal traditions, human rights, and freedom of religion. We welcome explorations of “formal” law that directly intersects with states and “informal” law that does not.

This year, our unit particularly invites proposals that address the following broad themes:
U.S. Women’s Suffrage and the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment: 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. We invite papers examining religion and women's suffrage, as well as the intersection of women, religion, and voting over the last 100 years.

Criminalization of Religious Communities and Practices: We encourage papers on the criminalization of religious practices and religious communities, with an eye toward case studies across the historical and geographical spectrums.

Religion and Family Law: Globally, the category of “family law” demarcates a privileged legal realm for religious communities while, at the same time, being a venue for some of the trickiest (and most heartbreaking) instances of religious-legal conflict. We’re seeking a wide range of approaches to—and treatments of specific case studies in—the problems of “religion” as a category within (both creating and created by) family law, worldwide.

The Power of Paper: Bureaucracy’s Materiality—From notary stamps to the census, the bureaucratic devices of the law hold privileged roles in various religious communities. Seen as authoritative, dangerous, dehumanizing, or eschatologically essential, documentation—from visas to taxpayer identification numbers, licenses, certifications—and other material markers of jurisdiction—from courtroom flags to the threshold outside a polling place—become subjects of concern and contestation. We’re looking to assemble a range of papers using various methodological approaches to analyze case studies on religious communities’ imagination and engagement with the power of paper. Contemporary, historical, and global examples are all encouraged.

Decolonized Law: What does “law” (that marker of colonial hegemony) look like when it is used against, or even imagined as an alternative formation to, colonialism? We seek to draw examples and approaches from indigenous and decolonial legal practice and theory worldwide, privileging those actively theorizing the riddle of “law” at odds with hegemonic understandings and applications of the legal. (Possible joint session with Native Traditions in the Americas Unit)

Necropolitics and the Rule of Law: camps, detention centers, state-sanctioned assassinations and weaponized borders provide a lens onto how the rule of law is overtaken by a politics of death. A death through active forms of killing and passive form of letting die; at once unjust and politically sanctioned these moments beg the question if the pervasive forms of necropolitics are within the rule of law and ethically unjust or outside and in need of a better rule of law. Given that the causalities include many civilians, minors, refugees and at times even citizens unluckily racialized, the rule of law as a form of justice is called into question. We are interested in papers that approach both the confluence of rule of law with necropolitics and that study rhetoric of justice linked to various modes (illegal, ethical, moral, and religious) of protest against such unjust laws. Further, we strongly encourage papers that conceptualize death and killing in its various forms, social, political, legal and not just limited to physical death.

Corruption. How does religion impact what is seen as corruption, or not? Related topics might include: corruption outside of North America; the notion of laundering money through religious activity/organizations/concepts; policies that enable or cultivate what might otherwise be seen as corruption (Possible joint session with Religion and Economy Unit)

Legal concepts of personhood, including corporate personhood (Potential joint session with Religion and Economy Unit)

Statement of Purpose

This Unit is interested in the cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and comparative studies of the interrelationships of law and religion. The terms “law” and “religion” are broadly conceptualized and our interests have extended to include ancient and contemporary contexts and a wide variety of critical approaches. We hope to instigate consideration of religion and law issues at the AAR beyond issues concerning religious freedom and the United States Constitution.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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