This Unit began as a Consultation within the AAR in 1987 and achieved formal Unit status in 1989. While its early focus was primarily Christianity and Western religions — and the study of experience and textual interpretation within those areas — the Unit has grown and changed over time, paralleling the change and growth in the AAR itself. Today, our conversations cut across boundaries that characterize many of the Program Units within the AAR — boundaries of discipline, tradition, temporality, and region. Members of our Unit use different methodologies and work across a variety of disciplines, among which are the psychology of religion, sociology of religion, history of religions, hermeneutics and textual analysis, biographical analysis, feminist studies, film studies, philosophy of religion, mysticism and science, art criticism, postmodern theory, cultural studies, and anthropology of consciousness, among others. This interdisciplinarity has importance not only to our work as scholars, but also to our work as teachers and public educators. We post our current call, past sessions, a selection of past papers, as well as links in the field of mysticism to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/aarmysticism/.
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Call for Proposals
The Lesbian-Feminisms and Religion Unit and the Mysticism Unit invite papers that explore trans spirituality and mystical practice. We are especially interested in papers that interrogate trans and lesbian-feminist spiritual practices that lay claim to deracinated beliefs and rituals, and papers that analyze claims of trans exceptionalism and the inherent sanctity of trans subjects. What logics of exclusion are reproduced through these spiritual practices? And what promises and limitations arise from an emphasis on healing in trans mysticism?
Who Counts as a 'Mystic'?
What “qualifications” must one possess to be designated a mystic, and how far beyond the traditional category of religion may the term be applied? Can self-help gurus, UFO abductees, spiritualists, or fantasy authors – for example – “count” as mystics? This session seeks papers that interrogate the category of the mystic, and welcomes especially submissions that examine theoretical considerations through empirical examples.
Africana Religion, Queer and Trans Studies, and Mysticism: Creativity, Synthesis, and Embodiment
(Co-sponsorship between African Diaspora Religions, Mysticism, and Queer Studies in Religion Units)
In Africana religions devotees/practitioners navigate visible and invisible worlds in ways that lead to mystical union/communion. What kinds of embodied practices or material technologies are used to facilitate mystical encounter? What role do creativity, story, and sound play in fostering mystical engagement? How does the fluid and hybrid nature of Africana religions enable marginalized and queer identities to experience mystical empowerment and transformation? We invite papers on Africana religion and mysticism including themes related to embodiment, movement and gesture; queer identity; race, gender and marginality; ritual, ceremony and adornment; material culture and technologies; energy and performance; and sound, music and rhythm.
Psychedelic Scholars of Mysticism
Psychedelics have proven to be one important catalyst for many notable (and notorious) scholars of mysticism to enter the field. This panel asks what methodological questions might be provoked by scholars of comparative mysticism whose research is informed by their own psychedelic experiences. Does such an approach offer potential insights that would be otherwise unavailable via normative scholarly methodologies? Submissions might address this issue through classical examples in the field (e.g., William James) and/or more contemporary examples. For possible co-sponsorship with the Drugs and Religion Unit.
Statement of Purpose
Jason N. Blum, Davidson College1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
C. Libby, Pennsylvania State University1/1/2018 - 12/31/2023
Steering Committee Members
Joy R. Bostic, Case Western Reserve University1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026
Nicholas Boylston, Harvard University1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
David Odorisio, Pacifica Graduate Institute1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Marla Segol, State University of New York, Buffalo1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026