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
1) Mysticism and Ecology:
While nature mysticism is a familiar category within the family of mysticisms, this session intends to look more broadly at the issue of ecology and mysticism. Submissions for this theme might consider mysticism’s relationship to climate change, ecological activism, the environmental sciences, or earth-based religions.
2) “Feeling Mysticism”:
Often, the role of non-discursive faculties, especially emotion, are emphasized in mystic practices and experience. And while love features prominently among these, other emotions – such as fear, awe, or even hate – are sometimes also prevalent. This session seeks papers that address the role of feelings and emotion in mysticism, and especially those that consider affective modes that are less familiar in mysticism.
3) New Perspectives on Mysticism:
The field of religious studies has seen something of a fluorescence of methodological innovations lately: affect theory, new materialism, cognitive science, and other approaches are offering new perspectives on the study of religion. This panel asks what these new theoretical perspectives have to offer (or, perhaps, what they don’t have to offer) to the study of mysticism in particular.
4) Mystical Imagination:
The imagination has long played an important role in mysticism, often functioning as one of if not the essential faculty by which mystical knowledge or experiences are facilitated. This session seeks submissions that deal with the mystical imagination: How does it operate? In what ways does the mystic train or harness her imagination? What is the role of this particular faculty in the mystic’s practice or experience?
5) Mystical Food and Mystical Consumption:
For a possible co-sponsorship between the Mysticism Unit and the Religion & Food Unit, this session seeks papers focusing on mystical consumption, including not only the idea of food, drink, or other forms of consumption as mystical practices, but also the idea of the mystic herself as food, or as what is consumed.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Joy R. Bostic, Case Western Reserve University1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Nicholas Boylston, Harvard University1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
C. Libby, Pennsylvania State University1/1/2018 - 12/31/2023
David Odorisio, Pacifica Graduate Institute1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Marla Segol, State University of New York, Buffalo1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025