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New Directions in the Study of Religion, Monsters, and the Monstrous Seminar

Call for Proposals

New Directions in the Study of Religion, Monsters, and the Monstrous is a five-year seminar dedicated to developing a better theoretical foundation for the study of monsters and the monstrous in the field of religious studies. The second year of our seminar will question the role of monsters in authoritative systems (including but not limited to those systems traditionally approached as religions):
What role do monsters serve in explaining misfortune?
Are monsters a source of injustice or do they create justice as agents of punishment?
How do monsters represent a challenge to or complication of an established order?

While these questions have sometimes been framed around discussions of “theodicy,” we explicitly want to push against this Western-oriented term. For example, how do monsters represent, cause, or explain challenges to authoritative conceptions?
Can we think about monsters, misfortunate, and (in)justice in new ways that develop greater theological nuance outside of the Euro-American religious imagination?
Alternatively, how does the presence of monstrosity in a “non-religious”/“secular” authoritative system suggest content or thought that could be evaluated as religious?

We invite papers from any discipline or subfield that either takes on these questions directly or else considers an illuminating case study.

Statement of Purpose

The Mission of the New Directions in the Study of Religion, Monsters, and the Monstrous Five-Year Seminar is to facilitate dialogue between different areas and methodologies within religious studies to arrive at a better theory of the intersection of religion, monsters, and the monstrous. Due to the diverse nature of our topic, we encourage proposals from any tradition or theoretical perspective. Each year of the seminar will focus on a different theoretical problem as follows:

Year One –– Taxonomy. The first task of the seminar will be to explore the taxonomy of “monsters” as a second-order category. What defines a “monster” and what are we talking about when we talk about monsters?

Year Two –– Theodicy: What role do monsters serve in explaining misfortune? Are monsters a source of injustice or do they create justice as agents of punishment?

Year Three –– Cosmology: How do monsters function to map out reality, including time and space?

Year Four –– Monstrification and humanization: When, how, and why are other people and their gods “monstrified?” How does racism intersect with the discourse of the monstrous? Conversely, when, how, and why are monsters humanized?

Year Five –– Phenomenology: How should we interpret narratives of encounters with fantastic beings? To what extent are reductionist readings of these narratives appropriate and helpful? Are there viable approaches beyond reductionism?

At the conclusion of the seminar, our findings will be published as an edited volume or otherwise disseminated to the scholarly community.

Chairs

Steering Committee Members

Method

PAPERS

Review Process

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

Review Process Comments

Our steering committee will discuss any possible panel make-ups following the anonymous acceptance/rejection of papers in order to make adjustments to ensure that we have an appropriate range of presenters (including diversity of age, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, sub-discipline, professional status, region, and type of institution, to the best of our ability).