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

Call for Proposals

In the third year of our Five-Year Seminar, we are interested in the role of monsters in cosmology. This year, we are planning two 90-minute panels. In the first, we are broadly interested in discussions and analyses of the way in which monsters help to map out reality, including time and space. How does the process of monstrosizing create a meaningful reality? How does placing monsters in time construct a sense of history and evolving culture? How do monsters shape the civilized and uncivilized space?

In the second, we are interested in an abstract idea of cosmology centered around the assumption of the unreality of monsters within the academic cosmos. Is this assumption of unreality problematic? How would taking monsters seriously as “real” change our academic cosmologies? Do we disrespect research subjects and conversation partners by immediately assuming monsters do not exist? For further inspiration or reflection, we encourage interested individuals to read Steven Engler’s article, “The Semantic Reduction of Spirits and Monsters,” in The Journal of Gods and Monsters.

In both sections, we encourage comparative reflections on Jewish and Christian material with other traditions reflections on monsters outside of these traditions. Papers from minority scholars and scholars studying Asian, African, or indigenous South American and Australian traditions are especially encouraged.

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.


Steering Committee Members


E-mail with Attachment (proposal is in attachment, not in body of e-mail)



Review Process

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