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New Religious Movements Unit

Call for Proposals

The New Religious Movements Unit welcomes all papers that address research pertinent to the study of marginal, emergent, “alternative,” innovative, "invented," or minority religions. In particular, we encourage submissions on the topics:
• Examining the popular re-emergence and rhetorical deployment of terms like “cult,” “charisma,” and “brainwashing”
• New religious movements engaged in charity, disaster relief, and social justice, thinking in particular about whether charity can be treated/cast as “transgressive” depending upon who undertakes it
• New religious movements and climate change
• Child welfare, parenting, and new religious movements
• African Christian denominations, especially as these denominations are established on other continents.

• A possible co-sponsored of the NRMs and Law, Religion, and Culture Unit on the use of anti-cult terminology and language to prosecute and adjudicate fringe religious groups, specifically, such as NXIVM, the Church of Body Modification, and the Church of Marijuana, and religious traditions, in general

We are especially interested in papers that forefront concerns of race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability within these topics.
Note: New Religious Movements is particularly interested in proposals for full panels, but strongly encourages scholars to familiarize themselves with existent NRM scholarship while preparing their proposals. We also expect that the composition of proposed panels will reflect the lived diversity of the Academy. When preparing your proposal, please include the demographic data you provide to the AAR and explain how your panel's participants instantiate academic diversity.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit supports and encourages research on all aspects of the study of New Religious Movements. Presenters in our sessions study new, and alternative religions, past and present, from a variety of methodological and disciplinary perspectives. Our sessions and additional meetings are intended to create opportunities for dialogue among academics who share a passion for understanding NRMs, and to make known to a broader audience the importance of such movements for understanding issues of religious difference, community building and maintenance, ritual and doctrinal innovation, and other aspects of religious life.

We, the Steering Committee of the New Religious Movements Program Unit, affirm our solidarity with the Muslim scholars of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature, with Muslim Americans, and with those seeking refuge and asylum in the United States.

As scholars of minority, alternative, and new religions, we are deeply aware of the challenges facing those on America’s religious margins. We know the immense human toll such intolerance causes. Our scholarship also demonstrates the violence and tragedy than can result when federal and state agencies fail to recognize the humanity of marginalized religious groups.

We condemn in the strongest terms Mr. Trump's executive order purporting to “protect the American People from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals”.

We reject the premise that punitive exclusions of any religious group based on the actions of extremist members make any American safer or freer. We affirm the commitments of our country’s first president, who saw in our nation the promise of a government “which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

Cognizant of increased travel and personal safety concerns, we are further committed to offering scholars video conferencing options as an alternative means of participation on all New Religious Movements panels at the American Academy of Religion’s national meeting and in the future, should similar needs arise.

We are resolved to make space for difference both within the academy and beyond.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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

Review Process Comments