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New Religious Movements Unit

Call for Proposals

For the 2023 annual conference we invite papers on any research pertaining to NRMs.  We particularly seek papers on the discourse of “mind control” and “undue influence” as these concepts are attributed to NRMs; papers related to family law and the experience of second-generation NRMs members; and papers on NRM practitioners in the military, federal prisons, and other federal institutions.  Also, we seek papers for a possible co-sponsored panel with Mormon Studies considering Mormon NRMs and NRMs with Mormon connections.


Religion and healing in the "North Pacific Intersystem": Roundtable discussion of Justin Stein's Alternate Currents (co-sponsored session between the Japanese Religions, Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society, North American Religions, and New Religious Movements Units) 

Responding to this year’s conference theme in a literal way, this author-meets-critics roundtable focuses on a brand-new book about Reiki, the therapeutic practice that involves transmitting energy from the hands to heal self and others. Just as Reiki channels flows of energy, Justin B. Stein’s Alternate Currents (forthcoming from University of Hawai`i Press, 2023) tracks transnational flows of people, ideas, and ritual practice throughout the “North Pacific Intersystem.” Emerging at the overlapping boundaries of the Japanese, United States, and British empires and drawing on Buddhist and Native American wisdom, the practice of Reiki has been as malleable as the currents of energy its practitioners purport to channel. Matching the expansive scope of Stein’s wide-ranging and creative book, this panel will bring together specialists in Japanese, Asian American, and North American religions to discuss how a Japanese American woman turned Reiki into a global therapeutic practice.  

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. 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 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