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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:

  • There is currently a glut of podcasts and “true crime” documentaries on NRMs. What is causing this current preoccupation? What are its consequences for NRMs or teaching undergraduates about NRMs? What is the role of this media in reifying categories like “sex cult?”
  • We seek papers related to disaffiliation and the role of apostates. In particular we are interested in a current surge of “apostate narratives” in the popular media.
  • In keeping with the 2022 meeting’s location in Denver, we seek papers on the International Church of Cannabis. We also seek papers on the intersection of NRMs with drugs and entheogens broadly.
  • We seek papers on NRMs and Covid-19 vaccination: What theological and legal arguments are NRMs making either to seek exemptions from vaccination mandates or to encourage them?
  • In light of the spate of wildfire, hurricanes, and other weather-related or geological events, we are soliciting papers on new religions and environmental catastrophe, weather, or climate.


We seek proposals are sought on Korean new religious movements in Korea, East Asia, and North America; contemporary Korean new religions and their influential predecessors; media representation of Korean NRMs; and Korean new religions’ practices in response to the pandemic.

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. 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.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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