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North American Religions Unit

Call for Proposals

This Unit advances the study of religions in North America, broadly conceived (Mexico, the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, etc.), as well as the study of historical, social, and structural links between North American religions and those beyond North American boundaries. We are committed to sponsoring sessions that explore fundamental questions that have shaped the field in the past or should shape it in the future.

The Unit sponsors roundtables, debates, workshops, performances, pre-circulated papers, and other creative formats. As always, this program unit also welcomes proposals for keyword panels based on important concepts in the field. We encourage the submission of both individual contributions and complete panels, though we may reconfigure proposed panels to place them on the conference program. For panel proposals, diversity of rank (including graduate student, post-doctorate, contingent faculty, and junior and senior participants), and gender, race, and ethnicity is strongly encouraged. We especially seek proposals from junior and contingent scholars. Presenters in any format should expect to give short presentations that maximize time for audience questions and comments. All presenters should explicitly relate research to ongoing discussions in the field and the wider academy. Please ensure that all submissions are anonymous.
In addition to the above, we seek proposals on the following topics for our 2020 meeting in Boston, Massachusetts:

• To reckon with the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims disembarking the Mayflower, and that event’s foundational role in a mythos that sustains American settler colonialism and Indigenous dispossession, we seek proposals for papers and panels that critically revisit this and related episodes, and explore their consequences for the study of North American religions.

• For possible quad-sponsorship with the Native Traditions of the Americas unit, the Women and Religion unit, and the Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide unit, we invite proposals that interrogate the role of both religious history and myth in producing Indigenous erasure and genocide. We particularly encourage proposals that consider history and myth of the Mayflower, including commemorations like Mayflower 400, in relation to the destruction of the Native Wampanoag Peoples, and the disruption of the Wampanoag matrilineal line. We also invite proposals that further explore the impact of settler colonialism in and beyond the United States, especially those that analyze religion in relation to the genocide of Indigenous peoples from a gender perspective in the North American context, including North America in relation to other contexts affected by European settler colonialism. Proposals that interrogate the widespread killings and disappearance of Indigenous women and girls as a form of genocide are welcome.

• We also invite proposals that seek to queer Pilgrim and Puritan histories, as well as those that consider the retelling, repurposing, and / or dismantling of “Pilgrim” and “Thanksgiving” myths among communities of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and their advocates, and among Native and anticolonial activists and Black nationalists. We encourage consideration of alternatives to these myths, as told and lived by and within groups marginalized by the colonial project. We especially encourage consideration of these processes as they happen via the forms and mediums of popular culture.

• Given the conference location in Boston, home of the Big Dig, we also invite proposals that explore themes of religion in relation to gentrification (especially those that critically address race and sexuality alongside class), and changing urban, suburban, or rural patterns of social congregation and / or transit. We also seek proposals that take up religion in relation to excavation and waste.

• In consideration of 2020 as a census year, we invite proposals that explore the place of mapping in the study of North American religion, as well as the role of surveys, statistics or demographics in that study. We encourage submissions that move in this vein to consider questions of pedagogy amid the emergence of the digital humanities.

• We seek proposals for papers and panels that press directionally (south, north, east, west) beyond the geographic scope of North America, to critically consider (and reconsider) alternate frames for the study of religion, including (but not limited to) the hemispheric, the Oceanic, and that of Turtle Island.

Religion and comparative racializations: For possible co-sponsorship with the Religion in Europe unit, we seek proposals that not only consider the relationship of religion to race, racialization, and/or racism, but do so comparatively, especially across (though not limited to) North American and European contexts. We invite, too, comparative reflection on religion and the boundaries of politically/socially defined whiteness, on religion and white nationalism, and on religious responses to racial terror amid other forms of “domestic terror.”

• Taking note of the proximity of the conference location to Salem, and for possible co-sponsorship with the Afro-American Religious History Unit, we invite proposals that take up witchcraft, magic, conjure, and/or related terms. In particular, we invite comparative reflection on these categories across time and space, and that consider these categories in relation to gender, ethnicity, class, and especially race.

• We invite proposals for panels that creatively engage pedagogy and/or model innovative approaches to teaching about North American religions. Interactive formats, hands-on workshops, and/or “make it and take it” sessions are especially encouraged.

Statement of Purpose

Purpose, Practices & Procedures:

Purpose of an AAR Program unit:
The purpose of program units is twofold: to provide a forum for dialogue and exchange among differing approaches and projects in the field and to provide opportunities for the discussion of work that does not fall within the agendas that find other expressions in the Annual Meeting program. Program units should provide significant time for presenting research in the major subfields of religion.

Purpose of the North American Religions Program unit:
The North American Religions Program unit exists to sponsor conversations about the field at thematic, theoretical, definitional, experimental or historiographical levels, in order to ask where the study of North American religions is going or should be going. Such conversations embrace the diversity of scholars, disciplines, methods and traditions that make up the field.

Routine functions:
The Steering Committee composes the Call for Papers for NAR sessions for the AAR Annual Meeting; reviews, shapes and accepts proposals for those sessions; reviews and reports on sessions; and communicates with the NAR constituency.

Composition: The Steering Committee is made up of ten members, two of whom are elected by the members to serve as co-chairs. A Steering Committee term is three years, renewable for a second three years if everyone is amenable. The terms are staggered, so that there are continuity and change on the committee. During a total of six possible years, a member might serve a co-chair term, which is three years. A member elected to serve as co-chair has at least one full year’s experience on the Steering Committee. The co-chair elections are staggered as well, so that each new co-chair serves with an experienced co-chair.

The co-chairs take care of the business of NAR and moderate communication of the Steering Committee. All members of the Steering Committee make decisions on substantive matters. All attend the Annual Meeting and reserve Friday dinner for Steering Committee socializing, envisioning and business. All attend the NAR Business Meeting.

Members of the Steering Committee are replaced by the following procedure: when there is a vacancy, after the Annual Meeting the co-chairs ask the NAR constituency (via email) for nominations. From among the nominees, the Steering Committee votes to elect a new member.

The co-chairs maintain this “NAR Purpose, Practices & Procedures” document, make it available to the Steering Committee and the NAR constituency, and revise it as needed by vote of the Steering Committee.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection

Review Process Comments

Proposer names are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members for the first round of steering committee review. For the next rounds and until final acceptance or rejection, proposer names may be made visible to both chairs and steering committee members.