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Publicly Engaged Scholarship in the Study of Religion Seminar

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

Politics of Knowledge Production: Shifting Commitments in the Academy

The Publicly Engaged Scholarship in the Study of Religion seminar invites paper and panel proposals focused on the politics of knowledge production, with a specific focus on publicly or community engaged research. Global socio-political tensions and the ongoing anthropogenic climate crisis require us to think critically about the need for research that is community engaged and socially and politically committed. Yet in the academy, much of this work has historically been framed as “activism” rather than “scholarship.” Reflecting on the foundational work of activist-oriented transnational, Black, queer, Indigenous, and critical feminist approaches prompts deeper questions about the communities and histories that scholarship is accountable to (Alexander 2005; Allen and Jobson 2016; Beliso-De Jesús 2018; Harrison 1995; Perry 2013; Pierre 2012; Smith 2016a). Moreover, these approaches help us begin to re-envision the academy as a partner and collaborator, rather than the sole source of knowledge production (Kimmerer 2013). This work is imperative if our collective and cross-disciplinary academic fields are to remain relevant to twenty-first century problems.

These conversations are already underway in religious studies and the environmental humanities, and they aim to disrupt and displace the privilege assigned to scholarship that is presented as politically neutral and non-engaged. Part of the process of engaged scholarship is taking on new orientations toward research. Instead of focusing on what can be extracted from communities as research subjects or what is valuable for a publication, engaged scholarship emphasizes respect, responsibility, and reciprocity as integral parts of doing research while also retaining critical scholarly perspectives.

We invite paper and panel proposals that address a broad array of topics, including but not limited to the following:

  • Re-envisioning knowledge production processes through critical lenses, including Black, queer, Indigenous, and feminist approaches, specifically in the study of religion;
  • Community-level responses to environmental and social justice issues that reflect, especially, on the values, differences, challenges, and benefits of this type of work;
  • Theoretical and methodological reflections on the politics of knowledge production that focus on the relevance of the academy to 21st century problems;
  • Reflections on how the politics of knowledge production has been reinvisioned at specific institutions or through specific groups, organizations, or efforts;
  • Fitting the 2024 theme of “Violence, Non-Violence, and the Margin,” we welcome presentations that describe emerging social and political threats aimed at socially-engaged academics, researchers, and educators–particularly those from marginalized communities and/or in contingent faculty positions; as well as efforts to implement non-violent communication strategies in courses to help equip students with tools needed to resist emerging political and social violence.  

Call for Proposals for Online June Meeting

The inaugural virtual session of the Publicly Engaged Scholarship in the Study of Religion seminar invites proposals that examine influential social movements, texts, or historical figures, that challenge and/or illustrate best practices in publicly engaged teaching and research. 

We invite proposals for short presentations that will serve as launching points for a broader group discussion. This inaugural session will have participants share the social movement, text, or figure who has been integral in shaping their own engaged approach to research and/or pedagogy. Proposals should briefly describe the movement/text/figure with some justification for why this example is important for others interested in engaged research and pedagogy to understand. We especially invite examples that speak directly to the conference theme of violence, nonviolence and the margins.  

We welcome proposals from scholars working in historical and contemporary perspectives across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Similarly, we welcome scholars doing archival research, work on digital communities, or auto-ethnography that reflect on the needs of the moment, are attuned toward public-facing outcomes or implications, and incorporate community concerns into their research questions and processes.

Statement of Purpose

This seminar creates a multi-disciplinary space to explore the intersections between publicly engaged research, collective knowledge production, and relations of power in the study of religion. As part of broader conversations about the relationships between social change and the public humanities, the seminar is organized around diverse ideas of “the public” and interrogates the forces of racialized and colonial power that shape our fields. Whereas disciplinary training often privileges postures of political neutrality, we orient conversations around what it means to do scholarship that has political stakes, who we do that work with, and how we can strengthen that work. The seminar aims to generate a space for those with broad interests in the theoretical, methodological, and historical foundations of knowledge production in the study of religion and its political and public impacts. The seminar provides a nexus for collective consideration of processes of social change and social justice as they relate to theories of religion. The space will also interest those with practical interests in how to establish and sustain community and/or politically-engaged research and teaching programs within and beyond the academy.


  • Rebecca Bartel, San Diego State University
    1/1/2024 - 12/31/2029
  • Lucas Johnston, Wake Forest University
    1/1/2024 - 12/31/2029

Steering Committee Members


Review Process

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members until after final acceptance/rejection