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Religion and Cities Unit

Call for Proposals

The Religion and Cities Unit seeks papers that analyze the interactive relationship between religion and urban environments at the AAR’s Annual Meeting. What theoretical models do we draw upon to engage the infrastructure, activities, and culture of cities across the globe? We are open to papers or panels that engage the ecological relationship between religion and cities in a variety of ways. For 2022, we are particularly interested in the following topics:


  • Religion, Cities, and Catastrophe

Cities are important sites to experience and study catastrophes. From climate change and divestment to violence and racial inequity, multiple catastrophes inspire many to question the future of cities if not to abandon urban spaces altogether. While catastrophes are events that force the rebuilding and reimaging of cities, they can be viewed as necessary catalysts for the abolition of carceral geographies. The Religion and Cities unit seeks papers and panels that examine how catastrophes, cities, and religion intersect.


(co-sponsored session with the Religion, Genocide, and Holocaust Unit)

We encourage submissions that explore the afterlife of catastrophes in cities. Memories of violence are hidden in plain sight—in architecture or city planning—while other remnants of violence are not so hidden, as in public ruins or through monuments. Religion plays a role in both perpetuating this violence as well as providing space for healing and reconciliation. Guiding questions may include but are not limited to: How do communities “remember” in these spaces? How does the afterlife of catastrophes in cities, as opposed to other community arrangements, impact religious and political collective memory? What are the ethics of memory? What performative or ethical difference, if any, is there among preserved ruins versus hidden violence versus memorials? And what lessons might we learn for these when thinking about the afterlife of contemporary crisis?


  • The Good Life

We are working at a critical juncture. As one journalist wrote regarding an anticipated post-pandemic renaissance: “The pandemic has forced people to stop and think about what they really want to do… The most important thing one might do during a drawn-out crisis is to prepare for the aftermath” (Giovanni René Rodriguez, 2020). As we prepare for the pandemic’s “aftermath,” what priorities should we center? How may we form healthier relationships with the environment and among ourselves? And what does the good life look like now in 2022? How marginalized communities in American cities navigate the pandemic to negotiate structural barriers and to imagine better futures.


  • The Catastrophes of Infrastructure

In recent years we have witnessed and survived more and more catastrophes of infrastructures. Rolling blackouts leave individuals without heating or cooling. Highways and buildings have collapsed. Cities are flooded. As cities around the world are crumbling, how are religious communities impacted? How has religious worship and rituals adapted to failing infrastructure? How is morality deployed to find solutions to catastrophes of infrastructure?


  • Not Our Catastrophe

Do all individuals in cities experience catastrophes? In fact, is a catastrophe always a catastrophe? How might individuals in cities approach events deemed catastrophes in differing ways? What happens when religions and religious communities deny catastrophe?

Statement of Purpose


  • Fatimah Fanusie, Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies
    1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
  • Rupa Pillai, University of Pennsylvania
    1/1/2018 - 12/31/2023

Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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