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Religion and Cities Unit

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

The Religion and Cities Unit welcomes single paper, roundtable, or panel proposals that analyze the interactive relationship between religion and urban environments. For the 2024 AAR conference intends to organize an off-site studio tour to consider architecture and urbanism at the borders.

Inspired by the 2024 Presidential Theme, “Violence, Nonviolence, and the Margin” we are particularly interested in the following topics:


Architecture and Infrastructure

We seek papers and panel proposals that engage critically with spatial constructions of religion, in the hope of advancing scholarly and public understandings of how religious identities, communities, and politics inform the production and use of everyday spaces. Submissions may explore these dynamics within or outside congregational and institutional contexts, and we take special interest in papers that engage with recent scholarship interrogating built space within the study of religion and secularism, including work on architecture, transportation and media infrastructures, public space, urban planning projects. We are particularly interested in papers reflecting research and theoretical interventions based in Europe and the Global South, where classical models for constructing and studying urban life have been developed and contested in former colonial metropoles and in postcolonial "global cities." Topics of interest may include (but are not limited to): migration and movement in and at the margins of European cities; struggles for housing and the politics of informal labor in South Asian and African cities, emergent lifeways and economic networks, religiously inspired critiques of urban regimes in African and South Asian cities.


Scholar-Practitioner Collaborations

We seek papers and panel proposals that consider the theoretical and practical considerations around collaborations between scholars of local religion and practitioners. By “practitioners,” we mean participants in practices and activities associated with local religion, broadly construed, especially leaders within religious communities, non-profits, local government officials, and activist organizations whose work is both informed by scholarship and the subject of study by scholars. Possible questions to explore might include (but are not limited to): How do academic understandings of “rigor” structure dialogue between scholars and practitioners? How do scholar-practitioners negotiate their multiple roles? What ethical questions arise in interactions between scholars and practitioners? Proposals may examine specific instances or case studies of scholar-practitioner collaboration or dialogue along with analysis of theoretical questions or insights that arise through these examples.


Violence and Nonviolence at the Southern Border

Potential Religion and Cities and Religion and Social Sciences Co Sponsored Panel

Connecting to the 2024 conference theme, “Violence, Nonviolence, and the Margin” and our location in San Diego, we invite papers using social scientific methods/theory to explore religious expressions of and responses to violence and nonviolence in the U.S./Mexico urban borderlands. Papers might explore how religion contests or underwrites physical and symbolic violence at the border, the relationship of religion to the border’s construction of urban social geographies, or the role of religious institutions and faith communities in border cities, to name just a few possible examples.


Religion and Violence in the City 

Since the rise of the modern nation state politics of identity and ideology have exploited religion to spawn conflict that has disrupted populations within cities. Cities have often been the center of these conflicts that have affected urban neighborhoods and communities, dislocating people and disrupting and transforming urban spaces. We are calling for papers and panels that explore how conflict over land, labor, borders or resources have led to rivalries cloaked in religious language; the creation of political religion along the lines of nationalist concerns; the use or misuse of religion in the formation of ideologies and movements within urban contexts. We are also extending the call to include papers or panels that explore urban based religious responses. 


Call for Proposals for Online June Meeting

Emergent Scholarly Practice in Local and Urban Religion (Online Session)

We seek papers that utilize innovative scholarly approaches to local and urban religion. Papers may employ cutting-edge methods that are in-person (eg. ethnography, oral history, archival research); digital (archiving, mapping, and spatial analysis); or publicly-engaged (eg. public humanities, theology, etc). Papers may focus on the city capaciously by interpreting built and social contexts as city space beyond conventional usage, including the local, urban, or public. We encourage approaches that disrupt, problematize, or reimagine the distinctions between research, pedagogy, and activism. For example, papers might explore collaborative knowledge production, community-based research practices, and scholar-practitioner conversations, responsibilities, and ethics.

Statement of Purpose

This unit engages in critical analysis of ecological relationships between religion and cities. We are interested in exploring the cooperative and conflicting relationships between cities across the globe and their religious communities in the struggle for social justice, especially in response to racial capitalism and settler colonialism. Our work is interdisciplinary and includes scholars from Religious Studies, History, Anthropology, Social Ethics & Urban Sociology, Architecture & Urban Planning, and Gender Studies.


  • Edward Dunar, Albertus Magnus College
    1/1/2024 - 12/31/2029
  • Fatimah Fanusie, Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies
    1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027

Steering Committee Members


Review Process

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