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Religion and Ecology Unit

Call for Proposals

The Religion and Ecology Unit seeks individual paper and complete panel proposals relating to a wide range of themes in religion and ecology including proposals that resonate with the 2020 thematic emphasis on “The AAR as a Scholarly Guild.” The aim of this year’s theme is to be intentionally inward looking and self-reflective. The President of the AAR José Cabezón is asking each unit to spend the year collectively thinking about the changes that have taken place since our founding over 100 years ago: “where we have been, where we are today, and where we see ourselves going in the years to come.”

This theme lends itself to a historical analysis of the field of religion and ecology writ large by engaging such questions as: What were the initial challenges R&E scholars faced and what challenges do we face today? Whose voices remain stifled or silenced in our field? What should the future of the R&E Unit look like? Additionally, papers that address the legacy and impact of R&E pioneers Sallie McFague, Inés Talamantez, and Dennis Edwards would also be welcome.

Given the conference location in one of the thirteen original British “colonies,” our Unit is also interested in a number of topical themes discussed during our business meeting related to European colonization: the history of climate change as the history of colonization; nationalist imaginations and the re/claiming of land; intersections of religion and petrocultures and/or energy humanities. Other topics and proposals will also be given full consideration.

The Religion and Ecology Unit is also pursuing possible co-sponsored sessions with related units as follows:
• “Settler Colonialism as an Ecological Structure” as a collaboration with the Religion, Social Conflict, and Peace Group. This session is intended to explore the historical and contemporary contours of coloniality (understood as the logic, culture and structure of our Eurocentric modern world-system) and settler colonialism and their impact on land, resources, environments, and religious/cultural practices and traditions.

• “Indigenous Ecologies: Indigenous Nature Relationships, Rights, and Climate Change” as a joint session with the Indigenous Religious Traditions Unit. In contrast with settler colonial modes of consumption and objectification, Indigenous Peoples often hold relationships with the natural world as integrated into kinship, reciprocal, and spiritual networks. In a global context, what are ways that Indigenous Peoples conceive of and maintain these natural relationships? How do Indigenous authors, intellectuals, and languages shape of these relationships? In light of climate change, what are political, legal and spiritual evolutions to these Indigenous ecologies? Successful papers will integrate Indigenous language, philosophies and ecological activism.

• For a joint session of the Religion and Ecology unit, Religion and Disability Studies unit, Class, Religion, and Theology unit, and Religion and Migration unit: The global climate crisis affects people who are already most susceptible to environmentally linked degradation. We invite papers addressing the devastating impact of climate change and connected ecological crisis on vulnerable peoples, including persons with disabilities, the working poor, indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrants, people living unhoused and/or with food insecurities, and others. We welcome engagement from a range of disciplines, methods, and religious traditions.

• For a possible tri-sponsored session with the Religion & Ecology, Religion & Food, and Class, Religion & Theology units, we invite proposals on the theme of food systems as interfaces between religion, ecology, and class. Food practices are central to nearly every religion — and this food is generated by broader food systems that simultaneously have major environmental impacts, make use of myriad forms of exploited (gendered and raced) labor, and mediate widespread class-based economic and health inequalities. Proposals can address one or several of these (or related) intersections. Historical, ethnographic, sociological, theological, and critical-theoretic methods are all welcome.

Please note that, while individual paper proposals are given full consideration, we especially appreciate complete panel proposals and panels that offer creative alternatives to the usual format of reading out 4-5 papers.

We aim to offer a Friday afternoon workshop on teaching climate change and the Anthropocene. Those interested in participating should contact our co-chair Christopher Carter.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit critically and constructively explores how human–Earth relations are shaped by religions, cultures, and understandings of nature and the environment. We are self-consciously inter- and multi-disciplinary and include methods from a variety of social sciences such as those found in the work of theologians, philosophers, religionists, ethicists, scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists, among others. We also strive to be a radically inclusive unit and welcome papers that challenge the dominant Eurocentric environmental discourse while envisioning new conceptual frontiers.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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

Review Process Comments

The proposer names are visible to chairs for the purpose of racial and gender equity. This allows us to ensure that our panels are constructed in ways that uphold our values of equity and the inclusion of multiple viewpoints.