This Unit sponsors multidisciplinary conversations that explore intersections between religious and economic modes of social life. Religion and Economy cultivates scholarship that asks how economic systems and orientations have developed through fields of thought, practice, and resistance that come into view through attention to the "religious." Encouraging inquiry that cuts across religious traditions, geographic locations, methods, and historical time periods, this Unit's collaborative explorations not only address and explore capitalist and non-capitalist economic systems but also consider how broader systems of "exchange" produce social relations among varied actors—from humans to spirits to material objects. By interrogating the concepts of religion and economy, this Unit also encourages scholars to consider the stakes of other concepts with ongoing currency in the study of religion, including secularism, spirituality, affect, desire, ritual, agency, value, and subject formation.
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Religion and Economy Unit
Call for Proposals
This Unit welcomes individual papers, paper sessions, and roundtable proposals related to the group's mission. We strongly encourage the submission of pre-arranged paper and roundtable sessions, including and especially sessions with innovative formats and modes of presentation. Proposals for individual papers are most likely to be accepted if proposed in relation to one of the themes listed below, due to the higher probability that they might complement other individual submissions. Please note that our Unit typically holds sessions that last 90 minutes.
Successful proposals not only will reflect theoretical and methodological rigor and clarity but also will engage existing scholarship around the study of religion and economy. A successful pre-arranged session also must incorporate gender and racial/ethnic diversity. Diversity of academic rank, theoretical method, and field also are highly encouraged and more likely to be successful.
Potential themes include but are not limited to the themes listed below, which we present in two categories: ideas proposed by participants in the unit and members of the steering committee, as well as ideas generated in dialogue with other program units. We welcome proposals on these themes, but we also welcome proposals on any other themes that contribute to the Unit’s work or push it in new directions.
Themes Suggested by Religion + Economy Unit Members/Steering Committee
- La Labor de Nuestras Manos – the terms and categories that constitute this year’s Presidential Theme (Labor, Our, Hands).
- Shadow Economies and Shades of the Religious – shadow economies and the formalizing contours to which they contribute. Proposals might consider informal labor sectors, criminalized and underground economies, regulatory evasions, cryptocurrencies, and related subjects. So too proposals may consider the way attention to such topics contributes to and/or challenges the smudged relations of the categories that orient our unit (religion, economy)
- Un/waged Labor – the language of labor as well as its relation to wages. Our program unit continues to ask after wages as a marker of the labor relation and its organizational appeals. Yet, this can also result in the obscuring of work or related practices that are unwaged or precariously remunerated (e.g. gig work). Proposals might consider practices positioned outside the waged relation (e.g. care work, voluntarism), concepts that are defined in contrast to waged labor (e.g. salary, reimbursement, reward, gift, etc), notions of “burn out” or “quiet quitting,” and related subjects.
- Rents and the Rented – the category of rents in its many formulations and its use in and for the study of religion. The notion of rents is broader and more disputed than colloquial uses about land, the housing market, and other temporary usage. Often understood to result from market inefficiencies, asymmetrical information, or group affiliation and not always easily distinguished from related concepts (e.g. profit, surplus, royalties, etc), rents urge us into questions about productivity and privilege, ownership and excess, property, accumulation, and dispossession.
- Gimmick, Slogan, Soundbites, and Other Aesthetic Categories for the Study of Religion & Economy – aesthetic categories and their contribution to the study of religion and economy. For instance, Sianne Ngai has recently suggested “the gimmick” as aesthetic judgment and capitalist form, one that simultaneously works too hard and too little. What might this aesthetic category and others like it (slogan, soundbite, etc) offer for scholars of religion and economy? We particularly welcome interdisciplinary, field-crossing proposals that consider together analytical, empirical, literary, and other creative approaches to this topic.
- Re/imagining Re/production: We invite proposals considering a re/imagining of the concept of “prosperity” and/or discourses of “abundance”, cooperative/solidarity economies, life after neoliberalism, and relational dimensions of labor and rest.
Themes Developed as Potential Co-sponsorships
- Producing and Contesting Urban and Environmental Landscapes (Co-Sponsorship w/ Religion and Cities Unit) – The story of the Riverwalk in San Antonio is one that links the city, the environment, the economy, and religion. In 1921, a category 1 hurricane hit Texas, resulting in massive flooding that resulted in $19 million in property loss and the death of 50 people in San Antonio. To prevent the future loss of life and property, architect Robert H. H. Hugman proposed the riverwalk, a design that simultaneously tamed the river while reviving colonial Spanish mission architecture for urban development through tourism.
Inspired by this history of the Riverwalk, the Religion and Cities and Religion and Economy unit invite papers and panel proposals for a co-sponsored session that considers the labor of producing and contesting urban and environmental landscapes. This could include literal landscapes of economic and environmental change, infrastructures and land use, green spaces, and urban ecologies. We also welcome proposals focused on the labor of producing imaginative landscapes, including landscapes of memory, border landscapes, and pathways through the city.
- Labor Union Organizing in San Antonio and Beyond (Co-sponsorship w/ Liberation Theologies + Religion, Class, and Theology + Ethics Units) – The Liberation Theologies; Class, Religion, and Theology; Ethics; and Religion and Economy units call for proposals regarding labor issues and worker organizing in general, in San Antonio or Texas, and/or in the hotel/convention center/hospitality industry. We hope to organize both a pre-conference workshop and a panel on these topics, and encourage submissions from labor organizers, activists, and scholars. For a number of years it was a priority of the AAR to take into account the labor situation on the ground in its host cities. This session and possible pre-conference workshop, therefore, offer an opportunity to reflect on that commitment, understand the labor situation in our host city, and hopefully re-energize the AAR's commitment to solidarity with all those the labor of whose hands makes the annual meeting possible at all.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Deonnie Moodie, University of Oklahoma1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Elayne Oliphant, New York University1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Devin Singh, Dartmouth College1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Esra Tunc, Washington University in St. Louis1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Daniel Vaca, Brown University1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027