This Unit provides a forum for scholars and professionals interested in the relationships among religion, the state, and political life, both in the United States and around the world. Our members focus on the interaction between religious and political values, movements, and commitments, and the role of religious individuals and communities in bodies politic. This focus includes attention to the ways in which religion and religious actors participate in public discourse, contribute to debates over public values and social policy, and affect — and are affected by — activity in the political sphere. We welcome members doing both normative and descriptive work from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including religious studies, political science, philosophy, social ethics, law (including church–state studies), history (as it relates to contemporary understandings), and theology. We seek to advance scholarly inquiry on religion and politics and we seek also to speak to broad and diverse publics about areas falling under the Unit’s purview. We also maintain a year-round Religion and Politics Google group, which is open to all AAR members here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/aar-religionandpolitics
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Religion and Politics Unit
Call for Proposals
We seek proposals for papers, panels, roundtables, or book discussions on any topic at the intersection of religion and politics in national, international, and especially comparative perspective. This year, our call focuses on:
- Religion at the border, including issues involving immigration, detention, and refugee policy
- Religious nationalism in US, global, and comparative perspective
- Religion, democracy movements, and anti-democracy crackdowns (especially Iran)
- On the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, the religious dimensions of freedom and protest
- Religion, global citizenship, and governance of global issues (e.g., climate change, pandemic, human rights, religious freedom, humanitarian crises involving refugees and mass migration)
- The centennial of Johnson v. McIntosh and the “Discovery Doctrine” in US property law
- Abortion, reproductive rights, and the politics of motherhood
- Religion, theology (of any tradition), and the moral life of politics
- Guns, gun culture, and gun violence, especially school shootings
- Visons and practices of theocracy, past and present
- The bicentennial of the Monroe Doctrine and implications for Native American/indigenous rights, sovereignty, and colonialism
- Religion and Politics (Co-sponsored with the Sociology of Religion Unit): Including issues such as abortion, healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights, religious freedom, immigration, education, guns, climate change, courts, crime, voting, and more.
We also welcome proposals relevant to the conference location (San Antonio, Texas) and its theme, La Labor de Nuestras Manos. We ask how the academic study and teaching of religion and politics inform broader public audiences and influence civic life outside of the academy.
In addition, we seek proposals for the following potential co-sponsored sessions:
Religion and the European Right: The rise of right-wing political groups across Europe-as seen for example in the October 2022 election of Giorgia Meloni in Italy, or the December 2022 attempted coup in Germany—has served as a reminder of the importance of understanding how religion informs the goals and grievances of the European right. We seek papers that explore the various ways that religion and/or religious narratives inform and intersect with these political movements, whether in the form of religious nationalism, narratives against particular religious traditions (i.e., Islam, Judaism), or alternatively, in responses to the European right. In particular, we invite papers that form the basis for comparisons across Europe and/or in conversation with perspectives from the United States context.
Law and Politics through an Interfaith Lens: Recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court again demonstrate the extent to which Christianity is woven into American law and politics. For example, debates rooted in Christian intellectual history dominate public discourse and manifest in attempts to regulate women’s bodies through limiting access to reproductive health care such as abortion and contraceptives. Such debates also spur the weaponization of religious freedom claims to justify discrimination based on religion, gender, and sexuality.
We invite paper, panel, or roundtable proposals that address these intersections of religion and politics through an interfaith lens, confronting the impact of Christian dominance in our multifaith society.
We encourage deep excavation of public discourse. Some media pundits characterized overturning Roe v. Wade as “Christian Sharia,” for example, demonstrating the ease with which Islamophobic tropes are embedded—and revealing deep-seated ignorance regarding the nuanced perspectives of non-Christian traditions on reproductive justice. Debates about immigration and gun control in the U.S. have also become correlated with the camps of Christian liberals and Christian conservatives. How might inter- and multi-religious perspectives challenge these polarized frames by providing alternative cognitive paradigms through which religion and politics can be viewed? What is the impact on non-Christian Americans who find themselves forced to align with categories, factions, and contentions that are rooted in the history of American Christian thought and practice?
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Katharine Batlan,1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Jocelyne Cesari, Harvard University1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026
Scott Culpepper, Dordt University1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026
Terrence Johnson, Georgetown University1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Candace Lukasik, Mississippi State University1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, Northeastern University1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
Jason Sexton, University of California, Los Angeles1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027