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Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Unit

Call for Proposals

The Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Unit invites proposals on the following topics. Please note we are committed to diversity and thus strongly encourage the use of world cinema and global visual culture products as well as the gender and ethnic diversity of participants. Additionally we expect presenters to incorporate visual media in presentations and ask that all proposals indicate how visuals will be used. We also ask that proposals be clear about their theoretical and methodological approaches and perspectives.

2020 Themes and Topics:

Visual Materials and New Media as the Products of (Emerging) Scholarship
As a co-sponsored session between the Religion, Film and Visual Culture unit and the Comparative Studies in Religion unit, we invite proposals concerning the production of non-traditional media as an output of religious studies scholarship. Possible examples include illustration, photography, visual anthropology, media and sonic ethnography, film, or even virtual reality and other digital humanities productions. Proposals should not only include a brief description of what a particular scholar has produced and outline any audiovisual, technological, or space-related needs that will be required for its presentation/performance/demonstration during the session, but also make clear the unique contribution this form of scholarly production makes to the comparative study of religion and visual culture as an academic enterprise. Extra consideration will be given to proposals that offer a compelling rationale for non text-based media as legitimate (read: tenure-worthy) scholarship and/or serve as exemplary models that others might adopt who are hoping to engage in new and emerging forms of scholarly production.

Gaming the System
We invite proposals exploring the nexus of video games, visual culture, and representation. Video games traffic in visual re-presentations, which raises a number of critical questions that are of perennial concern to scholars of religion. On the one hand, what are the societal, political, ideological, and economic implications of how religion is depicted in video games, especially when those depictions invoke, for example, orientalized or racialized tropes? On the other hand, what do we make of the ways in which the medium can become a space for alternative, perhaps even liberative visions and self-representations, especially among gamers from marginalized social locations? Extra consideration will be given to presentations that incorporate actual play of a game (or games) and/or feature an interactive component of some kind.

Pedagogy of Religion and Film
We invite proposals that reflect on the question: What are we teaching when we teach religion and film? Film is used frequently in the classroom, either as the main focus of a course on religion/theology and film, or as a pedagogical tool to teach other topics in religious studies or theology, but the pedagogy of film and religion is underdeveloped. What theoretical frameworks in pedagogy and film studies are presupposed or explicitly engaged? How is the relationship between film and religion theorized, and what pedagogical choices does this motivate? What concrete practices do instructors employ in their teaching? Proposals should include both a substantial engagement with theory and reflections on the practice of teaching.

Korean Cinema
This session invites papers exploring the unique contributions of Korean filmmakers and the various ways in which Korean visual culture intersects with lived religion, atheism, spirituality, apocalypticism, secularism, late/meta-modernity. Any Korean films are welcomed including work by Bong Joon-ho (Parasite - winner of the Palme d’Or in 2019), Lee Chang-dong (Burning), Bae Yong-kyun (Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?), So Yong Kim, Im Kwon-Tek, et. al. We encourage analyses of a variety of genres, especially Korean horror, thriller, drama, and experimental films.

Provocative Moving Pictures and the Politics of Visual Culture
We invite proposals for a session focused on how certain films, television shows, and other forms of visual media provoke us to political or social action. How do concrete forms of visual culture expose political or social corruption and inspire us to action? Films may include narrative films based on historical reality (The Report, Dark Waters, etc) or that subtly encourage political engagement or dissent (e.g., Malick's A Hidden Life); meditative documentaries like Anthropocene; or episodic, long form streaming shows like The Politician or Watchmen, or visual art installations, e.g. along the US-Mexico Border.

Content Producers
We invite papers from new media content producers, educators, and students of religion that explore how listening to/learning from content creators might inform/shape/disrupt/animate our teaching and learning.

Diasporic Religion
Recognizing we live in a globally-fluid world with significant religious migration, we invite papers that address diasporic religious experience captured visually. From Hulu’s new show Ramy about an Egyptian-American Muslim growing up in New Jersey to recent documentaries and narrative films like Buddha in Africa, Fire at Sea and Capernaum, this panel will discuss how visual culture expresses diasporic struggle and adaptation, and the role of religion therein. Proposals may focus on filmic materials as well as television, painting and the fine arts, photography or any aspect of visual culture that expresses diasporic religious experience.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit offers a forum for theory and methodology of the visual for those interested in the interdisciplinary study of religion, film, and visual culture. There is no single way to study religion and the visual, and we expect scholars to provide new perspectives on the way we understand visual culture and to provide this understanding through traditional and emerging methodologies.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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