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Religion in South Asia Unit

Call for Proposals

The Steering Committee of the Religion in South Asia (RISA) Unit invites colleagues to submit proposals for the 2020 AAR Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. RISA’s mission is to provide a venue for new research on the many religious cultures, literatures, and histories of South Asia. We have a strong preference for sessions in which the papers cover a range of South Asian traditions, regions, and languages. Some themes already identified as potential papers sessions are listed below — please contact the associated colleagues for details about potential collaboration. Panels and papers are also encouraged that respond to the 2020 AAR Presidential Theme: "The AAR as a Scholarly Guild."

The RISA steering committee accepts full panel submissions only (i.e. Papers Sessions), with the exception of papers for the New Directions panel (see below). For the 2020 Annual Meeting, RISA has a flexible allotment of panel formats: either one 2.5-hour session, one 2-hour session, and five 90-minute sessions; OR two 2.5-hour sessions, one 2-hour session, and three 90-minute sessions. RISA can also sponsor one additional paper session if it is co-sponsored with another Unit. Please note most RISA panels will be 90-minute and plan your proposals accordingly.
In your proposal, you may specify your preferred panel format (150, 120, or 90 minutes) but the time allotted for accepted panels varies based on the overall programming needs. In the past, 150-minute panels have usually consisted of 6 participants (4 paper presenters, a discussant or respondent, and a presider), and 90-minute panels have consisted of 4 or 5 participants (3 paper presenters, a presider, and perhaps a respondent). However, creative formats are encouraged, such as roundtables, paired papers with no respondent, pre-circulated papers, and so on. If relevant, list any potential co-sponsoring Unit with your proposal. All Papers Session Panel Proposals must be submitted through the PAPERS system on the AAR website.

New Directions Panel 2020:
The RISA Steering Committee accepts individual paper submissions in one category in order to provide space for new scholarship in our field. To be eligible, applicants must
(1) be ABD doctoral students (or recent graduates) focusing on religion in South Asia from any disciplinary perspective, and
(2) never have presented at the national AAR meeting.
Accepted panelists will be mentored by a senior colleague with appropriately specialized expertise. To apply, email your proposal (and any other queries) to the Co-Convenors for the New Directions panel, Bhakti Mamtora ( and Anand Venkatkrishnan (, AND upload your individual paper proposal in the AAR’s PAPERS system, labelled as a "New Directions” submission.

If you are looking for collaborators towards proposing a panel session, please feel free to reach out to colleagues on the RISA listserv, to contact the RISA co-chairs for assistance (Sarah Pierce Taylor [] and Jenn Ortegren []), or to email the colleagues listed below if there is a topic that is interesting to you.

Prospective panel themes for 2020:
Ayodhya in perspective: history, politics, law
Jack Hawley,

Digital Cultures and Secularisms in South Asia
Prathiksha Srinivasa,

Genres of Performance: The Many Lives of Sacred Texts
Bhakti Mamtora,

A History of Indian religions in 7 or 8 objects
Karen Ruffle,

The History of the Religion in South Asia Unit of the AAR
Anand Venkatkrishnan,

Karma: Explorations in and Across Boundaries of Knowledge in South Asia
Angela Rudert,

Pedagogy and sensitive issues
Karen Ruffle,

Religion and Left Politics in South Asia
Anand Venkatkrishnan,

Religion, Literature, and the City in South Asia
István Keul,

Rethinking Agency and Autonomy through South Asian Religious Traditions
Kalpesh Bhatt,

Sacred places--climate crises
Jack Hawley,

Theorising Meaning and Authority through Inter-religious and Intra-religious Texts
Karen O'Brien-Kop and Avni Chag, Karen_O' and

The Vedic-Buddhist Interface
Caley Smith,

Statement of Purpose

This Unit’s mission is to provide a venue for new and important research in the many religious cultures, texts, and histories of South Asia. Within the area of South Asia, all world religions exist in unique forms, from religions that originated in India — such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Tantra, and tribal religions — to religions that have taken on longstanding and distinctive forms in South Asia — such as Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. The focus of our work is thus on a geographical area, the religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions of that area, and changes that have occurred in those traditions over several millennia. Scholars of South Asia explore the distinctive manifestations of religious traditions in the subcontinent, their interactions, and their movements to and expressions in other parts of the world. This Unit encourages contextualizing religion within debates on a broad array of parallel and intersecting issues, such as (but not limited to) politics, secularism, literature, philology, globalization, modernity, colonialism and postcolonialism, history, society, media, popular culture, material and visual culture, and economics. Our scholarship often emphasizes sessions and papers that look at more than one tradition and thus frequently entail some degree of comparative approach. Our website is We also have a listserv, which is essential to the work of our Unit. Information on joining the listserv can be found on our website.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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