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Ritual Studies Unit

Call for Proposals

The Ritual Studies Unit invites individual papers and full panel proposals from a variety of religious and cultural traditions exploring ritual in various local and transnational contexts. Proposals should engage with ritual theory in some way. We are interested in sessions that experiment with new formats favoring increased interaction and discussion and we particularly encourage papers/presentations that involve actually doing ritual practices.

Whenever possible, our sessions will be formatted to encourage interaction and group discussion on the basis of concise, pre-circulated papers of no more than five pages submitted for circulation by October 15, 2023. Because at least 30 minutes of every session will be reserved for discussion, presentation times will vary in accordance with the number of speakers in the session.

This year, we are especially interested in proposals addressing issues relating to uncomfortable aspects of ritual. Possible themes include: organic and inorganic ritual remains and leftovers, memorabilia, swag, and so forth, the discovery of disturbing ritual procedures, awkwardness, mistakes, and boredom, conflict as a constitutive dynamic of ritual, and the ways ritual practices can act to formulate or promote conspiracy and sorcery (historical and contemporary).

We also welcome papers that explore unsettling aspects of ritual solidarity. Not only do ritual affirmations of identity generally imply a more or less violent exclusion of others, and/or the reinforcement of gender or other hierarchies, they are often strikingly ambivalent for the participants themselves. The solidarities rituals enact may be felt to be overly simplified, inherently problematic or out of sync with the personal realities and/or social conditions of those concerned. Moreover, such ambiguities are not necessarily the result of recent, rapid cultural change, but may be an inherent feature of ceremonial practice itself.

In line with the 2023 Presidential Theme, “La Labor de Los Manos,” the Ritual Studies and Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society (ANARCS) program units are seeking papers or panel sessions focused on analyses of rituals in Asian American religions, or Asian American communities. We invite papers dealing with rituals in Asian American diasporic communities from a variety of possible perspectives, such as the ways certain religious rituals have been adapted for non-religious settings, the processes whereby rituals reinforce or challenge gender, class, generational, sexual, or racial hierarchies, the potentially divisive qualities of certain ceremonial practices, etc.

Within the framework of a co-sponsored session with the Space, Place and Religion Unit, we also invite papers focusing on ritual and circular space in different religious and cultural traditions. What shared attentions, patterned interactions, processes of inclusion/exclusion, etc., do circular ritual spaces put into effect? How are such dynamics affected by matters of scale, by the means used to produce the circular spaces in question, by a presence or not of something in the center of the circle?

As always, we also invite papers that engage with the “ritual theory canon.” Relevant papers may be purely theoretical or inspired by particular case studies; they may offer new approaches to understanding and utilizing “canonical” ritual theorists or propose new theoretical resources for ritual studies scholarship. We are particularly interested in the theme of sacrifice as a core element of ritual theory, and in pedagogical strategies and experiences as they relate to issues of ritual theory.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit provides a unique venue for the interdisciplinary exploration of ritual — broadly understood to include rites, ceremonies, religious and secular performances, and other ritual processes — in their many and varied contexts, and from a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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