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South Asian Religions Unit

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

The Steering Committee of the South Asian Religions (SARI) Unit invites colleagues to submit proposals for the 2024 AAR Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA. SARIʼs mission is to provide a venue for new research on the many religious cultures, literatures, and histories of South Asia as they have developed in global contexts. 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 collaborations. Panels and papers are also encouraged that respond to the 2024 AAR Presidential Theme: “Violence, Nonviolence, and the Margin.”


The SARI Steering Committee encourages full panel submissions (i.e., papers Sessions and roundtables rather than single papers) with the exception of papers for the New Directions panel (see below). For the 2024 Annual Meeting, SARI has a flexible allotment of panel formats: three 2-hour sessions and three 90-minute sessions. SARI can also sponsor one additional paper session if it is co-sponsored with another Unit. In your proposal, you may specify your preferred panel format (120 or 90 minutes) but the time allotted for accepted panels varies based on the overall programming needs. We especially encourage roundtables as they tend to create more dynamic conversations between participants and audience members. 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 in South Asian Religions:

The SARI Steering Committee accepts individual paper submissions for the “New Directions in South Asian Religions” to provide space for new scholarship in our field. To be eligible, applicants must (1) be ABD doctoral students (or recent graduates) from a Ph.D. program in South Asian religions 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 Arun Brahmbhatt (, Prea Persaud (, and Aarti Patel ( co-convenors of the panel for 2024 AND upload your individual paper proposal in the AARʼs PAPERS system, labeled 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 SARI listservs and/or contact the SARI co-chairs SherAli Tareen ( and Bhakti Mamtora ( for assistance or to email the colleagues listed below if there is a topic that is interesting to you.


Elections in India and the U.S. (potentially co-sponsored with Hinduism Unit and North American Hinduism Unit):

Prea Persaud ( and Shana Sippy (

In both India and the US, 2024 promises to be a critical year for elections. It remains to be seen whether both the ruling BJP party and the Democratic Biden/Harris ticket will remain in power. No matter what happens, it is clear that religion will play a crucial role in setting the tone and the stakes of the various issues, agendas, and debates that occur among the vying parties. In the US, with two prominent South Asian Republican candidates for President—Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley— running for office, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, we are seeing discourses about South Asian religion and identity take new forms. And, in India, Hindutva rhetoric and marginalization of religious minorities means that religion remains a core concern for anyone thinking about India’s future. This panel seeks to explore how various players and parties are mobilizing religion in the 2024 elections, examining various contexts and iterations in the US and India.


Digital Humanities: Janani Comar (


Teaching Minority Religions (a pedagogy roundtable): Elaine Fisher (


Lived Religion: Jason Schwartz (


Disability in South Asian Religions: Sarah Pierce Taylor (


India and the War on Gaza:

Brian Pennington (  

In the forty years since India and Israel established diplomatic relationships, India has come to gradually embrace the Israeli state and to rely on advanced weaponry Israel has supplied to the Indian military. The BJP government’s support for Israel has aligned with the Hindu nationalist government’s alienation of Indian Muslims, many of whom have supported the Palestinian cause. This proposed session would examine those alignments and the responses of different religious actors and communities in India over time, with specific attention to the political discourse and engagements in the wake of October 7th and the war in Gaza.


Bhakti Practices from the Subaltern Margins:

Maharshi Vyas (

This panel seeks to acknowledge and give voice to the role of bhakti/devotion, loosely defined as a set of affective religious practices of relating with gods and deities, within the marginalized communities of South Asia. It explores the concept of "subaltern" broadly, considering historical realities of marginalization. Panelists may indulge with issues of power, protest, and piety, although one could engage with bhakti in other creative ways.


Hindus, Muslims, and Contestations of Religion in Colonial India:

Ali Altaf Mian ( and Francesca Chubb-Confer (

Stemming from conversations related to SherAli Tareen’s recent book, Perilous Intimacies: Debating Hindu-Muslim Friendship After Empire, which brings together several conversations in South Asian Islam and South Asian religious studies more broadly, this panel considers the following questions: 1) How has new scholarship on Hindu-Muslim relations (Nair, Tareen) historicized and theorized the discursively porous yet sociologically stable categories of religious identification in early modern and colonial South Asia? 2) How do the concepts of sovereignty, translation, and friendship enable us to ask new questions about religious identity in colonial India? 3) What are the consequences of these answers for how we understand inter-religious strife in contemporary South Asia?


A Cultural History of Hinduism: Strategies and Challenges (co-sponsored with Hinduism Unit):

Karen Pechilis (

A Cultural History of Hinduism is a six-volume study of Hinduism engaging 55 scholars from our field that will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in April 2024 (it is in press now). For a description please see This roundtable panel brings together a group of volume editors, contributors and critics to discuss strategies and challenges in writing today about Hinduism in its multireligious contexts past and present. Any academic in the field not involved in the CHH project who would like to serve as critic (who may focus on a specific area rather than the entire series) please contact Karen Pechilis at with your expression of interest.


Roundtable discussion of a recent book:

SherAli Tareen ( and Bhakti Mamtora (

We are hoping to make this a more common feature of SARI annual offerings, with the stipulation that the book to be discussed should touch on the diversity of South Asian religious traditions and/or the complexity of religion as a category in relation to South Asian religions.

Statement of Purpose

This Unitʼs 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 the religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions generated in South Asia, but not limited to that geographic region, and changes that have occurred in those traditions over several millennia. Scholars of South Asian religious traditions explore the distinctive manifestations of these traditions within and beyond 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 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