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Space, Place, and Religion Unit

Call for Proposals

We welcome individual papers, papers sessions, and roundtable proposals for topics exploring space and place as they relate to religion. We are particularly interested in papers and sessions that employ theoretically or methodologically self-conscious and innovative approaches to understanding space and place as they relate to, condition, and constitute aspects of religious life including: belief, ritual, meaning, aesthetics, and experience. We also welcome ethnographically-informed studies of sites and historically-informed studies of texts that shed light on the role of space and place in religious traditions. We desire to have one session focusing on religious spaces in Asia. This year we particularly interested in sessions on the following topics:

The Space of the State (co-sponsorsed with Religion and Politics Unit)
We seek papers that analyze examples of religious places and spaces that are made or developed by the political state. Possible themes could address mechanics of religious places’ development and the means by which a state sanctifies the nation as sacred space, kinds of religious space(s) states create, and applying spatial theory and methodologies to help think through the entanglements state actions create with historically sacred landscapes and places. We especially seek papers that address examples of how specific states create and authorize religious places and spaces.
Please contact Joanne Waghorne ( with a short description of your proposal if interested in submitting.

● Methodological Approaches to Space and Place in the Study of Religion
Papers focusing on specific methodologies – both established and newly emerging -- to apply to analysis of religious spaces and places. We are particularly interested in papers that explore the use of various geospatial technologies to document and analyze religion(s).
Please contact Katie Oxx ( with a short description of your proposal if interested in submitting.

● Plymouth Rock (1620)
In light of the fourth centenary of the landing at Plymouth Rock, We are particularly interested in papers that address geographical/topographical markers of meaningful space, such as stones, trees, and shorelines, and pilgrimage to them. We are also interested in papers that explore the shifting religious and spatial imaginaries in the context of settlement and the colonial encounter. Papers focusing on the artistic, literary, and religious dimensions of the arrival of pilgrims in Massachusetts may constitute a co-sponsored panel with the Arts, Literature, and Religion Unit.

Place and Religious Performance (co-sponsored with the Anthropology of Religion)
Papers that analyze the relationship between space, place and religious performance. Possible themes include without being limited to spatial analyses of the way the emplacement and movement of body(-ies) affect the places and spaces in which they perform; the way spaces and places foster or complicate ritual performance; performing arts in/creating/subverting sacred spaces; religious performances that traverse diverse spaces and places.
Please contact Joy Palacios ( with a short description of your proposal if interested in submitting.

Religion, Literature, and the City in South Asia (co-sponsored with Arts, Literature, and Religion Unit and Religion in South Asia Unit)
The panel explores the various ways in which religions in urban South Asia are (re)presented in modern literature, particularly regarding spatiality, representations of space, space as an agent in modern urban life.
Please contact: István Keul ( with a short description of your proposal if interested in submitting.

● Book Panel: Buddhist Tourism in Asia (Prearranged session)
Brooke Schedneck and Courtney Brunt, editors, Buddhist Tourism in Asia (2020).
Four specialists in Buddhist studies will comment on the book, with response from editors Schedneck and Bruntz.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit is a forum for exploring religious sites and the spatial dimensions of religions. We feature ethnographically-informed studies of living sites, historically-informed studies of texts and artifacts, and analyses of architecture and landscape. Our work seeks to shed light on the role of space and place in religious traditions and communities or to examine religious activity (performance, ritual, and practice) in spatial contexts.

This Unit recognizes that spaces and places, real and imagined/visionary, are constitutive elements in religious life; it is dedicated to investigating how they contribute to contemplative, ritualistic, artistic, economic, ethnic, or political aspects of religious life using a variety of approaches and methods. We expect to include at least one session focused on spaces and places in Asia, in addition to sessions focused on other themes, regions, traditions or advancing the theoretical analysis of space and place.


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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