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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 always 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 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. Space, Place, and Religion dedicates one of its sessions to religious spaces in Asia. Our Unit is committed to diversity and inclusivity; pre-arranged panels and sessions should reflect gender, racial, and ethnic diversity as well as diversity of field, method, and scholarly rank.

In addition, this year we are particularly interested in the following topics:

Space and Catastrophe
We welcome proposals that center religious ideas or practices in the politics of environmental racism, the exploitation of land and natural resources, and how religion has shaped the consequences of, or responses to, natural disasters or ecological devastation in particular communities. Potential areas of investigation include: spatial compromise and cooperation/spaces of refuge, creative renewal, intentional communities, spatial responses of communities impacted most severely in light of catastrophe, shifting notions of sacred space, and sacred spaces lost and gained/ improvised/ reimagined because of environmental catastrophe.

Rethinking the Center and the Margin, Co-Sponsored with Religion in Southeast Asia Unit
This session would consider the way Southeast Asian kingdoms were traditionally designed around a central seat of power. Stanley Tambiah famously called this design “galactic polity” and likened it to the concept of the mandala with its core and its container. Today, Southeast Asian nation-states continue to have significant capitals surrounded by smaller cities and village communities. This session revisits this theory of Southeast Asian political-religious space making to ask how mandala theories continue to illuminate new aspects of Southeast Asian culture and how they obscure other forms of place making. Where do centers dominate religious place making? Do we find peripheries, marginal spaces, that display religion without reference to a center? How should we understand the ways in which marginal groups assemble their religious spaces? We are interested in ethnographic or historical research on these questions as well as theoretical reflections regarding place-making in Southeast Asia.

Space and Place in Mormon Studies, Co-Sponsored with Mormon Studies
This call seeks papers that explore the intersection of space and place and Mormon Studies. Papers might explore “the virtual” as a site in Mormon practice and imagination. They might examine the rise of on-line church and other virtual spaces for study, communal worship, and individual practice, how Mormonism is mediated through devices, screens, and other media infrastructures, or how the media experience enlivens/intensifies religious affects. Papers might also consider the senses, materiality, and the imagination. The co-sponsored panel with the Mormon Studies Unit might also examine Mormonism’s relationship to the Pacific and Pacific Islanders at home and in diaspora. Papers that explore the history of missions and conversion, issues of colonialism and post-colonialism, identity, the meanings of land and history, and contemporary practices and experiences are especially encouraged.

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