Special Call for Papers

In addition to the General Call for Papers, the conference will also feature three special modules devoted to each of the following themes:

The Body in Religion

In a world lived increasingly online, where worshippers can log in to prayer services or missionaries can administer a conversion via Skype, questions about the tactile dimensions of various religious practices have gained new interest and urgency. This module addresses the body as a site for religious understanding, whether that body is living or dead, human or divine, exalted or denied. When does the human body aid religious seeking? When is it a stumbling block? In what ways does the body become a metaphor for spiritual perfection? Submissions might address disability in religion; ascetic practices such as fasting or celibacy, religious dress, physical aspects of prayer; demands of pilgrimage; purity rites such as baptism, menstruation rituals, burial practices, or death regulations; or theological conceptions of illness, possession, or divine incarnation. Seeking papers across a broad range of religious traditions, geographic locations, and historical periods, this module aims to explore the role of the body in religious thought and practice, and how its significance and symbolism have developed in different contexts.

Religion, Identity, and Social Transformation

Recent studies have discussed and analyzed the role of religion in effecting social change. In contrast, less has been done on how social change and transformation affect religious identity, religious communities, religious thought, and religious institutions, and on investigating the complex interplay between the two. Moving beyond this dichotomization, this module seeks to develop a more profound understanding, not only of how religion can influence social transformation, but also of how social change may affect religion, while also examining the complex interplay between the two. Questions for consideration might include: How do religious communities, institutions, individuals, and movements call for social change and how does change affect religious communities and individuals? What are the ways in which this is enacted (e.g. the practices of resistance and adaptation)? What vision do they have for the societies and cultures in which they are located? How is this vision represented and how does it affect religious identity? In what ways are religious identity and social transformation interrelated and how can this connection be considered beyond psychological and sociological perspectives? Proposals could include, but should not be limited to: studies on the interplay between religion and social justice movements; human rights; postcolonial movements; indigenous rights; and the fight against racism. They also might be focused on the ways that religions and religious identity have been transformed by social and cultural developments. Such interplay and transformation can be considered from either individual or group/community perspectives. A range of methodological approaches, historical periods, traditions and geographic locations are welcome and encouraged.

How Religion Matters: Critical Perspectives on Material Culture

Religious belief and practice are not abstracted from time and space but leaves material traces, produces material flows, and takes shape through multifarious engagements with the material world. As such, and especially with the new materialist turn, scholars have begun to understand that material culture generally and archaeology specifically are integral to understanding religion. Yet, some critical theorists have raised questions about how precisely matter matters. Is matter passive and immutable, as it is often characterized, or are there ways that agency, historicity, and contingency inhere within materiality? How might our accounts of religious meaning and mattering take seriously a broad set of potential interactions with and responses to materiality, viewing material remains not as singular and self-evident but as shaped by and shaping an array of entanglements among ideas, bodies, and material objects? In light of these and related questions, we invite papers that explore the intersections of major critical theories and material-oriented methods in the study of religion. Possible themes include but are not limited to: New Materialism; archaeology of gender and/or sexuality; temporality and material objects; thing theory; object biographies; religious art; architecture and space; and Foucauldian archaeologies of knowledge. We encourage precise engagements with archaeology / material objects and well-defined theoretical frameworks, such as feminist, queer, postcolonial, race, affect, and/or posthumanist approaches. Papers may treat any time period or geographical location. Because we are interested in exploring emerging ideas and less-trafficked intersections, we are open to a range of approaches.