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Call Text:

The Afro-American Religious History Unit invites proposals that explore the religiosity of African-descended people within the geographical and geo-cultural boundaries of the United States. For our 2021 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, we are especially interested in proposals that engage one or more of the following topics:

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Carter G. Woodson’s The History of the Negro Church, specifically:

●        New theories and methods in the study of African American Christianity;

●        Reconceptualizations of the “Black Church” paradigm;

●        The historiographical, sociological, or anthropological legacy of Woodson’s publication.

For a co-sponsorship with the Eastern Orthodox Studies unit, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the African Orthodox Church, specifically:

●        The relationship between the African Orthodox Church, and Civil Rights and Black nationalist organizations, like the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA);

●        The place of the African Orthodox Church amid the Black Protestant religious landscape and/or other Orthodox churches in the United States;

●        The church’s Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Canadian, and African-American roots and transnational concepts of Blackness;

●        Comparisons with historical and existing Orthodox Christian communities in Africa, and/or Black participation in Orthodox Christian Churches in America.

Retheorizations of the geographical and cultural boundaries of African American Religion in relationship to the concept of Borderlands, specifically:

●        Afro-Spanish, Afro-Indigenous, and other “hybrid” religiosities;

●        Concepts of space, the embodiment of space, and boundaries in African-American religion;

●        Black religion among asylum seekers and within immigrant communities in America/The impact of immigration upon enactments and definitions of African American religion.

African-American Religion and Politics, broadly configured, particularly:

●        Historical topics that elucidate contemporary political landscapes and futures, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Black communities;

●        Cultural hybridity, Black women’s political organizing, and other reflections upon Vice President Kamala Harris’s historic election;

●        State-sponsored and other forms of organized violence directed at the African-American religious community, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Greenwood massacre;

●        Analyses of broad concepts of power, resistance, and protest in electoral politics, as well as contemporary and historical movements like abolition, emigration and colonization, Black Lives Matter, Prison Abolition, and Moral Mondays.

Redressing the historiographical dearth of LGBTQI+ African American religious histories, specifically:

●        The theoretical possibilities of queering African American religion;

●        The historical presence of gender nonconformity, gender fluidity, and a spectrum of sexualities physically and conceptually within Black religious communities;

●        The methodological and theoretical limitations of heteronormativity and gender normativity.

Black Religion and the Public Humanities, specifically:

●        Reflections on Black religions broadly construed and the Academy;

●        Representations of the intersections of race and religion in popular culture, cultural memory, and other “publics,” as well as approaches to public engagement within and outside of religious communities.

Intellectual Trajectories in the Study of African American Religion: Highlighting Graduate Student Work:

●        Potential presenters should create proposals for five to seven minute presentations

We also invite creative proposals that are attentive to alternative methods of presenting, including but not limited to multimedia presentations, interviews, flash/micro talks, and facilitated discussions.

Mission Statement:

The purpose of this Unit is to recover the sources and histories related to the religious experiences of African-descended people in the United States; challenge, nuance, and expand theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of African-American religions; and create forums for critical, creative, and collaborative engagement with new scholarship in the field. The Unit is committed to the historical investigation of the diversity of U.S. African-Americans' religious experiences across chronological periods.

Method of Submission:




Tobin Shearer, tobin.shearer@umontana.edu

Alexis S. Wells-Oghoghomeh, alexis.s.wells@vanderbilt.edu


Steering Committee:

Vaughn Booker, vaughn.a.booker@dartmouth.edu

Judith Casselberry, jcasselb@bowdoin.edu

Matthew Cressler, mjcressler@gmail.com

Jamil Drake, jdrake@fsu.edu

Ahmad Greene-Hayes, ahmadg@princeton.edu

Laura McTighe, lmctighe@fsu.edu

Nicole Myers Turner, nicole.turner@yale.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 2 – Two 2-hour sessions

Next Review: 2021