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Inspired by this year’s Presidential theme, the Graduate Student Committee Special Topics Forum invites papers that explore the intersections between religion, poverty, and inequality. As scholars who take up the AAR’s commitment to the “public understanding of religion,” our research alerts us to ways in which religions themselves are shaped by poverty and inequality. How do sacred texts either comfort those confronting structural inequalities or embolden those who occupy positions of wealth and power? How have the social structures created within/by religious communities responded to growing disparities? 

As scholars and students, we also occasionally find ourselves as contingent workers, subject to greater structures of inequality including those inherent in the larger institutions and systems to which we belong. As humans, we cannot exclude the challenges faced within our personal lives. This forum adopts a broad understanding of scholarship that asks scholars to reflect on how we can respond to poverty and inequality through our research, service, and teaching.

Connected to this broader theme is the COVID-19 pandemic which upended our worlds in 2020 and continues to shape scholarship and daily life. COVID-19 undeniably created divisions in religions and other social systems. In many cases, however, it may have simply alerted us to divisions that existed all along. This forum also welcomes scholars to reflect on changes that they have observed surrounding religion, poverty, and inequality in light of this pandemic.

We invite proposals for papers that respond to the following questions:

  • How has your research or fieldwork expanded your awareness to poverty and/or inequality in religion?
  • How has your experience in graduate studies alerted you to poverty and inequality in our academies and systems?
  • How has COVID-19 exposed or exacerbated existing inequalities?
  • How have religions responded to poverty and inequality during the pandemic?
  • How can we as scholars address poverty and inequality in our work:
    • Through research?
    • Through teaching?
    • Through service?
  • What does accessibility look like in an increasingly virtual world?
  • What can we do as scholars to bridge social justice and social science?
  • How are our lives as scholars shaped by both the worlds we study and the worlds we inhabit?
  • What role can/should scholars play in changing the social worlds we inhabit? 
  • How can scholars advocate for social changes within the academy itself?
  • How have we advocated for the creation of supportive spaces? How has the academy responded?

We especially encourage scholars to present papers in which they reflect on the overlap between their lived experiences and their research, and how this overlap illuminates issues of religion, poverty, and inequality. We hope to make this panel an inclusive and open conversation. 

Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals for papers which could be presented in 10-15 minutes. Please email your proposal (~250 words) and a CV to Shaunesse’ Jacobs (sajaco2@bu.edu) and Chris Miller (c22mille@uwaterloo.ca) by February 26, 2021. Please note that this proposal does not count toward the two-proposal submission limit within the INSPIRE system.



Method of Submission:

  • E-mail without Attachment (proposal appears in body of e-mail)
  • E-mail with Attachment (proposal is in attachment, not in body of e-mail)



Shaunesse’ Jacobs, sajaco2@bu.edu

Chris Miller, chrisdanielmiller@gmail.com

Aarti Patel, aartipatel16@gmail.com