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The Hinduism Unit invites contributions on the following topics suggested at the 2020 Annual Meeting as well as on other topics consistent with the Unit’s Statement of Purpose. Proposals of complete papers sessions and roundtable sessions are especially welcome, as are proposals that specify creative and efficient uses of the ninety-minute sessions. For further information about potential sessions on the topics already suggested, please e-mail the points of contact for each topic listed below:


Hinduisms and Covid-19: Nicole Karapanagiotis (nicole.karapanagiotis@rutgers.edu)   

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought great changes to all areas of life.  This panel seeks to document and explore the ways in which Covid-19 has ushered in changes in the practices of Hinduism around the world.  Special attention will be paid to the ways in which Hindus have adapted their rituals in response to the pandemic, and to the ways in which these adaptations can help scholars understand—and perhaps even reevaluate— the categories through which we understand Hindu rituals. 


Race and Caste in Hinduism: Joydeep Bagchee (jbagchee@gmail.com)  

This panel will explore the relationship of caste hierarchies to race concepts with the understanding that the relationship between the two is perhaps not as straightforward as Isabel Wilkerson’s recent book has it. Nineteenth-century Orientalist writers were convinced that caste was simply the expression of racial difference, and in fact reflected the natural order of things. None of them wanted to eradicate caste, at most they wanted to see it integrated into a larger scheme of Christian and white supremacy. This raises questions for our academic praxis as well: how much of what we do has features of caste like in-group and out-group dynamics?   


New Perspectives on Religion in Sultanate & Mughal India: Patton Burchett (peburchett@wm.edu

Recent years have seen a spate of exciting new research on religion in India’s Sultanate and Mughal periods, leading to more nuanced understandings of: the interactions of Sanskritic and Persianate traditions; the lives and influences of Mughal princes, queens, and emperors; the rise and impact of bhakti sectarian traditions; the crucial role of the occult in religion and politics; the emergence of sectarian (militant) ascetic communities; Hindu-Sufi dialogue; the rise and religious influence of merchant (and other economic) communities; just to name some.  This panel aims to showcase, evaluate, and further contribute to such new perspectives on religion, politics, literature, asceticism and occultism in Sultanate and Mughal social life. 


The Ethics of Digital Ethnography: Emilia Bachrach (ebachrac@oberlin.edu)  

Digital ethnography is not new to scholars of religion, but the methodologies used by digital ethnographers continue to shift as digital platforms themselves develop in new ways. With new methodologies, come new questions about the ethics of digital research and about the ethics of digital ethnography specifically. This panel seeks papers from scholars of Hindu traditions who are engaged in digital ethnography and who are thinking through best practices vis-a-vis research ethics. In which ways do research ethics need to shift as we represent ourselves and our conversation partners and their religious practices in ever emergent digital spaces?  


Hindu Temples and the Law: Sujata Choudhury (sujata.chaudhary@mail.mcgill.ca)  

Pursuant to a string of recent lawsuits regarding high-profile temples, this panel attends to the ways that legal designations (from gender to public/private to juristic personhood) have been produced and employed in Indian jurisprudence to various ends. We are interested in understanding that production through the examination of cases dealing with temples and other religious institutions in various courts an in various regions throughout South Asian history and in India today.  


Death, Ancestors and the Afterlife: Amy Allocco (aallocco@elon.edu

This panel engages Hindu conceptions of death and the hereafter, post-mortem rituals, relationships with the departed, and ancestor worship in Hindu traditions. Papers drawing on diverse sources, methodological approaches, and time periods are welcome, as are those that highlight vernacular perspectives, gendered practices, and/or ritual innovations linked to globalization, migration, interreligious contact, the pandemic, or other shifting contexts.  


Religious Conversion in a Contemporary and Historical Perspective: Deepra Dandekar (Deepra.Dandekar@zmo.de

Religious conversion became especially fraught in South Asia, after the Charter Act of 1813. Though the Act did not harbinger conversion, which was older; it inaugurated a new age of conversion as political and public, that continued well into the 21st century. This new age changed the ontology of conversion, producing institutions, print culture, and a sociality around conversion as imbricated with intimate family relationships, and claims, memories, and experiences of violence. Involving  negotiations between local, national, and transnational individual and collective identities, converting, or engaging with conversion as a debate, became a cornerstone of South Asian colonial and postcolonial modernity. 


Labor and Religion in South Asia: Manpreet Kaur (mk3674@columbia.edu)
We invite you to consider the varieties of labour that may be considered religious in the context of South Asian religions. We ask how histories of labour, individual or communal, may work along (or against) existing understandings of religious concepts, practices, and conventions, or work to forge newer ones. From philanthropy and service to radical imaginings of the future, from affective labor to bonded work, we hope that the papers in this panel will help formulate a new understanding of the connections between everyday work and religious labouring in South Asia. 


Management in South Asian Religious History: Deonnie Moodie (dmoodie@ou.edu)  

This panel is interested in exploring if and/or how ideas about management of the self, the religious institution, and the corporation converge in various historical and geographical contexts. In particular, we are interested in how notions of management develop alongside Hinduism in global contexts from the pre-modern to the modern. How, for example, are notions of self-management related to notions of management of the corporate religious institution? How are religious ideals regarding management of self and society related to notions of the ideal manager of a business enterprise?  


Hinduism and Writing Practices: Finnian Gerety (finnian_moore-gerety@brown.edu


Mission Statement:

This Unit was established in 1997 with the mission of providing a forum within the AAR for the academic study of Hinduism as a distinctive world religious tradition including, but not limited to the geographical region of South Asia. The Unit seeks to foster research on all periods and registers of Hindu texts and practices through the presentation of new data, critical analysis, and interpretative strategies, based on textual, sociohistorical, ethnographic, philosophical, theological, and theoretical studies. We are particularly interested in forging connections between the study of Hinduism and other areas of religious studies, and we welcome proposals from scholars in the field that can provide such connections.

Method of Submission:




Deonnie Moodie, dmoodie@ou.edu

Harshita Mruthinti Kamath, harshita.kamath@emory.edu


Steering Committee:

Emilia Bachrach, ebachrac@gmail.com

Deepra Dandekar, deepradandekar@gmail.com

Ute Huesken, huesken@uni-heidelberg.de

Nicole Karapanagiotis, nicole.karapanagiotis@gmail.com

Manpreet Kaur, mk3674@columbia.edu

John Nemec, nemec@virginia.edu

Sohini Pillai, sohini.pillai@berkeley.edu

Srilata Raman, s.raman@utoronto.ca


Session Allotment: Tier 4 – Two 2-hour sessions and three 90-minute sessions

Next Review: 2023