[Skip to Content]

The New Religious Movements Unit welcomes all papers that address research pertinent to the study of marginal, emergent, “alternative,” innovative, "invented," or minority religions. In particular, we encourage submissions on the topics:
• Examining the popular re-emergence and rhetorical deployment of terms like “cult,” “charisma,” and “brainwashing”
• New religious movements engaged in charity, disaster relief, and social justice, thinking in particular about whether charity can be treated/cast as “transgressive” depending upon who undertakes it
• New religious movements and climate change
• Child welfare, parenting, and new religious movements
• African Christian denominations, especially as these denominations are established on other continents.

• A possible co-sponsored session with the Law, Religion, and Culture Unit on the use of anti-cult terminology and language to prosecute and adjudicate fringe religious groups, specifically, such as NXIVM, the Church of Body Modification, and the Church of Marijuana, and religious traditions, in general

We are especially interested in papers that forefront concerns of race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability within these topics.
Note: New Religious Movements is particularly interested in proposals for full panels, but strongly encourages scholars to familiarize themselves with existent NRM scholarship while preparing their proposals. We also expect that the composition of proposed panels will reflect the lived diversity of the Academy. When preparing your proposal, please include the demographic data you provide to the AAR and explain how your panel's participants instantiate academic diversity.

Mission Statement:

This unit supports and encourages research on all aspects of New Religious Movements (NRMs).  NRM is an imprecise category, originally used as a replacement for the pejorative term “cult.”  The field of NRM studies has since come to include a wide range of religious movements that are new, emerging, alternative, marginalized, or stigmatized.  Research on these movements creates new knowledge about understudied religions, provides an informed response to public concerns about stigmatized groups, and informs larger theoretical problems in the field of religious studies.

Method of Submission:




Joseph Laycock, joe.laycock@gmail.com

Lydia Willsky-Ciollo, lciollo@fairfield.edu


Steering Committee:

Torang Asadi, torang.asadi@duke.edu

Holly Folk, holly.folk@wwu.edu

Biko Gray, bmgray@syr.edu

Jason Jeffries, jason.jeffries@du.edu

Erin Prophet, erin@eprophet.info

Christa Shusko, cshusko@ycp.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 2 – Two 2-hour sessions

Next Review: 2025