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This Unit advances the study of religions in North America, broadly conceived (Mexico, the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, etc.), as well as the study of historical, social, and structural links between North American religions and those beyond North American boundaries. We are committed to sponsoring sessions that explore fundamental questions that have shaped the field in the past or should shape it in the future.

The Unit sponsors roundtables, debates, workshops, performances, pre-circulated papers, and other creative formats. As always, this program unit also welcomes proposals for keyword panels based on important concepts in the field. We encourage the submission of both individual contributions and complete panels, though we may reconfigure proposed panels to place them on the conference program. For panel proposals, diversity of rank (including graduate student, post-doctorate, contingent faculty, and junior and senior participants), and gender, race, and ethnicity is strongly encouraged. We especially seek proposals from junior and contingent scholars. Presenters in any format should expect to give short presentations that maximize time for audience questions and comments. All presenters should explicitly relate research to ongoing discussions in the field and the wider academy. Please ensure that all submissions are anonymous.

In addition to the above, we seek proposals on the following topic for our 2021 meeting in San Antonio, Texas:
We especially invite proposals for papers and panels that decenter or problematize the United States as an orienting category for the study of religion in North America, and/or those that critically consider limitations and consequences of studying religion while relying on a US frame of reference. We encourage submissions from scholars who orient their work relative to non-U.S. geographies and political projects, as well as scholars doing work relative to the United States who seek opportunity to think critically about how the U.S. functions as a category in their research.

More specifically, in this vein, we seek:

Papers and panels that consider US or North American religions as they are studied or otherwise engaged from vantage points outside the United States or North America.

Papers and panels that explore the possibilities of a “post-American” study of religion.

Panels and papers that center borderlands, both as geographies and as sites of knowledge production relevant to the study of religion. Given our conference location in San Antonio, we seek work that thinks closely about the U.S.-Mexico border. We also invite work that considers the “U.S. Southwest” and other regions of the United States as a web of borders created by the boundaries of Native reservations. With both senses of border in mind, we encourage submissions that reflect on religion in relation to life in bordertowns. We seek submissions that think boldly about methods for the study of religion that emerge from and sufficiently respond to such places.

Papers and panels that consider religion relative to the United States as it represents a problem or challenge, for marginalized communities living within its boundaries, as well as global communities effected historically and currently by U.S. empire. We are interested, for example, in papers that consider religion as it exists in relation to efforts of U.S. territories and sovereign “small” nations, in the Caribbean and elsewhere, to negotiate asymmetrical power relations with the United States.

Panels that include participants who bring non-academic forms of expertise, or panels that otherwise experiment with form, in order to interrogate the ways in which norms undergirding the institutional study of religion in North America privilege those of a U.S. academy, and to push imaginatively in new directions.

Mission Statement:

Purpose, Practices & Procedures:

Purpose of an AAR Program unit:
The purpose of program units is twofold: to provide a forum for dialogue and exchange among differing approaches and projects in the field and to provide opportunities for the discussion of work that does not fall within the agendas that find other expressions in the Annual Meeting program. Program units should provide significant time for presenting research in the major subfields of religion.

Purpose of the North American Religions Program unit:
The North American Religions Program unit exists to sponsor conversations about the field at thematic, theoretical, definitional, experimental or historiographical levels, in order to ask where the study of North American religions is going or should be going. Such conversations embrace the diversity of scholars, disciplines, methods and traditions that make up the field.

Routine functions:
The Steering Committee composes the Call for Papers for NAR sessions for the AAR Annual Meeting; reviews, shapes and accepts proposals for those sessions; reviews and reports on sessions; and communicates with the NAR constituency.

Composition: The Steering Committee is made up of ten members, two of whom are elected by the members to serve as co-chairs. A Steering Committee term is three years, renewable for a second three years if everyone is amenable. The terms are staggered, so that there are continuity and change on the committee. During a total of six possible years, a member might serve a co-chair term, which is three years. A member elected to serve as co-chair has at least one full year’s experience on the Steering Committee. The co-chair elections are staggered as well, so that each new co-chair serves with an experienced co-chair.

The co-chairs take care of the business of NAR and moderate communication of the Steering Committee. All members of the Steering Committee make decisions on substantive matters. All attend the Annual Meeting and reserve Friday dinner for Steering Committee socializing, envisioning and business. All attend the NAR Business Meeting.

Members of the Steering Committee are replaced by the following procedure: when there is a vacancy, after the Annual Meeting the co-chairs ask the NAR constituency (via email) for nominations. From among the nominees, the Steering Committee votes to elect a new member.

The co-chairs maintain this “NAR Purpose, Practices & Procedures” document, make it available to the Steering Committee and the NAR constituency, and revise it as needed by vote of the Steering Committee.

Method of Submission:




Kathleen Holscher, kholscher@unm.edu

Isaac Weiner, weiner.141@osu.edu


Steering Committee:

Zaid Adhami, za2@williams.edu

Melissa Borja, mborja@umich.edu

Shreena Gandhi, shreenaniketa@gmail.com

Hillary Kaell, hillarykaell@gmail.com

Samira Mehta, smehta@post.harvard.edu

Barbara Sostaita, bsostaita@unc.edu

Angela Tarango, atarango@trinity.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 5 – Three 2-hour sessions and three 90-minute sessions

Next Review: 2025