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In 2021 the Religion and Popular Culture Unit is moving two panels from 2020’s pre-COVID program to this year’s programming. That said, we still have space for multiple panels and are calling for proposals in the following areas:

The Western/Cowboy Genre in American Mythology. Recognizing the 2021 Annual Meeting’s location in Texas, we welcome proposals on connections and tensions between the individual and the collective in the Western genre, including sacralized representations of vigilantism and law enforcement in contemporary popular culture (copaganda?): How might we re-evaluate the Western’s classic narrative of vigilante justice in light of ongoing police violence against vulnerable populations? We are also interested in mythic representation of the other in the Western: How does this genre naturalize and celebrate the white settlement of the Western states? We welcome analysis of literature, radio, TV, films, video games, etc.

The New Geography of Religion and Popular Culture. Physical spaces across the world are changing due to economic, political, and public health transitions that are having lasting effects on communities. We are interested in how these changes are causing both losses of old religious and popular culture practices, the revival and reconstruction of supposedly bygone practices (e.g., drive-ins), and the development of new and innovative practices in physical space. We invite papers that both report on and theorize these developments.

New Modes of Delivery as a Methodological Challenge and Opportunity. How does the availability of streaming services, extensive back catalogues, and online archives affect the way we research religion and popular culture?

Media and Ritual during the Pandemic. How has the COVID pandemic changed the way that religious organizations engage popular culture and use it to maintain social bonds in an era of social distancing? We are particularly interested in ritual changes and innovations that have developed during this time and what their long-term significance appears to be.

QAnon and “Conspirituality.” QAnon has brought Evangelical and New Age/Wellness/Yoga communities into proximity in an unusual and unprecedented way. We welcome considerations (and criticisms) of the concept of “conspirituality” --conspiracy theories that fuel and form a new church, soteriologies propagated on Reddit and social media, and memes that globalize paranoia.

2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the film Fiddler on the Roof and The Study of Judaism and Religion and Popular Culture Units are co-sponsoring a call for papers exploring the film; the Broadway show and its many revivals, including amateur and international productions; and/or the Sholem Aleichem stories. We are particularly interested in theoretically driven papers, including those that question the politics of nostalgia, the universalizing of the shtetl, and gender and sexuality.

The Literature of Ted Chiang – for a potential co-sponsored panel with the Arts, Literature, and Religion Unit and the Science Fiction and Religion Unit. We solicit proposals that engage the work of Ted Chiang in tandem with theories or tropes of religion and/or science fiction. We are receptive to a wide range of critical approaches that engage any of Chiang’s novels, short stories or collections.

Open Call. We welcome any and all proposals that are not specifically mentioned in the call for papers and we are specifically interested in topics and theoretical insights from outside North America.

Mission Statement:

This Unit is dedicated to the scholarly exploration of religious expression in a variety of cultural settings. We encourage a multidisciplinary display of scholarship in our sessions and are committed to taking popular culture seriously as an arena of religious and theological reflection and practice.

Method of Submission:




David Feltmate, dfeltmat@aum.edu

Elijah Siegler, sieglere@cofc.edu


Steering Committee:

Linda Ceriello, LCCeriello@gmail.com

Eden Consenstein, edenc@princeton.edu

Roger A. Sneed, roger.sneed@furman.edu

James Thrall, jthrall@knox.edu

Daniel White Hodge, dan@whitehodge.com

America Wolff, aaw19d@my.fsu.edu


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

Next Review: 2021