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The Religions, Medicines, and Healing Unit welcomes paper and/or panel proposals that explore specific intersections of religious and other healing traditions and practices. Proposals should address the social context of the topic, as well as theoretical and analytical frameworks, such as how this analysis helps us to understand religions, medicine, and healing in new ways. For 2021, we welcome any proposal that addresses our goals, and we have a particular interest in the following themes:

1) Faith in a Time of COVID-19: Religion and Public Health Measures: This panel invites papers that consider religious communities’ responses to public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, including restrictions on religious gatherings, mask wearing, and vaccine compliance. With attention to the history of medical racism and religious persecution, papers may also explore various communities’ experience of health disparities and access to healthcare. We especially welcome proposals addressing these issues from Africana and other Indigenous religious perspectives for potential co-sponsorship with the African Religions unit, the Indigenous Religious Traditions unit, and the Bioethics and Religion unit.

2) The Materiality of Asian Medicines and Religions Compared: This panel, co-sponsored by the Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit, invites paper proposals that compare the intersections of Asian medical traditions with Buddhism, Daoism, and/or Hinduism, with a particular focus on the material culture of healing. Topics may include the comparison of medical practices and practitioners, botanical knowledge, other materia medica, geographical routes of transmission, body map illustrations, surgery, merchants and markets, biographies, alchemical practices, gendered bodies, physical movements and bodily hygiene (such as yoga, martial arts, diet, etc.), food, medical records, and other material aspects of healing. Proposals should also attend to related theoretical issues.

3) Mormonism, Medicine, and Healing: This call, co-sponsored with the Mormon Studies Unit, seeks papers that examine the interrelated themes of both units by exploring medicine and healing in the Mormon tradition (broadly defined) from a variety of methodological approaches and historical eras. We especially appreciate papers that can connect their topics to lived traditions and practices among Mormons, past or present.

Graduate Student Award: Graduate students are the future of our profession and contribute substantially to the success of the Religions, Medicines, and Healing Unit by delivering papers based on original research. Through the RMH Graduate Student Paper Award, we recognize this contribution and encourage outstanding research by students. Papers will be evaluated for their originality, appropriate use of sources, and the quality of writing. Eligible students must 1) be actively enrolled in a doctoral program and pursuing a research topic in any discipline related to Religions, Medicines, and Healing, 2) have had a paper accepted by the RMH Unit for presentation at the 2021 Annual Meeting, and 3) have indicated when submitting their proposal that they are applying for the award. Further instructions will be emailed after proposal acceptance.

The Religions, Medicines, and Healing Unit is committed to the value of diversity, equity, and social justice in our standards of excellence.

Anonymity: Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members until after final acceptance/rejection.

Mission Statement:

The study of religions, medicines, and healing is a growing field within religious studies that draws on the disciplines and scholarship of history, anthropology (particularly medical anthropology), phenomenology, psychology, sociology, ethnic studies, ritual studies, gender studies, theology, political and economic theory, public health, bioscientific epidemiology, history of science, comparative religion, and other interdisciplinary approaches to interpret meanings assigned to illness, affliction, and suffering; healing, health, and well-being; healing systems and traditions, their interactions, and the factors that influence them; and related topics and issues. As a broad area of inquiry, this field incorporates diverse theoretical orientations and methodological strategies in order to develop theories and methods specific to the study of illness, health, healing, and associated social relations from religious studies perspectives. Although religious texts serve as important resources in this endeavor, so do the many approaches to the study of lived religion, religious embodiment and material culture, and popular expressions of religiosity. Finally, like its sister field of medical anthropology, the field of religions, medicines, and healing encourages examination of how affliction and healing affect social bodies through fractured identities, political divides, structural violence, and colonialism. We support the work of graduate students, religion scholars, scholar-activists, and scholars in allied fields. We promote collaboration with other interdisciplinary Program Units and those focused on particular traditions and/or regions.

Method of Submission:


We try to make the proposal acceptance process more transparent but encouraging everyone to submit a formal proposal on INSPIRE.



Kyrah Malika Daniels, kyrah.daniels@bc.edu

Kristy Slominski, kristy.slominski@gmail.com


Steering Committee:

Torang Asadi, torang.asadi@duke.edu

Lance D. Laird, llaird@bu.edu

Mark Lambert, lambert@uchicago.edu

Hajung Lee, hjlee@pugetsound.edu

William McGrath, wmcgrath01@manhattan.edu

Emily Wu, emily.wu@dominican.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 2 – Two 2-hour sessions

Next Review: 2025