January 29 2020

Western Region

Map of the AAR Western Region

2018 Western Regional Meeting

Institute of Buddhist Studies
Berkeley, CA
March 23–25, 2018

2018 Call for Papers

Conference Theme:
Religion and Kindness

The overall theme for the 2018 Conference is Religion and Kindness. We are using this idea in its broadest terms; sometimes admiring, sometimes damning, and may be some of the times authoritative, while in all other times passionate. We are hoping to encompass difference, racism, feminism, womanism, eco-justice, gender justice, sexual orientation, classism, colonialism, neocolonialism and all other -sims, seen through the eyes of religious studies scholars. Within the spiral of violence, fury, public anxieties and fears overflowing our contemporary world, it might be appropriate to tweak Pablo Neruda's famous poem: "Democracy where are you?" to read “Kindness where are you?” The pursuit for kindness, and its unbridled quest for attention, is not only an individual attribute but it has weaved together a diversity of human strands and continuous conversations. It is a core dimension of religion as it reveals itself in our sensitivities and insensitivities to all sufferings of others: as there is nothing trivial about human suffering. If we consider God, or nature, or the Universal, or spirit, or dharma, and so on, as not only compassionate but compassion in itself and for itself then ‘religions are us’ and kindness is a key issue for our progress towards all aspects of the pervasive power of being human. That is the main reason we never get tired of preaching, advocating and teaching kindness with all languages through time and trying to creatively live it? As scholars of religious studies we would like to explore the vision and the outcome of religion and kindness, and to put that forward within human cultivation, habitation into the highest ideals in the turmoil of human life.

General Instructions:

Extended deadline: October 20, 2017, is the deadline for submitting proposals via e-mail to unit chairs for papers for the 2018 AARWR Conference. Proposals or abstracts should be no more than 250 words in length and, along with participant forms, should be sent as an attachment to unit chair(s) at the e-mail addresses provided below. If you are proposing a panel of three to four papers, please include short abstracts for each paper on the panel, and a short description of your panel theme. You may only submit one proposal for the conference. 

Individuals whose proposals are accepted must be members of the AAR before the conference date in order to present. Here is detailed set of Guidelines for Presenters.

For any questions regarding the call for papers please contact the Program Chair Prof. Abdullahi Gallab at abdullahi.gallab@asu.edu.

Asian American Religious Studies

As the overall theme of the 2018 Conference is Religion and Kindness, by expanding the concept of what considers as religious virtues, kindness, Asian American Religion group proposes a topic of resiliency and human suffering within Asian American terrain. How does resiliency look like in Asian American community in response to the turmoil of human life, as immigrants, as living in the racist society? How can resiliency be fostered with effort of faith community? Or How can faith community motivate, lead the community, and people to foster the culture of kindness? Submit proposals to Thien-Huong T. Ninh, NinhT@crc.losrios.edu and Jeongyun Hur, jeongyun.hur@cst.edu.

Buddhist Studies

The Buddhist Studies unit invites papers on any topic exploring this year's conference theme.  We welcome papers covering any school of Buddhism and from all disciplinary approaches that address any facet of this year’s conference theme “Religion and Kindness,” directly or tangentially, or on other topics related to Buddhism.Please submit proposals to Dr. Alison C. Jameson at ajameson@email.arizona.edu and Jake Nagasawa at jnagasawa@umail.ucsb.edu.

Catholic Studies

In recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, this panel seeks papers that reflect critically on pedagogy, society, and religion. In line with the theme of the conference, how can Freire help us understand and practice generous pedagogies?  When is education “false generosity”?  How can Freire help us work toward critical pedagogies that take seriously the concrete experiences and knowledges of the oppressed?  What is the place and possibility of a “pedagogy of the oppressed” in classrooms and universities today?  What is or can be the role of teaching religion in political struggles? Please send your abstracts of up to 300 words to Kolby Knight, kknight@umail.ucsb.edu and/or Eva Braunstein, evabraunstein@umail.ucsb.edu. Please include your name, institution, and stage of career (e.g., PhD, graduate student). 

Ecology and Religion

Please note that the Ecology and Religion unit will host regular conference panels and will co-sponsor a pre-conference collaboration on Friday, March 23, 2018.  Please consider attending the Friday pre-conference event, in addition to weekend panels. Thank you!

Facing this unique historical moment while considering wide definitions of kindness, as articulated in the general AAR-WR CFP, what might religions through kindness do to address current environmental concerns? As the word kind is related to kin, abundance, and nation (from Proto-Germanic cynn, “family” and Old English kyndes, “nation, or produce, increase”) and related to benevolence (good action), how can religious notions of kindness bring about a more just, sustainable, and regenerative planetary community?  Can a wider sense of kinship be efficacious in meeting environmental goals and fulfill religious meaning? What role can kindness play in religious and ethical strategies for navigating toward a livable world? More practically, whose kindness is lacking?

If kindness is naturalized through litigious and religious means within local spaces of meaning-making, does this turn translate to environmentally responsible actions?  Are religious ideas merely making industrialized people feel better, while they continue to plunder the earth and marginalize suffering people?  Where do ideas and actions meet in environmentally religious and ethically ecological spaces? How might scholars and practitioners retrieve, reevaluate, and reconstruct religions, religious teachings, and religious ecologies to include other-than-human kin? How do religious teachings situate humanity within planetary existence together with other-than-humans from microorganisms to megafauna? If kindness arises from relations of care, how do religions facilitate care for “others,” including “strangers,” marginalized people, and other-than-humans, as well as those steering civilization toward ecological collapse? How do various technologies contribute to or interrupt kindness-oriented relations? How do people recognize structural inequalities and inhabit grounded meaning from an ethos involving reverence, respect, compassion, tolerance, pluralism, empathy, friendship, reciprocity, reparations, forgiveness, gratitude, care, love, generosity, tenderness, mindfulness, health, democracy, consensus, educational attainment, food security, energy autonomy, waste reduction, toxicity stewardship, biodiversity protection, climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental justice, and other compelling antidotes to dystopian directions?

We welcome proposals on ecology, kindness, and religion, perhaps answering any of the above questions, perhaps generating theological, ethical, critical, and other means of meeting real environmental challenges. Please send one proposal (approximately ½- to 1-page) to both unit chairs Sarah E. Robinson-Bertoni sarahrobinsonbertoni@gmail.com and Kimberly Carfore kimcar4@hotmail.com.


Anger is both constructive and destructive. In politics, we have seen both, especially since the last presidential election. Anger has fueled political activism at the grassroots level but has also deeply polarized the country. In philosophy, figures like Aristotle, Joseph Butler, and Martha Nussbaum have wrestled with the appropriate place of anger in the moral life. In religion, figures like Thich Nhat Hanh have reminded us to remain vigilant and not be overcome by it. This year, we are interested in exploring the ethics of anger. We are open to papers that approach anger from any perspective, context, or discipline as long as the paper contributes to a discussion of the ethics of anger. Possible topics might include the following: Is anger always wrong, or is it sometimes morally justified? Can expressing anger be consistent with different theories of justice or only the retributive model? What is the difference between anger and hatred? What does religion say about the retributive emotions? etc. Papers that connect anger to the conference theme—kindness—are especially welcome. Please email proposals to Greg Bock at gbock@uttyler.edu and Chad Bogosian at chad.bogosian@yahoo.com.

Goddess Studies

Specific to Goddess Studies, what are some of the ways women have been portrayed as kind in religious and mythic narrative or iconography? In which ways has the personification of kindness-as-feminine been damaging to women's roles in the larger socio-political context? Does this have specific implications for narratives including LGBTQ and people of color? Are there any narratives of figures which the mainstream has adopted as malevolent, but actually have much more nuanced and complicated histories? Please submit proposals to Drs. Angela Sells and Lauri Ramey at comingintobeing@gmail.com; and lramey@calstatela.edu.

Graduate Student Professional Development

The Graduate Student Professional Development (GSPD) Unit exists to nurture an ongoing conversation about vocational development among junior religion scholars in AAR's Western Region. If you have an idea for a paper or workshop-style presentation on growing our academic identities that you would like to share, please send a 150-word proposal abstract to GSPD Chair Chase L. Way (chase.laurelle.way@gmail.com), and GSPD Faculty Adviser Roy Whitaker (dwhitaker@mail.sdsu.edu). We are particularly interested in papers that relate to this year's conference theme, but are happy to consider any relevant submission.

History of Christianity

Scholars are invited to submit proposals exploring kindness (or lack thereof) throughout Christian history. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and Paul’s call to Charity (1 Corinthians 13) are primary examples of early articulations of kindness and ancillary notions of love, charity, and peace within the Christian tradition. Despite the centrality of love and kindness in the doctrine of their faith, adherents of Christianity have not always practiced kindness. Thus, the inconsistency of practiced Christian kindness throughout history is a relevant historical subject. The presence or absence of kindness is also a relevant topic in diverse historical periods such as the evangelization of pagan Europe, the Crusades of the Middle Ages, and the religious wars following the Protestant Reformation. The emergence of monastic religious orders throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages provides opportunity for refreshing looks at Christianity’s ability to show kindness to all humanity. Bringing the focus into recent history, papers focusing on kindness amidst religious and political polarization within the last few decades will be particularly welcome. All of these provide an opportunity for historical investigation and theological reflection on the centrality of love, kindness, and charity within the Christian tradition and the sometimes glaring absence of these attributes within Christian action. Submit proposal and participant form to David Houghton (davidhoughton@fuller.edu).

Indigenous Religions

The Indigenous Religions section off the AAR/WR invites submissions on any aspect of indigenous religions. The call is intentionally quite general as we are particularly keen to see what scholars in the region are working on and find of import in the field. We welcome submissions that relate to indigenous traditions themselves as well as those that approach how indigeneity is represented publicly. In relation to the conference theme for this meeting, we welcome papers that explore alternative notions of 'kindness' as they appear in particular indigenous traditions. How do particular indigenous traditions define and navigate what it is to be 'kind'? Please submit proposals to Kevin Whitesides (kevinwhitesides@umail.ucsb.eduand Brian Clearwater (bclearwater@oxy.edu).

Islamic Studies

The AAR's Western Region Islamic Studies Unit encourages papers and panel proposals in all areas of our field for the upcoming 2018 conference. From a religious studies perspective, our theme focuses on "Religion and Kindness," understood in broad and diverse terms (i.e. considering racism, feminism, womanism, eco-justice, gender justice, sexual orientation, classism, colonialism, neocolonialism, etc.). We encourage papers addressing questions such as the following: How have Muslim communities, organizations, and texts grappled with the concept of kindness and tolerance? In the context of the overall conference theme, we hope that your paper proposals will position, problematize, and offer insight on the concept of “religion and kindness.” We encourage individual papers as well panel proposals.
Proposals or abstracts to be sent to: Souad T. Ali, Arizona State University at Taj_1234@msn.com and Sophia Pandya, California State University, Long Beach at Sophiapandya@yahoo.com 

Jewish Studies

Sacred Challenging Topics in Judaism

In today’s violent world, many scholars of Judaism seek to reinterpret their respective sacred texts towards religiously legitimizing kindness, compassion, acceptance, and respect vis-à-vis other faith communities. Although the goal is to present a spectrum of insights, this panel’s focus is text-based. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, the following: racism, domestic violence, purity/impurity, polemics, asceticism, atonement, sexuality, heretics, LGBTQ issues, misogyny, and good and evil. The problem in extending charity or good will towards others is that these very principles, similar to other ideals such as “justice” or “beauty,” ultimately are relative. Clearly, what the “host” intends to be an act of charity might fall far from the mark of what the “recipient” needs or wants. This panel explores the challenges embedded in the concept of religious kindness. Send proposals to: Roberta Sabbath at roberta.sabbath@unlv.edu and Victoria Balmesat vballmes@umail.ucsb.edu

Latina, Latino, and Latin American Religion

The Latina, Latino, Latin American Religion section welcomes any and ALL submissions related to the study of Latinx and Latin American religion, especially those that expand interdisciplinary, critically engaged and intersectional approaches and methodologies.

Historically, the performance of benevolence and kindness of Christian missionaries served to both support and contest the colonial project in Latin America. In the current moment, kindness is also wielded to serve and contest social structures and regimes. We understand the discourse of kindness to be related to discourses of civility, especially as they apply to Latinx and Latin American communities and religiosities. Though  public discourses of kindness appear to promote inclusive dialogue and celebrate diversity, we also recognize kindness as a regulatory/authoritative mechanism of social control. We invite you to consider the following themes:

  • Kindness as revolutionary/radical and de-colonial love 
  • Kindness as it relates to migration and religious sanctuary movements 
  • Kindness, benevolence, and civility in the colonial project
  • Kindness and civility as mechanisms to regulate political speech, bodies, sexuality, and religious expression (both historically and in the contemporary moment) 

Please submit proposals and participant forms to Daisy Vargas (dvarg004@ucr.edu) and Lauren Frances Guerra (laurenguerra18@gmail.com).

Nineteenth Century

The Nineteenth Century Unit provides a forum for the study of various religions around the world in the nineteenth century. This year we invite papers or panels that reflect the 2018 conference theme, Religion and Kindness. We seek papers that explore how religious leaders, theologies, churches, religious groups, communes or sects sought (or in some cases were created) to eliminate injustices in society, promote inclusiveness, promote empathy/tolerance, or civility. We also welcome papers that explore how religious advocates of various social justice causes strained the bounds of kindness and civility through increasingly offensive polemics. We welcome papers that explore changing views on philanthropic kindness during the nineteenth century. Finally, we seek papers that specifically address advocacy from the religious press for a special nineteenth century panel. We welcome all methodologies.

Please send your proposal and participant form via email attachment to unit chairs Christina Littlefield at christina.littlefield@pepperdine.edu and Matt Crabb at mcrabb76@gmail.com. If you are proposing a panel of three to four papers, please include short abstracts for each paper on the panel, and a short description of your panel theme.

Pagan Studies

We invite an array of topics relating to the study of contemporary Paganism. We are particularly interested in papers that deal with the conference theme (Religion and Kindness). Papers might address the relationship between Pagan theo(a)logy and acts of kindness and/or compassion, such as Pagan environmentalism—recognizing the continuum of the life force, and Pagan acts of solidarity with Muslims, people of color, and other minority groups. Another thought, the effects of a spirituality that purposely, has no standard connecting community has on its ability to care for its senior members. Alternatively, papers might address gaps of kindness in contemporary Paganism (e.g. infighting (“witch wars” as it is called in the Wiccan movement)) and/or efforts to “get ahead” of these problems (e.g. conflict resolution and education over cultural appropriation, etc.). Dorothea Kahena Viale, dkviale@cpp.edu CalPoly Pomona and Michelle Mueller, Santa Clara University.

Pedagogy for Religious Studies

The Pedagogy for Religious Studies Unit (formerly the “teaching religion” unit, and most recently tied to the Graduate Student and Professional Development unit) is interested in the work many of us share: what we do with the students enrolled in our courses. Similar to the longstanding national AAR unit on “teaching religion” (https://papers.aarweb.org/content/teaching-religion-unit), this unit invites papers that explore innovative teaching practices and course design as well as the scholarship of teaching and learning.  In addition, the unit is a venue where individuals in the region can deepen their engagement in disciplinary debates and theoretical interests (e.g. various critiques of the idea of “religion”) by exploring their implications for how we design curriculum and structure courses (e.g. how design a survey that does not essentialize religion?).   The 2018 conference theme, which asks us to think about kindness, offers a great focus for pedagogical explorations along the lines above.  Does kindness, especially as “a core dimension of religion,” show up in our courses?  Do the concerns that gave rise to this year’s theme—suffering occasioned by “the spiral of violence, fury, public anxieties and fears overflowing our contemporary world”—show up in our courses? Those who answer in the affirmative might want to share best practices and/or their rationale; and those who do not are invited to reflect on why not?
Individuals are not restricted to the conference theme but are strongly encouraged to consider it in developing paper proposals.

Interested individuals should consult the general directions on the AAR/WR website (http://www.aarwr.com/call-for-papers.html) and e-mail their proposals and participant forms as an attachment to Philip Boo Riley (Religious Studies, Santa Clara University): priley@scu.edu and Melissa James melmjames@yahoo.com.

Philosophy of Religion

Can religious studies or the philosophy of religion lend insight to the following questions:

  • “What is kindness?” Perhaps one could begin at a more fundamental level: What are emotions?What would it mean to do a philosophy of religious emotions? Are there any uniquely religious emotions? What philosophical assumptions hinder or aid progress toward studying religious emotions in general, but also kindness in particular? 
  • Considered from an ethical perspective, are emotive states of anger and kindness oppositional, dialectical, or complimentary in nature? Can an emphasis on kindness be a hindrance to creating a just and tolerant (religiously or otherwise) society? Can anger fuel battles for justice? Can kindness be disguised as anger, or possibly even a subtle form of revenge, as Nietzsche suggests? Can anger, in contrast, express kindness?
  • From what philosophical or religious perspectives can emotions such as kindness be studied, and under which methodologies can scholars conceptualize kindness? In addition, how far-reaching can one legitimately extend the concept of kindness intellectually without it undermining itself? For instance, is a universal expectation of kindness possible, or is altruism truly possible? Considered globally and cross-culturally, how does the English word “kindness” correspond to and/or differ from related terms from non-English speaking cultures; e.g., bodhicitta in Buddhism?

Additional themes: What new, ignored, or disregarded topics deserve attention from those in the field of philosophy of religion today? Specifically, this unit encourages proposals that investigate Latino/a, African, and Asian approaches to philosophy of religion. Please submit proposals and participant forms to Paul Rodriguez (paul.rodriguez@chaffey.edu) and Dane Sawyer (dsawyer@laverne.edu).

Psychology, Culture, and Religion

Keeping with the annual theme of “Religion and Kindness,” the Psychology, Culture and Religion Section (PCR) welcomes proposals for papers that explore kindness as a psychological, cultural, theological, and moral force in our world today. Proposals may relate to inquiries such as: How does religion create space for adherents to employ kindness in adverse situations, and what is religion’s affect and/or psychological effects? How does religion hinder kindness? In which ways has religion used kindness to further subjugate marginalized and oppressed communities? How do differences in the expression of kindness (based on gender, race, class or disability) influence interpersonal, intercultural, and/or interreligious interactions? What is the psychological or cultural impact of religious doctrines that either cultivate feelings of empathy or lead to judgment and condemnation? Is the embodiment of kindness contagious, and to what extent are its contagious properties capable of stretching beyond person psychology, culture and or religion? How can religion inform acts of kindness as a form of resistance?

We welcome papers that explore kindness through these dynamics. We invite papers delving into the complex and intersectional relationship that kindness has with psychology, religion and culture. We are especially looking for creative proposals that re-imagine and re-define the boundaries of religion and kindness based on psychological terms to include the cognitive, the oral, the ritual, the psychic, the semiotic, the neurological, connectionism, and embodied ways to approach kindness. We seek papers covering all religious, non-religious, and spiritual traditions exploring any of the intersections and junctures within culture from all disciplinary approaches.

The deadline for proposals and participant forms to unit chairs is Monday, October 1st, 2017. Proposals should be no more than 250 words. Please follow call guidelines. Proposals that exceed 250 words will automatically be excluded. Presenters must be members in good standing of the American Academy of Religion and register for the conference prior to their presentation. Please submit abstracts to the attention of the section co-chairs, Philip Butler p.r.r.butler@gmail.com, Yuria Celidwen celidwen@hotmail.com, and Casey Crosbie casey.crosbie@cst.edu.  

Queer Studies in Religion

Life’s a Drag: Queer Identify, Religion, and Performance

What does the queer body and pedagogy look like in a world of religious dogma and performance art?  How does practicing one’s spirituality come into conflict with their sexuality and vice-versa? Can we find the G-d/G-ddess through queer performance art and how can we learn as queer religious scholars from our drag queen and kings of the past and create a more equal, tolerant, and accepting future for queer scholars in religion? Queer studies in religion seeks papers that engage a critical conversation between religion, performativity, the body and art.  For example, we are very interested in conversations about the religiosity of drag, performance studies and queer religious spiritual and sexual practices that help to define the queer body. Finally, queer studies in religion want to emphasize any type of scholarship that explores queer (LGBTQIA) studies in religion from queer identified or allied scholars both within and outside of the academy.

Please send a 250 word proposal alongside the program participant form to Queer Studies in Religion co-chairs John Erickson (jerickson85@gmail.com) and Marie Cartier (ezmerelda@earthlink.net). 

Religion and Social Science

Religion, Kindness, Altruism, and Pro-social Behavior

The Religion and Social Sciences unit invites papers that address the question, “How does religion differentiate kindness from scientific terms such as altruism, pro-social behavior, forgiveness, empathy, and compassion?” Particular attention will be given to papers that address the religious significance and differences between these concepts and how they are practiced. Is kindness measurable? If so, how? Possible avenues for exploration can examine religious ethical imperatives of kindness that identify norms and contexts for kindness and nuance the particularities of kindness. The topic of forgiveness may be of special interest, looking to the ways in which forgiveness has been used towards interpersonal and communal restoration.  However, forgiveness has a darker side and religious leaders have used forgiveness to ignore, suppress, silence, and marginalize victims of abuse.

Religion, Mental Health, and Spiritual Care and Counseling

The Religion and Social Sciences invites a special call that addresses the theory and practice of kindness in the contexts of care. Specifically, this call seeks to address the unique contributions religious studies offers the fields of spiritual care, pastoral counseling, and licensed clinical work. This call will pay particular attention to liberative paradigms that equip care seekers with tools to cope with racism, oppression, and social injustice. An additional focus may attend to mindfulness-based, intercultural, and interfaith approaches to care. Submit proposals to Hester Oberman (heoberman@msn.edu) and Joseph Paxton (joseph.paxton@cst.edu)

Religion and the Arts

We welcome a wide variety of papers, workshops, and/or fully developed panels (3-4 papers) on the intersectionality between the arts, religion, and kindness. Art is used here in the broad sense: folk, iconography, animation, performance, comedy, photography, video, TV, graffiti, and music, to name a few areas. Religion is also used in the broad sense—including ultimate concern orientations. Proposals may respond not only to dimensions of altruism, goodwill, and magnanimity, but also their interplay with vice, tragedy, and suffering in religion and art. Though not an exhaustive list, below are a handful of questions that may guide your submission (with the expectation that your paper will be significantly narrowed down): 

  • Are there current theories, methodologies, schools of thought, and/or sub-disciplines (e.g., space art, feminism, naïve art, Afrofuturism, ecology, humanism, pop art, comic books) that deserve more attention from scholars of religion, art, and kindness?  
  • What role does the academy play and not play in framing conversations on religion, art, and kindness?    
  • Is there a latest book(s), individual(s), and/or article(s) that needs assessing/critiquing from an art, religious, and kindness point of view?  
  • How do resistance causes (e.g., Black Lives Matters, Women Marches, forms of hip hop) use religion, art, and kindness in their movements?  
  • How is the discussion on religion, art, and kindness occurring outside U.S. borders (that is, countries, cities, communities in places like Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East)?  
  • Must all religious art be political?    
  • How is God and kindness conceived in non-Western religious art forms (e.g., Buddhist, Taoist, and Caribbean traditions)?   
  • What does it mean to be a religious studies scholar who does art and kindness studies? What does it mean to be a scholar of art and kindness and do religious studies?  

Other topics, ideas, and themes not listed here are certainly welcome too. Please send an abstract of no more than 350 words, with a title above the abstract, and participant form to unit chairs Roy Whitaker (dwhitaker@mail.sdsu.edu) and Al Silva (acsilva@umail.ucsb.edu).

Religion in America

In light of the larger conference theme devoted to “Kindness,” the Religion in American section welcomes any and all submissions related to the study of American religion as it relates to “Kindness,” especially those that expand interdisciplinary approaches to the study of religion and offer new insight into the current state of religion in America. 

While “Kindness” is a term that lacks exact definition, it is often used in the contemporary moment to denote sentiments of tolerance, civility, and general spirituality. Within the context of American religion, “Kindness” has been used as a means of promoting ideas of diversity, pluralism, and inclusivity, as well as social and political activism. At the same time, the discourse of “Kindness” (i.e., “benevolence,” “rescue,” “love,” etc.) has been utilized to both control and oppress. For this reason, critiques of “Kindness” remain necessary. Among other approaches, a critical consideration of “Kindness” might look at how it is connected to narratives of the secular and secularization, or even “post-” narratives. We invite you to consider the following themes:

  • Kindness rhetoric as it relates to the current political climate in the U.S.
  • Kindness as related to “spirituality,” religion-as-ethics, and the various “post-” narratives
  • Critiques of Kindness as a source of morality and social control
  • The “Kindness of the King” -- sovereignty and the sovereign self
  • Religious education and the public discourse of Kindness
  • Appropriation of Kindness within New Religious Movements

Please submit proposals and participant forms to Nathan Fredrickson (nfredrickson@umail.ucsb.edu), Cristina Rosetti (crose005@ucr.edu), and Konden Smith (krsmith1@asu.edu).

Religion, Literature, and Film

The Religion, Literature, and Film unit welcomes proposals addressing various religions or themes related to religious spirituality, practices, principles, psychology, and philosophy as presented in contemporary literature or contemporary films. We are open to proposals that explore fictional and non-fictional representations of religion and/or religious themes as represented through literature and film. Specific interests of the unit are proposals of an interdisciplinary studies approach to examining religion, literature, and film. In addition, the unit welcomes proposals that explore the relevance or non-relevance vitality or breakdown of religion as reflected in cultural or social zeitgeist.  In concurrence with the regional conference theme of Religion and Kindness, the Religion, Literature, and Film unit is specifically interested in proposals that explore individual and collective religions and spirituality concerned with personal and cultural mythos, principles, and practices that emanate and influence not only kindness but empathy and compassion in self and other.

Please send a 250-word proposal and your 2018 program participation form to section chairs Emmanuelle Patrice at empstork2233@gmail.com and Jon R. Stone at jrstone@csulb.edu

Religions of Asia

Promoting inclusivity and excellence in scholarship, this section invites individual papers covering a variety of religious and cultural traditions to explore all aspects of Religions of Asia. This year, we are especially interested in papers that relate to the conference’s 2018 overall theme of "religion and kindness". Where and how has kindness been instantiated within the living and historical contexts of Asian religions, and with what effects? How can particular models of kindness found within religions of Asia -- whether paradigmatic or innovative by nature -- be analyzed in order to gain new insights into these traditions, and their unique visions for ethical and moral leadership, transformative spirituality, etc.? Do unconventional forms of kindness present themselves within the religions of Asia (e.g. fierce or iconoclastic kindness; wise and justified authoritarianism, etc.)—and, if so, with what implications? How is kindness discussed and treated across the contemporary landscapes of religions of Asia? How do ideas in Asia about religions inform ideologies within culture more broadly? We encourage the submission of papers that utilize interdisciplinary and non-traditional approaches to research. Other topics and themes of interest to the Religions of Asia group include: ways in which Asian religions interact with art, music, material culture, and ideology; rites of passage (birth, marriage, death, etc.); sacred spaces; the body as location for religious experience or ideology; religious and/or secular rituals or performances; gender and religion; religion and ecology; sacred text; or storytelling and oral tradition. Please send abstracts as email attachments to Anna M. Hennessey, dr.amhennessey@gmail.com and Michael Reading, michael.reading@cst.edu. We look forward to receiving your proposals.

Religion, Science, and Technology

We invite submissions for religious research contributions that offer discussions of aspects of human-technology interface and science-enhanced humanity, especially with regards to love, kindness, sympathy, harmony, tolerance, etc.

Kindness is part of the human existential condition. This session zooms in on this human condition of kindness in an attempt to investigate how human beings employ science and technology to cope with this condition. Science and technology are both the solution and the problem: they are used to increase our kindness but at the same time, they engender our animosity. And this is inevitably so. Scholars are invited to provide theoretical contributions for a descriptive and normative religious framework that will allow us to engage sciences and employ technologies to increase human kindness. Scholars are also invited to articulate religious ethics and political theological views of kindness that are able to deal with the impacts of new sciences and emerging technologies on the human condition. Topical focus for papers: challenges of robotization on kindness and humanity; inter-religious views on science, technology, and robotics; total automation and humanity; biosciences and humanity enhancement; emerging technologies and human vulnerability; kindness of the cyber; self-driven vehicles and human kindness.

Send proposals to Enrico Beltramini ebeltramini@ndnu.edu and Marianne Delaporte mdelaporte@ndnu.edu​


This group provides a forum for religious scholarship that engages theoretically and methodologically the four-part definition of a Womanist as coined by Alice Walker. We nurture interdisciplinary scholarship, encourage interfaith dialogue, and seek to engage scholars and practitioners in fields outside the study of religion. We are particularly concerned with fostering scholarship that bridges theory and practice and addresses issues of public policy in church and society.

Session I: Womanist Session 
Topical Focus – Womanist Ways of Kindness

What is kindness? What is compassion?  What is civility? There are womanist ways of kindness that are passed down through generations, or that are learned in communal and collegial encounters. What lessons can be learned when kindness is offered genuinely, with conditions, or withheld? We invite presenters to review perspectives and practices of African American / Pan African women and especially seek papers that place emphasis on examining the philosophical, theological, ethical, or practical modes in which women’s lived experiences reveal elements of kindness through either (1) communal praxis of embodying kindness, (2) discernment / survival mechanisms to navigate when inauthentic kindness is encountered, (3) understanding kindness as a public responsibility for the well-being of self and others, or (4) interpretations of kindness in theology, spirituality, and biblical, sacred, or guiding text. 

Session II: Pan African Session
Topical Focus: Praxeological Ethos of Kindness

We seek contributions that explore the gendered, social, political, ritual, transnational dimensions of religious scholarship throughout the African Diaspora. We encourage papers that critically reflect on the international diversity of African and African American Diaspora and the faith traditions and religious experiences in line with the regional conference theme. This call focuses topically on gender justice and social justice with special attention to the experiences of the Black Experience throughout the Diaspora. This includes the immigrant experience, and is not limited to American or Continental experience, but also global Black African, Caribbean and other African Diasporic lived experience of injustice. Further, in patriarchal societies, Pan-African women’s human rights status can be tenuous with violence commonplace against females in some countries. We ask for papers t hat critically addresses in what ways can kindness be embodied as an ethos to work toward gender justice – how do women utilize their religious beliefs and spheres of influence in praxis to promote gender equality and challenge unjust gender disparities and even violence? We ask in what ways can kindness be demonstrated and brought forward given the current rise of hate in this nation and the revealed cultural tensions along intersectional axes of identities (race, citizenship, gender and other cultural anthropological identities).Moreover, in what ways do religion and spiritual practices impact and operate in the lives of those of the Black Experience throughout the Diaspora which are “life giving and not death dealing.” (Mercy Oduyoye).

Please send both a 250 word proposal to indicate which session you are submitting and the program participant form to Valerie Miles-Tribble, vmiles-tribble@absw.edu and Sakena Young-Scaggsat revsys@asu.edu by Monday, October 1, 2017. We are eager and excited begin another transforming and progressive year in Womanist/Pan African Religious scholarship in the Western Region.  

Women in Religion

critiqued the expectation for self-sacrifice bound into such roles and religious identities. As such, the Women in Religion Unit chairs find the 2018 AAR WR Conference theme a rich ground for discussion and academic inquiry. The Women in Religion Unit welcomes paper proposals that engage the conference theme of “Religion and Kindness,” as it pertains to the life of women and womyn in religion(s), broadly conceived. Papers on any topic related to Women/Womyn in Religion will also be considered. Please send your 250-word proposal and participant form to Emily Silverman ebinah@gmail.com and Sara Frykenberg sara.frykenberg@gmail.com. We look forward to receiving your proposal. 

Joint sessions

Pagan Studies and Religion and the Arts

We invite paper proposals analyzing Pagan ideas in STARZ’s American Gods (based on the novel by Neil Gaiman) for a co-sponsored panel with Religion and the Arts. How does it speak to our society today, where violence appears to be re-emerging? What ideas can we explore in preparing for the future? Does it point us towards kindness, a new relationship with deity, or ways to critically look at what is happening today? Other papers are also welcome. Send proposals to: Dorothea Kahena Viale (dkviale@cpp.edu); Michelle Mueller (mbmueller@scu.edu); Roy Whitaker (dwhitaker@mail.sdsu.edu); and Al Silva (acsilva@umail.ucsb.edu).

Visas for International Participants

From time to time international participants contact the AARWR and request a personal invitation to attend the conference, which they present as a necessary step in order to obtain a visa. In March 2015 the Board decided that we do not have the resources to support requests that involve visas, and so we adopted a formal policy that we do not get involved in visa issues.

Note, our policy at the regional level differs from the national policy and so such inquirers are encouraged to investigate possibilities for attending the national conference and are referred to the AAR national website http://www.aarweb.org/.