Approved by the AAR Board of Directors January 11, 2023
On meeting in Texas
“ . . . Hold this piece of glass
Up to the light comin’ through the door
It’s a prism glass I found on the road
Can you see that little rainbow?
Well it’s not really a prism I guess
It just broke in a funny way
I found it on my way from Texas
Headed for L.A. . . .”
—“Step Inside This House”, Guy Clark, 1971
The story goes that “Step Inside This House” was the first song that the blessed Guy Clark, whose New York Times obituary named him “a King of the Texas Troubadours,” ever wrote, but also never recorded. With our 2023 annual meeting set for San Antonio in November, we understand that there are concerns about meeting in Texas, as there were in 2021. The challenges faced by immigrants, migrants, people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ persons in Texas are of real concern to us, and these important issues influence the programming and direction of the AAR.
We remain committed to holding the Annual Meeting as we have for over 100 years, though we recognize that holding our annual meeting in San Antonio, like the “prism glass” in Guy’s song, is layered and complex. The Annual Meeting provides the opportunity for us to gather together as scholars of religion, and our colleagues in Texas colleges and universities are asking us to come to San Antonio, to support them and be in solidarity with them. Even more, San Antonio is the largest majority Hispanic city in the United States, which is one of the reasons why the presidential theme is La Labor de Nuestras Manos. Over 75% of the city is people of color. And San Antonio is 4th in the nation in minority owned start-up businesses (the top 3 are all in California).
We also face the fiduciary responsibilities that we hold as a Board to safeguard the Academy and ensure the possibility of future meetings. The contract for the 2023 San Antonio meeting was signed in conjunction with the Society of Biblical Literature almost a decade ago, before the laws were passed that are concerning to many of us. If we break our contracts in Texas, we would, as a member organization, face a significant financial liability of well over $1 million (over one-third of our annual budget) or possibly even more.
So, should you avoid San Antonio for reasons related to human rights or funding sanctions against travel to Texas, we understand and honor your decision. If you do come, if you are able to “step inside this house,” to return to Guy’s words, we’ll be there to greet you and engage these critically important issues.
American Academy of Religion Board of Directors
Amir Hussain, President
Jin Y. Park, President-Elect
Leela Prasad, Vice President
Laurel Schneider, Secretary
Nadine Pence, Treasurer
Sabina Ali, Student Director
Whitney Bauman, Program Unit Director
Keri Day, At-Large Director
Nicole Kirk, Contingent Faculty Director
Lerone Martin, At-Large Director
Brian Pennington, Regions Director
Thelathia “Nikki” Young, Status Committee Director
Alice Hunt, Executive Director, ex officio