2020 Regional Meetings

Open Calls for Papers:

Undergraduate Deadline: December 15, 2019

Deadline: December 16, 2019

Upper Midwest
Deadline: December 31, 2019

Pacific Northwest
Deadline: January 3, 2020

Deadline: January 10, 2020

New England-Maritimes
Deadline: January 19, 2020

Eastern International
Deadline: February 1, 2020

Open Registration:




AAR Plenary Sessions at the 2015 Annual Meetings, Atlanta

Annual Meeting Banner

Plenary Panel: Ra​cial Injustice and Religious Response from Selma to Ferguson (A21-145)

Saturday – 11:45 AM–12:45 PM
Hyatt Regency

The Annual Meeting theme, “Valuing the Study of Religion,” includes pondering how religion has been valued—and devalued—in the public sphere. Addressing a variety of social contexts from the legislature to the streets, panelists will analyze religious responses to racial injustice. In 2015, the fiftieth anniversary of the historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, attending to injustice seems more morally urgent than ever. Encompassing both the historical trajectory that led us to this painful moment and the religious resources activists have employed, this conversation brings together notable voices to offer their assessments of the contemporary situation. Ruby Sales, the human rights activist and public theologian who joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s and later founded a non-profit organization dedicated to racial, economic, and social justice, will join Cornel West, distinguished scholar and intellectual, in a conversation with Professor Imani Perry, a celebrated scholar of African American Studies and Law who has written eloquently about racial injustice and “pathways to freedom, equality, and enriched democracy.”

Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary

Cornel WestCornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is a Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. Cornel West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his MA and PhD in Philosophy at Princeton. He has written over twenty books and has edited thirteen. Though he is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, his most recent releases, Black Prophetic Fire and Radical King, were received with critical acclaim.

Dr. West has made three spoken word albums including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert. His spoken word interludes were featured on Terence Blanchard’s Choices (which won the Grand Prix in France for the best Jazz Album of the year of 2009), The Cornel West Theory’s Second Rome, Raheem DeVaughn’s Grammy-nominated Love & War: Masterpeace, and most recently on Bootsy Collins’ The Funk Capital of the World. In short, Cornel West has a passion to invite a variety of people from all walks of life into his world of ideas in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.—a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.

Ruby Nell Sales, SpiritHouse Project, Atlanta, GA

Ruby Nell SalesRuby Nell Sales looks at her work as a calling rather than a career. She answered the call to social justice at Tuskegee Institute where she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked on voter registration in Lowndes County, Alabama.

Sales received a BA degree from Manhattanville College and attended graduate school at Princeton University. Sales received a Masters of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School where she was an Absalom Jones Scholar. While there, she developed a reputation as a preacher and has preached at churches and cathedrals around the nation. After divinity school, she founded a national nonprofit organization, the SpiritHouse Project, which she continues to direct.

Sales has received numerous awards and honors. She was selected and honored as a HistoryMaker and a Veteran of Hope by Vincent G. Harding. She was inducted into the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers and is the recipient of the Beautiful Are Their Feet Award from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. An oral history of her is housed at the Library of Congress. In May 2015, Sales received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Sales is well regarded for her work with young people. As a social justice activist, Sales’ work is cited in several books, journal articles and films such as Broken Ground: A Film on Race Relations in the South and Dan Rather’s American Dream Segment. Sales is one of the founders of SAGE Magazine: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. As a social critic, Sales has published works in several journals, newspapers and magazines and is a frequent guest on Pacifica Radio. Sales lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia.

Imani Perry, Princeton University

Imani PerryImani Perry is the Hughes Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of two books: More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Rac​ial Inequality in the United States (NYU, 2011) and Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop (Duke, 2004). She is also editor of the Barnes and Noble Classics edition of the Narrative of Sojourner Truth, and the author of numerous scholarly articles in the fields of Law, Literary and Cultural Studies. In addition to providing radio and television commentary, Perry has written book reviews for the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the London School of Economics book review blog.

Thomas A. Tweed, University of Notre Dame
Presidential Address: Valuing the Study o​f Religion (A22-150)

Sunday – 11:45 AM–12:45 PM
Hyatt Regency

Thomas Tweed

In this plenary, Tweed addresses urgent issues we face within and beyond the academy by asking about how the study of religion is valued. That means, first, analyzing how it is valued—and devalued—in the public arena, and discerning what that can tell us about how to refine the usual arguments for the importance of the study of religion and, thereby, help endangered programs fare better in negotiations with administrators and stakeholders.

Second, attending to this theme also encourages us to identify the epistemic, moral, and aesthetic values we enact in our work. Gaining more clarity about those values, Tweed proposes, can help us more effectively confront two challenges we face in the AAR: how to advance the divisive conversation about divergent approaches and how to enhance our ongoing discussion about professional obligations. Thinking about our obligations can begin by identifying the commitments encoded in AAR policies and procedures, but we must go farther. Tweed suggests that we have to think more about professional ethics—from institutions’ duty to report graduate student placement rates to individual researchers’ obligation to adhere to standards of professional conduct—and we must remain vigilant in addressing trends that violate shared commitments and endanger professional life—from the recent rise in contingent faculty to the chilling challenges to academic freedom.

Finally, a focus on values allows us to address divisions within the academy by reframing the stale debate about the relation between Religious Studies and Theology. By frankly acknowledging our guiding values—and concomitant normative judgments—we will not resolve all differences, but we might gain more clarity about what we share and what we don’t.

Tweed is the Harold and Martha Welch Professor of American Studies and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He is also Faculty Fellow in the Institute of Latino Studies and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. Previously, he taught at the University of Texas, the University of Miami, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. At UNC he was Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, Zachary Smith Distinguished Professor, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, and founding director of the First Year Seminar Program.

Tweed’s research has been supported by several grants and fellowships, including three from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He edited Retelling U.S. Religious History and co-edited Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History, which Choice named an “outstanding academic book.” He also wrote The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844–1912: Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent and Our Lady of the Exile: Diasporic Religion at a Cuban Catholic Shrine in Miami, which won the American Academy of Religion’s book award. Tweed’s Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion was published in 2006, and his most recent book, “America’s Church”: The National Shrine and Catholic Presence in the Nation’s Capital, also received the AAR’s book award for historical studies.

His professional service has included work as external reviewer, expert witness, blog contributor, and media consultant. He has led workshops for high school teachers and been on the editorial board of journals, including Church History and History of Religions. Tweed had served on several AAR committees and juries and co-chaired the North American Religions Section before being elected to the Board of Directors in 2012 and serving as president in 2015.

The Moral Challenges of Research: A Panel on the AAR's Draft Statement on Responsible Research Practices (A22-200)

Sunday – 1:00 PM–2:30 PM
Hyatt Regency

The American Academy of Religion has issued guidelines on many practices, including teaching and hiring. But, unlike most other ACLS organizations, we have no guidelines regarding research. A group of ten scholars led by AAR President Thomas Tweed and Executive Director Jack Fitzmier has drafted proposed guidelines on responsible research practices. That proposal has emerged from the group’s discussions, as well as from conversations with members at a public session in 2014 and an online forum in 2015. This session aims to continue that wider conversation and solicit more comments about the draft. Toward those ends, the group that wrote the document will be present to listen to suggestions and questions from the audience and the panelists. The historians, translators, and fieldworkers on the panel have been asked to identify moral dilemmas they have faced in their own research and to assess the effectiveness of the newly drafted statement in dealing with those challenges. After hearing the panelists’ reflections, we will invite members of the audience to offer their own comments. We hope that this final conversation will refine our understanding of researchers’ responsibilities and lead to a more nuanced and comprehensive final draft, which the group plans to submit to the AAR Board of Directors for its consideration in 2016.

Wendy Cadge, Brandeis University

Wendy CadgeWendy Cadge is a Professor of Sociology and Chair of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. She teaches and writes about religion in the contemporary United States, especially as it relates to healthcare, immigration and sexuality. She is the author of Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine (University of Chicago Press, 2012) and Heartwood: the First Generation of Theravada Buddhism in America (University of Chicago Press 2005). She is also a co-editor of Religion on the Edge: De-Centering and Re-centering the Sociology of Religion (Oxford University Press).

Kathryn Lofton, Yale University

Kathryn LoftonKathryn Lofton is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies and Professor of American Studies, Religious Studies, History and Divinity at Yale University. She is a historian of religion with a focus on the cultural and intellectual history of the United States. She has published on a variety of subjects, including American celebrity, Protestant fundamentalism, office cubicles, Oprah Winfrey, religious modernism, nineteenth-century ritual theory and the relationship between religious history and religious studies. Her current research projects focus on the culture concept of the Goldman Sachs Group and the religious contexts of Bob Dylan. For her work at Yale, she won the 2010 Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching, the 2013 Sarai Ribicoff Award for the Encouragement of Teaching at Yale College, and the 2013 Graduate Mentor Award in the Humanities.

Afe Adogame, University of Edinburgh

Afe AdogameAfe Adogame holds a PhD in History of Religions from the University of Bayreuth, Germany (1998). He serves as an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and World Christianity and Director International and Convener of School’s Research Ethics Committee at New College, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. His fields of research and teaching expertise include: Religion and Civil Society; Indigenous African Religions and Religions of the African Diaspora; African New Religious Movements; African Christianities; Religion, Migration, and Globalization; Religion and Sports; and Methods and Theory in the Study of Religion. He has published extensively in these and related topics. His most recent publications include: (ed.) The Public Face of African New Religious Movements in Diaspora: Imagining the Religious ‘Other’ (Ashgate, 2014); (eds.) Africa in Scotland, Scotland in Africa: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Hybridities (Brill, 2014); and The African Christian Diaspora: New Currents and Emerging Trends in World Christianity (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013). He is the General Secretary of the African Association for the Study of Religions (AASR); serves on the Steering Committees of the AAR’s Sociology of Religion and Religion and Migration Groups. He received the AAR Collaborative International Research Grant in 2013–2014 on the theme: The Feminization of New Immigrant African Pentecostal Diasporic Religious Cultures.

Laurie L. Patton, Middlebury

Laurie Patton Photo by MeltzLaurie Patton became President of Middlebury on July 1, 2015. Previously she was Dean of Arts & Sciences at Duke University and the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Cultural Anthropology. Dr. Patton came to Duke in 2011 from Emory University, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions and inaugural director of Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in the office of the Provost. While at Emory, Dr. Patton served as chair of the religion department from 2000–2007, founded and co-convened the Religions and the Human Spirit Strategic Plan, and received the Emory Williams Award—Emory’s most prestigious honor for teaching—in 2005.

A graduate of Harvard (BA) and the University of Chicago (PhD), Dr. Patton is an accomplished scholar and the author or editor of nine books on South Asian history, culture, and religion. In addition, she has translated the classical Sanskrit text, the Bhagavad Gita, and has published two books of poetry. She has lectured widely on interfaith issues and religion and public life, and consulted with White House offices on faith-based initiatives and civic engagement. Dr. Patton is completing two further monographs—one on scholars in the public sphere and another on women, Sanskrit, and religious identity in postcolonial India.

“Normativity” and the Academic Study of Religion: Reframing the Conversation about Theology and Religious Studies (A23-147)

Monday – 11:45 AM–12:45 PM
Hyatt Regency

This conversation focuses on one of the most enduring and difficult issues facing the Academy: what is the relation between Theology and Religious Studies? Tom Tweed will initiate an exchange between Ann Taves, a distinguished scholar of Religious Studies, and Graham Ward, a distinguished scholar of Theology, by asking each to identify the epistemic, moral, and aesthetic values that inform their work. They then will explore what they share and what they don’t. The session will end with the panelists proposing how we might reframe the conversation in more useful ways.

Ann Taves, University of California, Santa Barbara

Ann TavesAnn Taves is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1983. She has held faculty appointments at the Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University. She is the author of numerous books and articles, including Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton 1999) and Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things (Princeton 2009). She held a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 2008–2009 and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. She is a past president of the American Academy of Religion and president elect of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion. She is currently working on a book titled Revelatory Events: Experiences and Appraisals in the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths and supervising the interdisciplinary Religion, Experience, and Mind Lab Group at UCSB.

Graham Ward, University of Oxford

Graham WardGraham Ward is the Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and former Head of the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures at the University of Manchester. Among his books are Cities of God (Routledge), Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice (CUP), True Religion (Blackwell), Christ and Culture (Blackwell), The Politics of Discipleship (Baker Academic) and Unbelievable (I.B. Tauris). Along with Michael Hoelzl, he is also the translator of two of Carl Schmitt’s works: Political Theology II (Polity) and Dictatorship (Polity). He edits three book series: Christian Theologians in Context (OUP), Illuminations (Blackwell) and Studies in Theology and Political Culture (Continuum). Currently he is engaged in a four-volume work entitled Ethical Life. The first volume, How the Light Gets In is to be published by Oxford University Press in 2016.