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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Gary Lease Memorial Lecture

lease_gary.250This past summer the opening lecture at the IAHR world congress in Germany was named as the Gary Lease Memorial Lecture, in honor of the onetime IAHR treasurer and also longtime NAASR member and former NAASR Executive Secretary/Treasurer. Gary, who died of cancer on January 4, 2008, was also the chair of UC Santa Cruz’s noted History of Consciousness program; he was a loyal and generous friend, a gifted teacher, and a critical interlocutor who was deeply committed to the study of religion as being but one element of the historical, human sciences.

The IAHR has established this lecture in his honor, taking place at each quinquennial world congress, and we’re inviting NAASR members to help fund this lectureship’s future costs (such as the travel and lodging for the designated lecturer). If you are able to contribute, whatever amount, then we recommend that you forward your donation to our Executive Director, Craig Martin, designating it for this purpose, and he will then collect all donations and forward them to the IAHR, earmarked specifically for this purpose.

Should you also wish to donate toward NAASR’s own operating expenses, then we’d welcome that as well.

All donations will receive a receipt from NAASR so that they can be claimed as a tax exempt donation (at least here in the US).

For more information on Gary, please consult this link.

Call for Papers: Method Today

NAASR 2016 ● San Antonio, TX ● November 18-19, 2016

With the success of the 2015 NAASR program—devoted to examining the current state of theory in the study of religion with four main papers plus responses—the 2016 program will retain the same format but turn its attention instead to the closely related topic of method. And because of the wide variety of methods used in the cross-disciplinary study of religion we’re proposing narrowing the focus to four key tools that all scholars of religion surely employ, regardless their approach to the study of religion: description, comparison, interpretation, and explanation.

The program committee is therefore inviting members to consider the place of each of these in the study of religion—recognizing that examining each opens conversations on far wider topics of relevance to NAASR’s mission, such as description being intimately linked to ethnography, viewpoint, first person authority (to name but a few). In much the same way, detailed consideration of the other three tools also leads into conversations on the basics of the field (E.g., Having survived critiques of comparison as ethnocentric, what is the future of comparative studies and how ought they to be carried out? Given the once dominant, but for some now discredited, place of hermeneutical approaches what is entailed in the interpretation of meaning today? And, despite their once prominent place several generations ago, what does one make of the continuing lack of interest in the academy in naturalistic, explanatory theories of religion?) This focus on method, by means of these four basic tools, therefore provides us with an opportunity to assess the current state of the field.

As with the 2015 program, three scholars who work in a variety of subfields will respond to each of the four main papers (thereby involving 16 participants in total). The four main, pre-circulated papers will only be summarized briefly at their sessions and a large portion of the sessions will again be reserved for open conversations; the goal is that all of the papers will then be published in a special issue of MTSR. Unlike last year, however, the Program Committee will commission the four main generative papers (based on hopes that they eventually contribute to a new NAASR book series, to be announced soon).

The call this year, then, is for 12 respondents who are willing to each tackle the statements made by one of the four main papers. A successful proposal to be a respondent must address only one of the four tools—description, comparison, interpretation, or explanation—briefly demonstrating how you understand the term, challenges for its use today, and what, for you, is at stake in its deployment in a specific historical, textual, or behavioral situation. Successful proposals, then, should briefly demonstrate an awareness for how one of these tools intersects with the history of our field and our current practices, which simultaneously demonstrates your preparation to offer a challenging and thought-provoking response at this year’s upcoming meeting.

Send your 250 word (max.) abstract to

NAASR’s Vice President, Aaron Hughes (aaron.hughes@rochester.edu),

by no later than March 01, 2016

Note: based on the success of the 2015 workshop, a NAASR jobs workshop will also be offered in 2016, organized again by Mike Graziano; more information on this will be circulated at a later date.

Click here for a pdf of this call for papers.

Call for Papers: Religion and Movement


An Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference
University of Chicago Divinity School
April 15-16, 2016
Keynote Speaker: Professor Thomas Tweed

The University of Chicago Divinity School is pleased to announce its first annual Graduate Student Conference, to be held on April 15th and 16th, 2016. This year’s theme is “Religion and Movement.” We understand the definitions of the conference’s constitutive categories—“religion” and “movement”—to be highly contingent and contestable, and therefore to be open to a multitude of varied interpretations. We invite papers that consider these topics from all disciplinary and methodological orientations. Papers may address any number of traditions, geographies, or historical time periods, but should involve sustained and self-conscious theoretical reflection on the conference themes.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to: immigration and/or migration; diaspora; pilgrimage; dance; ritual performance; spirit possession; movement within/between public and/or private spaces; embodied engagement with architecture or other material objects; the movement of capital or material culture.

Graduate students interested in applying to the conference should submit a CV and a paper abstract of 300-500 words to [uchidivinitygradconference@gmail.com] by January 15th, 2015. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by January 31st, 2016. We encourage students from all fields and all levels of graduate study with interdisciplinary interests in the study of religion to submit proposals. We are eager to support and engage the work of students who identify as members of groups typically under-represented in academia. Some financial support may be available to those students who require aid in order to attend.

We welcome any questions applicants might have and invite you to communicate directly with the organizing committee, which is made up of doctoral students from a number of the Divinity School’s subfields. Questions may be sent to us at [uchidivinitygradconference@gmail.com].

Books of Interest: Islam and the Tyranny of Authenticity

Hughes TyrannyAaron W. Hughes, Islam and the Tyranny of Authenticity (Equinox, 2016)

Many scholars of Islam are interested in creating a liberal, inclusive, pluralistic, feminist, and modern version of the religion that they believe to be explicit in the pages of the Qur’ān, but missed by earlier interpreters. In so doing, they create “good” Islam and, in the process, seek to define what does and does not get to count as authentic. As the purveyors of what they now believe to be veritable Islam, they subsequently claim that rival presentations are bastardizations based either on Orientalism and Islamophobia (if one is a non-Muslim) or misogyny and homophobia (if one is a Muslim that disagrees with them). Instead of engaging in critical scholarship, they engage in a constructive and theological project that they deceive themselves into thinking is both analytical and empirical. This book provides a hard-hitting examination of the spiritual motivations, rhetorical moves, and political implications associated with these apologetical discourses. It argues that what is at stake is relevance, and examines the consequences of engaging in mythopoesis as opposed to scholarship.