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NAASR 2021 Annual Meeting

Religion and the Study of Religion in Times of “Crisis”

The 2021 Annual Meeting will be in a COMPLETELY VIRTUAL format this year, and it will be held Friday-Sunday November 12-14. NAASR will host an online Keynote Address from Aaron Hughes, followed by a Roundtable Discussion to kickoff this year’s theme of “Crisis” in Religion and Religious Studies.  We will post the detailed program for the in-person meeting, with times and dates, as soon as we have confirmation. Looking forward to seeing you online soon.

Our theme:

For the past several years, NAASR’s meetings have featured panels that reflect on various dimensions of the study of religion (theory, method, data, key categories, and field). The experience of a global pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated existing crises, from racial justice and economic inequality, the breakdown of so-called democratic norms and institutions, to the crisis in the humanities.  Moreover, religion figures prominently in public discourse surrounding these trends. Yet, what happens when we classify something as a “crisis”? And what is at stake in linking these “crises” to “religion”?

NAASR 2021 Annual Meeting Program
Religion and the Study of Religion in Times of “Crisis”


NAASR Keynote Address: Crisis? What Crisis? The Study of Religion is Always in Crisis

Aaron Hughes (University of Rochester)

Roundtable: Critiquing Crisis in Higher Education

Paul Gareau (University of Alberta)
Lauren Horn Griffin (University of Alabama)
James Dennis LoRusso (Unaffiliated Scholar)
Russell McCutcheon (University of Alabama)
Craig Martin (St. Thomas Aquinas College)
Suzanne Owen (Leeds Trinity University College)

James Dennis LoRusso (Unaffiliated), Presiding

LOCUS: Landmarks in Religious Adaptations in the Face of Crisis

Moments of crisis provide a rich backdrop to observe how religion and religious groups themselves adapt and, sometimes, even thrive. History has shown that in times of political, cultural or social distress, religion offers people alternatives to cope with a crisis. At the same time, religion, either understood in institutional or communal terms, can be a force of change, prompting members and non-members to rethink and recreate the social milieu. Further, a religion itself changes by adapting its practices to the needs of the time. In this sense, a crisis may change religion, but religion also changes the way we approach and understand crisis.

This panel presents and discusses three instances of religious teachings, practices, and/or institutions adapting to crises in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and Russia. It theorizes that religions are not fixed entities but live constructions that, especially at times of crisis, adapt themselves at different levels, consolidating, changing, or enriching their place in society.


Xochiquetzal Luna (Wilfred Laurier University),
“’Social Church’ and ‘Pragmatic’ Relationship with the State: The Wager of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico and Orthodox Church in Russia in Times of Crisis”

Gustavo Moura (Wilfrid Laurier University)
“Yoga’s ‘Flexibility’ in Brazil During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Ben Szoller (University of Waterloo)
“Across the Land: How Subsidiarity and Solidarity Informed Catholic Responses to ‘Crisis’ in North America”

Ashley Lebner (Wilfrid Laurier University/Balsillie School of International Affairs), Responding

Doaa Shalabi (University of Waterloo), Presiding

LEXICON: Crisis as Method in the Study of Religion

Like all academic disciplines, the study of religion has developed in response to intellectual and social crises. Looking at the rise of neoliberalism, the propagation of conspiracy theories, and the critique of essentialism, the papers in this panel consider the impact of such frameworks on the larger work of teaching and theorizing religious studies as a discipline. How have crises become paradigms that are replicated in publications and pedagogies? Echoing Bruce Lincoln’s “Theses on Methods,” this panel considers different projects of persuasion exemplified in the critical study of religion in and through crisis.


Carmen Celestini (University of Waterloo/Centre on Hate, Bias, and Extremism)
“Pop Goes the People—Populism, Panics, and Pandemics”

Michael DeJonge (University of South Florida)
“The Crisis of World Religions and the Critique of Essentialism”

Matt Sheedy (University of Bonn)
“Enlarging Religious Studies, Wither-ing Neoliberalism”

Erin Roberts (University of South Carolina), Responding

Allison Isidore (University of Alabama), Presiding

LANGUAGE: Theorizing Crisis as “A Turning Point”

The etymology of the term crisis (from the Greek krisis) denotes a “decisive turning point.” While initially concerned with the progression of a disease, it captures the moment in which change is perceived as inevitable “for better or worse.” The papers in this panel examine the social rhetoric that emerges in historical moments of rupture, resistance, and reconstitution. Focusing on the relationships between language and authority, this panel offers theoretical, historical, and philosophical analyses of distinct case studies conceptualized as crises and the decision-making strategies employed by social agents.


Zoe Anthony (University of Toronto)
“Profit and Loss: The New Time of Crisis”

Aaron Treadwell (Middle Tennessee State University)
“Tongues of Fire: The Relationship Between Black Liberation Theology and Arson in the South”

Karen Zoppa (University of Winnipeg)
“Force of Law: Resources in Derrida for Rethinking Policing”

Andrew Durdin (Florida State University), Responding

Jacob Barrett (University of Alabama), Presiding

LOCUTION: Upending the Discipline—A Critical Roundtable on Crisis

“There is no crisis to which academics will not respond with a seminar.” – Marvin Bressler (1923-2010)

This year’s AAR Presidential Theme calls for “thinking about the actual human implications of religion in a world upended.” Given NAASR’s work as a critical engagement, this roundtable brings together senior and early-career scholars to assess this stated aim. What does it mean to frame the world which we study as a “world upended”? How can we think critically about not just crisis itself but also about what is constructed as “crisis”? What are the implications to our scholarly endeavors and our profession if responding to “crisis” becomes our modus operandi? How does this framework privilege certain voices or interests over others within the field (or within the objects of study)?


Brad Stoddard (McDaniel College)
Merinda Simmons (University of Alabama)
Emily Clark (Gonzaga University)
Adrian Hermann (University of Bonn)
Robyn Walsh (University of Miami)

Rebekka King (Middle Tennessee State University), Presiding

Business Meeting 

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