2017 Biennial Meeting

Biennial Conference May 15-17, 2017

Religion and Time

SAR meets every other year for a vibrant and diverse conference of research and ideas in the anthropology of religion. The next meeting of SAR will be in New Orleans, Louisiana from May 15 to May 17, 2017. The theme of the meeting will be “Religion and Time” (see abstract below).

Meeting Information:

When: May 15 to May 17, 2017

Where: Dinwiddie Hall, Tulane University

Address: Dinwiddie Hall, St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118

Rates: Best Western Plus St. Charles Inn: $135 King and double (no additional charge for triple or quad); Hampton Inn Garden District Hotel: $169 King and double (no additional charge for triple or quad); Parkview Historic Hotel: $179

Phone: Best Western Plus St. Charles Inn: 800-489-9908; Hampton Inn Garden District Hotel: 800-292-0653; Parkview Historic Hotel: 888-533-0746. (Reservations must be made by phone. Refer to: Society for the Anthropology of Religion to book the group rate).

Reservation deadline is January 31 for Parkview, March 30 for Best Western, and April 14 for Hampton Inn.


Meeting Abstract:

Religion and Time

Anthropologists of religion have long been aware of the intertwining of religion and time. Not only do religions draw on time to create the temporalities that structure daily life and the life cycle but they also exist in time. The millennial anxieties centering on the transition to the 21st century, alarmist claims that the Maya calendar predicted the end of the world in 2012, and more diffuse evangelical Christian concerns about the End of Times are a vivid reminder that time shapes and is shaped by religious doctrine and practice. These cases of apocalyptic fervor can also perhaps be taken to signal that this is a good moment to explore critically the multiple connections between religion and time.

From its Durkheimian and Weberian roots onward, the anthropology of religion has attended to the functions and the flow of time in religious life. Ritual time has been described as standing “out of time” or as having it own temporality. Far from unfolding like the so-called linear time of secularism, religious time, anthropologists have shown, is often cyclical—or “ruptured.” It may reverse or stop secular temporalities, create opportunities for transcending them, or punctuate their uniformity. Classic works have stressed how a focus on the past has helped animate communities, anchor truths, mystify the workings of power, explain the unforeseen, or deal with misfortune. The future too is a matter of great concern, one that religions address in a variety of theoretical and pragmatic ways.

Religion offers an unusually productive window into human temporalities as classic works in the anthropology of religion—from Émile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss to E. E. Evans-Pritchard to Edmund Leach, Alfred Gell, Mary Douglas, and Clifford Geertz—have shown. If anthropologists of religion have focused on certain issues, they have also neglected others. This conference will provide opportunities not only to revisit classic concerns but also to consider in what new directions a focus on time and temporality can take us.

The works of Johannes Fabian and Michel-Rolph Trouillot have brought new awareness of how assumptions about temporality have facilitated yet also limited anthropological theories of society and history. Meanwhile other scholars have examined the making of religious communities through a focus on the temporal imagination. More recent explorations of temporality and being-in-time have highlighted further the centrality of time in human experience. They have also raised new questions about agency, affect, futurity, the life course, the work of memory, and the politics of hope, among other things. A key goal of this conference is to bring the anthropology of religion in explicit conversation with the anthropology of time.

The Society for the Anthropology of Religion therefore invites its members to consider the ways in which time figures and functions in religious experience. How might we revisit classic topics of the anthropology of religion through the lens of time? What kinds of temporalities does the work of religion help create or modify? How might an attention to temporality, duration, or eventfulness enrich our models of structure and agency? In what ways does time matter in religious experience and what insights might a focus on temporal matters offer into the experience of conversion, witchcraft, divination, morality, or prayer, to name but a few possible topics of investigation? What do we mean by “the everyday” in relation to ethical or moral practice?

It is hoped that such an agenda will stimulate participants to explore a wide range of issues, old and new, and consider how their approaches to time might generate new conversations with not just history but also theology or economics, for instance. Some possible panel topics are listed below, but these are intended simply as possible points of departure. Participants should feel free to select any topic they wish to explore so long as it addresses the relation between religion and time.

Possible Panels or Sub-Topics

Religion as a Portal to the Past

Ritual and Time

Religion, Rupture, and Continuity


Religion and the Weight of the Past

Religion and Being-in-Time

Religion in Time

Messianic Time

Religion and History


Religion and Futurity

Religious as Suspended Time

Moral, Immoral, and Amoral Temporalities

Divine Calendars

Religion and the Politics of Time

Religion and the Everyday


Individual abstracts, panel proposals, and questions about presentations and panels should be sent to [email protected] by the extended deadline of February 20, 2017.

The default format for individual abstracts and panels is the same as for the annual AAA conference, but proposers are welcome to suggest alternative formats that can be fitted into the timing of the program.