2015 Biennial Meeting

Biennial Conference April 16-19, 2015

Religion, Ritual and Morality

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 San Diego, California from April 16 to April 19, 2015. The theme of the meeting will be “Religion, Ritual and Morality” (see abstract below).

Meeting Information:

When: April 16 to April 19, 2015

Where: Handlery Hotel

Address: 950 Hotel Circle North, San Diego California.

Rates: $119 Single and Double, $139 Triple and Quad

Phone: 619-298-0511 or 800-676-6567. (Refer to: Society for the Anthropology of Religion to book the group rate).

You can also book the group rate here.

Reservation deadline is March 17, 2015.

Submitting Papers and Panels for the Meeting

The Program Committee for the Meeting is now accepting paper and panel submissions. Paper abstracts should be not more than 250 words and should include the presenter’s name, institution, and email address. Panel Abstracts should be not more than 500 words (not counting the abstracts for the constituent papers). Panels can be of a range of sizes. Paper and panel abstracts should be submitted to the Chair of the Program Committee, Professor Adeline Masquelier <[email protected]>. Submissions will close on January 15, 2015.

Meeting Abstract:

Religion, Ritual and Morality

The anthropology of morality and ethics is growing rapidly at present. Anthropologists of religion have a long history of treating these topics, at least implicitly. But the great contemporary theoretical ferment around issues of morality and ethics means that this is a good moment to explore their importance for the anthropology of religion, and to consider the ways our work on this topic connects us to other areas of anthropology.

From its Durkheimian (and Weberian) roots forward, the anthropology of religion andritual has attended to the role of moral norms and values in shaping social action. Ritual has long been seen as a forum in which moral goods are defined and moral evils are explored and sometimes vanquished. Anthropologists of religion have also investigated the key role religious doctrines play in fostering moral motivations and rendering moral systems coherent and attractive to those who live with them. Many classic works in the anthropology of religion – from Evans-Pritchard to Mary Douglas, Victor Turner and Roy Rappaport – are filled with trenchant observations concerning the bearing of religion and ritual on moral life.

Yet perhaps because the classic anthropology of religion was so saturated with data on morality and ethics, this topic was not always directly theorized. Recent work focused on ethics and religion has changed this situation. This work has shown how issues of morality and ethics are central to considerations of agency, power, meaning,and economic life. It has also posed new questions around topics like self-fashioning,freedom, social breakdown, cognition, health and emotion.

A key goal of this conference is to bring all of this new work – much of it done by members of SAR – into explicit dialogue with the anthropology of religion. How might we revisit classic anthropological theories of topics such as witchcraft, sacrifice, religious meaning, cosmology, healing, the nature of ritual efficacy, conversion, religious change,or religious charity in relation to questions of ethics and morality? What new theoretical vistas open up when we consider important themes of the emerging anthropology of ethics such as breakdown, the ordinary, and the power of emotions in relation to our studies of religion and ritual?

The anthropology of morality and ethics is currently wide-open, with a vast range of topics and approaches developing at once. It is hoped this conference will reflect this kind of openness. There is room for panels and papers on all manner of topics, from the most traditional to the previously untouched. Some possible panel topics are suggested below, but this is just to stimulate further ideas. Members should feel free to take the topic in any directions they find of interest that bear on the relationship between ritual,religion and morality.

Possible Panels or Sub-Topics

Ritual, Agency and Morality

Religion and Moral Change

Is There Such Thing as a Secular Ethics?

Religion and Moral Self-Formation

Religion, Psychology and Ethics

Religion, Ritual and Moral Emotions

Freedom, Ritual and Religion

Religious Politics and Morality

Religion and Moral Authority

Witchcraft as Moral Practice

Religion, Morality and the Law

Immorality and Religious Transgression

Religion and Evil

Religion and Medical Ethics

Millenarianism, Morality and Agency

2014 Geertz Prize open for nominations

The Society for the Anthropology of Religion would like to announce our annual juried competition for the Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion. The Geertz Prize seeks to encourage excellence in the anthropology of religion by recognizing an outstanding recent book in the field. The prize is named in honor of the late Professor Clifford Geertz, in recognition of his many distinguished   contributions to the anthropological study of religion. In awarding the Prize, the Society hopes to foster innovative scholarship, the integration of theory with ethnography, and the connection of the anthropology of religion to the larger world.

Any single-authored or co-authored book focusing on the anthropology of religion, broadly defined, is eligible for the Prize. Edited volumes, textbooks, and reference works are not eligible, nor are works in which religion is a secondary subject. The book’s author need not be an anthropologist by profession, but the work should draw on and respond to research and theory within the anthropology of religion. Books must have a publication date of 2012 or later. Books that have already been reviewed for the Prize will not be reconsidered.

The prize will be awarded at SAR’s business meeting at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in November, 2014.

To receive additional information on how to submit a book for consideration, please send a flyer about the book to Jonathan Hill, Chair of the Geertz Prize Committee (email: jhill “at” siu “dot” edu).

A pdf of the call for nominations is available for download here.

2013 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion

2013 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion and Honorable Mention

The SAR is pleased to announce the winner of the seventh annual Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion: Michael Lempert’s Discipline and Debate: The Language of Violence in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery (University of California Press, 2012). Honorable mention is awarded to Sherine Hamdy for Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt (University of California Press, 2012).

Following a rigorous competition of nearly 30 monographs, the SAR Prize Jury (Jordan Haug, Janet Hoskins, Paul Johnson, Tulasi Srinivas and ourselves) as well as prize coordinator, Lauren Leve, are pleased to award the Clifford Geertz prize that celebrates innovative recent books that integrate theory with ethnography and that connect the anthropology of religion to the larger world.

The Honorable Mention goes to Sherine Hamdy for her beautifully rendered ethnography Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt. Sherine Hamdy is a medical anthropologist interested in notions of the body, health, and death among Muslims in Egypt. Drawing on fieldwork in Cairo and the Nile Delta, her book weaves ethnography among the sick in Egypt with insights regarding Islamic theological debates about organ donation. This highly readable and empathetic monograph shows how religious ethics are continuously made and remade in relation to socio-economic, political, and individual circumstances. The jury agreed that it was eye-opening, utterly engrossing, and hard to put down.

Our grand prize goes to Michael Lempert for Discipline and Debate: The Language of Violence in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. Lempert conducted fieldwork for several years in the late 1990s in Sera Mey, India at a large Tibetan monastery of 4,500 monks. His moving, compelling and highly original book vividly captures tensions in the disciplinary methods adopted in this Tibetan diasporic monastery and effectively deconstructs the Dalai Lama’s representation of Buddhism as inherently non-violent.

Lempert’s book offers vibrant insight into religious education and everyday life in Buddhist monasteries but also speaks to broader topics such as violence and non-violence, ritual, self-cultivation, and liberalism. He shows how reason is central to the tradition’s discursive diasporic pedagogy. The author employs meticulous ethnographic and linguistic-based methodologies to illustrate how in practice Tibetan Buddhist monks are shaping the tradition in ways that differ from its primary texts and from the promotional treatises of its leader to foreign audiences. How are theological abstractions materialized through embodied and interactive practices (2012: 10)? How are these rituals received? Are they effective in eliciting the sympathies of their audiences? Drawing on hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings of monastic assemblies, debate practices, and interviews, Lempert offers rich responses to these inquiries. He examines these semiotic interactions largely by referring to linguistic anthropology, without, as one jury member noted, “getting too technical.” While taking on these language-based issues, the book also comes to significant conclusions about the dynamism of Buddhism and the pragmatics of appropriation and emulation of beliefs outside of Tibet.

In sum, Discipline and Debate is well written and clear about its contribution to other literatures without being overburdened by them. Members of the jury agreed that this book is Geertzian in ambition and tone and tells a really good story.

Congratulations both to 2013 Clifford Geertz Prize winner Michael Lempert and to Sherine Hamdy.

By Amira Mittermaier and Jennifer Selby (SAR Book Prize Jury Members)

2013 Biennial SAR Meeting Schedule and Abstracts

Final Schedule

We’ve finished the final schedule for our Biennial Meeting next week in Pasadena, April 11-14 (click on the link to download the schedule as a pdf file). You should find your panel and paper listed. Abstracts for papers are available here (click on the link to download all of the abstracts as a pdf).

We’re looking forward to seeing you at the meetings.

 

(P.S. It is best to use firefox or safari when viewing these pdfs in a browser’s tab or window. For some reason google chrome is currently unable to view these pdfs in it’s browser tabs. Sorry).

2013 Biennial SAR Meeting-Preliminary Schedule

Preliminary Schedule

Here is the Preliminary Schedule for our Biennial Meeting in Pasadena, April 11-14 (click on the link to download the schedule as a docx file). You should find your panel listed here and be able to make travel arrangements with this in mind.

Discounted Hotel Reservations

Please remember that the special discount rate we negotiated at the Pasadena Hilton ($65/person in a double, $49/person in a triple) will expire on March 21st. For hotel reservations and SAR discount visit this link.Group Name: American Anthropological Association. Conference Code: SARS.

Registration

If you have not yet registered, consider doing so through AnthroGateway–the AAA’s website for meeting registration. Those who register through the link above before March 11, 2013 will get the lower online registration rate.

We look forward to seeing many of you in Pasadena soon!

Preliminary Schedule

Society for the Anthropology of Religion

 

Biennial Meeting – 2013

 

Please note that this schedule is correct in terms of the times and days of sessions, but more details will be added before it is printed (e.g. do not worry if your affiliation is not currently listed).  We have allotted 20 minutes per paper on panels.  Many panels also include extra time for discussion.  For ease of reference, the schedule lists only the panel titles.  If you have sent in an abstract for a single paper, please see the list of panels that appears after the schedule to find out in which panel your paper is included.  If you are part of a submitted panel, you can just look for your panel name below.

 

THURSDAY APRIL 11

5:00 Registration   San Gabriel Foyer

Book Display 5:00-7:30 pm

Evening Reception  6:00-8:00 pm San Gabriel foyer, Pasadena Hilton

 

FRIDAY APRIL 12 

7:30 Registration  

8:00-5:00  Book Display

8:00am – 9:15am

  1. Esoteric Encounters, Occult Mixtures and Ritual Inventions in African Diasporic Spiritual Tradition
  2. Syncretism as Theory: Deleuzian Assemblages, Affects, Intensities and Virtualities in the Anthropology of Religion (Part 1)

 

9:15am – 10:45am

  1. The Politics of Religious Mixture in the Black Atlantic
  2. Syncretism as Theory (Part 2)

 

9:15am – 12:00pm

  1. Shamanism, Christianity, and the State

 

10:00 – 12:30

  1. Tradition and Faith, Discourse and Change

 

10:00 – 12:30

  1.  Shamanism, Christianity, and the StateTradition and Faith, Discourse and Change

 

10:30 – 12:30

  1. Indigenous Christianity and Evangelical Christians

10:45 – 12:30

  1. Roundtable on Anthropologists in Religious Studies Departments

 

12:30pm – 2:30pm LUNCH

 

2:30pm – 4:30pm

  1. Roundtable on Material Objects and Christian Identities

 

3:00pm – 4:30pm

  1. Conversion and Return Conversion
  2. Religion, Education, and Health

 

5:00pm

Presidential Lecture – Janet Hoskins

 

SATURDAY APRIL 13

8:00 am Registration

9:00-5:00 Book Display

8:30am – 10:30am

  1. Towards an Anthropology of Catholicism: Carnality, Ambiguity, and ‘the Homely’ (Part 1)
  2. Political Theologies: Intersections with Secularism, Nationalism, and Other Religions (Part 1)
  3. Religious Creativity, Eclecticism, and the Arts
  4. Syncretism, Religion, and Community Development

 

10:30am – 12:30pm

  1. Leadership Roles and Political Organization

 

10:45am – 12:30pm

  1. Towards an Anthropology of Catholicism (Part 2)
  2. Political Theologies (Part 2)
  3. Syncretic Muharram: Shi’i  Muslim Minorities and the Performance of Ethnicity and Nationalism

 

12:30am – 2:30pm  LUNCH

 

2:30pm – 5:00pm

Presidential Panel and Discussion

(Joel Robbins, Charles Stewart, Robert Weller)

6:00pm

Rappaport Lecture – J. Lorand Matory

 

SUNDAY APRIL 14

8:30am – 10:30am

  1. Contemplative Ethnography

 

8:30am – 11:00am

  1. Ethnicity, Religion and Cultural Differences

 

10:15am – 12:00am

  1. Weber’s Theory of Value and the Study of Religious Moralities as they Engage with a Society of Alternatives

 

10:30am – 12:00am

  1. Economy, Development, and Recovery

 

Panels and Participants for Panels Made Up of Volunteered Papers 

Groupings of paper proposals (Authors, Affiliations, & Titles)

1)           Shamanism, Christianity, and the State

Gonzalez, Toni   “The Religious Connotations of Chultuns”

Kile, Lora (Arizona State) “The Necessity of Bricolage: The Worldview of the Sixteenth Century Friars”

Bishop, Joyce   (California State University, Sacramento) “Asking for the Virgin’s Hand: An Indigenous Interpretation of Christmas”

Abse , Edward    (Virgina Commonwealth) “Seeing double in Mazatec shamanic visions: Schismogenetic transformations of syncretism in a Catholicized Mesoamerican religion”

García Molina, Andrés (California – Berkeley) “The Yajé Harmonica: A study in syncretism, synergy, and agency”

Hill, Jonathan (Southern Illinois – Carbondale) “Conversion as Rupture, Conversion as Preservation: Exploring the Paucity of Syncretistic Religions in Indigenous Amazonia”

Mustafina, Raushan (N. Gumilyev Eurasian National – Kazakhstan) “Religious traditions of the Kazakhs

 

2)             Ethnicity, Religion, and Cultural Difference

Crosson, J. Brent (California- Santa Cruz) “Religious Synergies Without Syncretism: Healing, Harm and Solidarity through Difference in Trinidad”

Tsuji, Teruyuki (St. Louis) “Sharing Mothers: Religious Conflict and Hyphenation”

Evrard, Amy Young (Gettysburg) “Forming a Christian Identity in Oman”

Theodoropoulos, Anastasia (New Mexico) “Wholly Brazilian and Wholly Orthodox: Paradoxes of Simultaneity in Brazilian Orthodox Christianity

Premawardhana, Devaka (Harvard) “Symbiosis: Asian Theologian Alyosius Pieris’ Critique of Syncretism and its Relevance for Anthropology”

Swazey, Kelli (Hawaii) “‘Returning’ culture to the church: Christian responses to the public redefinition of the relationship of religion and culture in representations of regional identity in North Sulawesi, Indonesia”

 

3)             Conversion and Return Conversion

Ozgul, Ceren (CUNY Graduate Center) “Is Sincerity Secular?: The Politics of Armenian Return Conversions in Turkey

Ozyurek, Esra (California – San Diego) “Being German, Becoming Muslim: Religious Conversion, Salafism, and Belonging in Germany”

Stephan, Christopher (UCLA) “Krishna works in mysterious ways”: Is it Syncretism? The case of Hare Christna

 

4)             Indigenous Christianity and Evangelical Christians

Marshall, Kimberly (Oklahoma) “ Soaking Songs and Musical Resonance: Navigating Continuity and Discontinuity  with Diné (Navajo) Pentecostals”

Howell, Brian (Wheaton) “Anthropology and the Making of Billy Graham”

Santos, Jorge (MetroState) “Historical Trauma and the Rejection of Syncretism”

Reynolds, Lydia (Biola) “The Curse of the Dragon: Theological Shifts in the Cosmology of a Modernizing Sikkimese Hill Tribe and the Ethnographic Study of Indigenous Christianity”

Hammons, Christian (Southern California) “Animism and the Art of Not Being Governed in Sumatra”

 

5)             Economy, Development, and Recovery

Scott, Rachelle (Tennessee) “The Beckoning Spirit of Thailand:  Locating Nang Kwak in Thai Religious Spaces”

Dunstan, Adam (Buffalo) “Toxic desecration: indigenous knowledge and environmentalism in the battle for a sacred mountain”

Kornfeld, Moshe (Michigan) “Interfaith Synergies and Boundary Maintenance in Post-Katrina New Orleans”

Junge, Benjamin (SUNY – New Paltz) “The Energy of Others’: Narratives of Envy and Purification among Former Leaders from the Porto Alegre Participatory Budget”

 

6)             Religious Creativity, Eclecticism, and the Arts

Zehner, Edwin “Hybridity” in Thai Society and Religion: Limits of a Concept

Moro, Pamela (Willamette) “Thai Music, Dance, and Religion in Diaspora:  Synergetic Performance and the Production of Heritage at Transnational Buddhist Temples”

Ginossar, Sagi (Hebrew – Jerusalem) “Change is the law of nature”: Innovations in a Western Himalayan cosmology

Vann, Jodi Ann (Arizona State) “Spiritual Souvenirs: Contemporary Pagan Pilgrimage and the Embodied Biography of Postmodern Religion

Weibel, Deana “Syncretism in the Service of Colonialism: The Universalizing Approach of Religious Creativism”

 

7)             Leadership Roles and Political Organization

Shalev, Guy (North Carolina  – Chapel Hill) “Competing Charismas: Negotiating Leadership and Practice in a Sufi Order”

Roy, Arpan (California State – Los Angeles) “No God But . . . : Secularizing the Palestine Solidarity Movement

Spencer, Belinda (Brigham Young) “An Issue of Legitimacy: Hmong Religious and Ethnonational Borders in Northern Thailand”

Hickman, Jacob (Brigham Yount) “The Art of Being Governed: Managing the Soul of General Vang Pao through the Rituals of Aspirational Statecraft”

Evans, Nicholas (Cambridge) “Islamic disputation and the creation of a pious sociality”

8)             Tradition and Faith, Discourse and Change

Mauricio Junior, Cleonardo (U. Federal Pernambuco – Brazil) “The Commensals of the Word: Emotions and Body in the constitution of  charismatic Brazilian believers”

Landes, David “The Impossibility of Tradition”

Lee, Ken (California State – Northridge) “Immediate Birth in the Pure Land: A Study of Shinjin in Shinran’s Buddhism”

Henn, Alexander (Arizona State) “Syncretism Reconsidered: Space, Memory and Health in Hindu–‐Catholic Popular Religion in Goa (India)”

Nagle, Jim “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi “

Gonsalves, Roselle (Calgary) “The Social Diaspora: Rebuilding Communal Identity for Goan Catholics in the Canadian Diaspora”

 

9)             Religion, Education and Health

Sood, Anubha (Washington – St Louis) “Sacred pain as a modality of healing from psychological ailments: Case of the Balaji temple in Rajasthan, India”

Cappy, Christina (Wisconsin-Madison) “At the Intersection of Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics: The Role of Ubuntu in South African Public Policy”

Brashinsky, Joshua  “Cultivating Discontinuity: Pentecostal Pedagogies of Yielding and Control”

Cosmologies of Credit Receives 2012 Geertz Prize

2012 First Prize

SAR has awarded the 2012 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion to Cosmologies of Credit: Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China by Julie Chu (Duke University Press, 2010). In her monograph Chu, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, crafts a masterful depiction of the cosmology of aspiration in Fuzhou, China. She focuses on Fuzhounese efforts to recast their social horizons beyond the limitations of “peasant life” in China. Transcending utilitarian questions of risks and rewards, she considers the overflow of aspirations in the Fuzhounese pursuit of transnational destinations. Chu attends not just to the migration of bodies, but also to flows of shipping containers, planes, luggage, immigration papers, money, food, prayers, and gods. By analyzing the intersections and disjunctures of these various flows, she explains how mobility operates as a sign embodied through everyday encounters and in the transactions of persons and things. The prize was awarded at the general business meeting of SAR during the annual meeting of AAA.

Lauren Leve, Chair of the 2012 Geertz Prize Committee, presents the Geertz Prize in Anthropology of Religion to Julie Chu.
Lauren Leve, Chair of the 2012 Geertz Prize Committee, presents the Geertz Prize in Anthropology of Religion to Julie Chu.

2012 Honorable Mention

In addition to the First Prize, the 2012 Geertz Prize Committee awarded an Honorable Mention to Stambeli: Music, Trance and Alterity in Tunisia, by Richard C. Jankowski (University of Chicago Press, 2010). In his monograph, Jankowsky, an Associate Professor of Music in Ethnomusicology at Tufts University, presents a vivid ethnographic account of the healing trance music created by the descendants of sub-Saharan slaves brought to Tunisia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Stambeli music calls upon an elaborate pantheon of sub-Saharan spirits and North African Muslim saints to heal humans through ritualized trance. The book explores the way the music evokes the cross-cultural, migratory past of its originators and their encounters with the Arab-Islamic world in which they found themselves. Stambeli, Jankowsky avers, is thoroughly marked by a sense of otherness—the healing spirits, the founding musicians, and the instruments mostly come from outside Tunisia—which creates a unique space for profoundly meaningful interactions between sub-Saharan and North African people, beliefs, histories, and aesthetics.

 

Evey year, SAR selects an excellent book in the anthropology of religion to honor Clifford Geertz, one of one of the field’s best-known representatives. For past recipients of the Geertz Prize and other Honorable Mentions, details on nominations for future prizes, and other information relating to the Geertz Prize please visit the dedicated Geertz Prize page.

2013 Geertz Prize open for nominations

The Society for the Anthropology of Religion would like to announce our annual juried competition for the Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion. Any single-authored or co-authored book focusing on the anthropology of religion, broadly defined, is eligible for the Prize. The Geertz Prize seeks to encourage excellence in the anthropology of religion by recognizing an outstanding recent book in the field. This year’s Prize coordinator is Lauren Leve. To submit a book for consideration, please send six (6) copies to the Prize committee by March 31, 2013. For full details, see the Geertz Prize page.

The prize is named in honor of the late Professor Clifford Geertz, in recognition of his many distinguished contributions to the anthropological study of religion. In awarding the Prize, the Society hopes to foster innovative scholarship, the integration of theory with ethnography, and the connection of the anthropology of religion to the larger world.

2013 SAR Biennial Meeting

Society for the Anthropology of Religion

Biennial Conference April 12-14, 2013

Religious Syncretisms and Synergies

To be held at the Pasadena Hilton, Pasadena, California

Deadline for paper submission: January 15, 2013 February 1, 2013

Send papers and panel proposals as PDF or Word Documents (including author or organizer email address) to SAR Program Chair Joel Robbins

[email protected]

Paper proposals should be under 200 words, and panel abstracts under 1000 words

The aim of this conference will be to explore interactions between different systems of belief and practice, but to take this idea a bit further than usual models of “conversations between religions”, or “interfaith dialogues”.  The encounters between different religions engender new forms of ritual and new ways of thinking which are not a simple “blending” of different elements but a more complex alchemical mix.

Anthropologists have long studied the diversity of different religions and have particularly concentrated on documenting “disappearing traditions” using a salvage model.  However, a recent more dynamic turn in theorizing religion and ritual has emphasized the mutual constitution and oppositional energy that goes into new religious understandings of the world.  Even when a group makes claims to “timeless authenticity”, this claim to continuity is a choreographed effect.  It may be accompanied by campaigns to “purify” the faith of undesirable elements, but each religious “reform” is not really a “return” to the original but a spiral which circles in new directions even as it tries to return to the origin.

“Syncretism”, which in a general sense refers to any combination of mixing of different traditions of belief, has become a controversial term. Some regard it as a pejorative term, referring to local versions of notionally standard `world religions’ which are deemed `inauthentic’ because saturated with indigenous content. It is said to imply that the mixture is in some way undigested, contradictory, in defiance of the “essence” of the individual faiths that are being combined.  Syncretic versions of Christianity, for example, are those that do not conform to `official’ (read `European’) models. In other contexts however, the syncretic combination of religions may be used as a way to resist colonial hegemony, a sign of cultural survival or revitalization, or as a means of legitimate political dominance in a multicultural state.

Yet in many cases today we confront religious formation for which this great/little, orthodox/folk model of religious encounter is not the most helpful.  Instead, we encounter a series of paradoxical religious forms in the contemporary world that appear paradoxical in the light of these older approaches to religious change: “indigenous” religions with a global outreach and cosmopolitan ambitions, “traditions” regularly re-invented to face new challenges, and highly localized interpretations of the “world religions” which integrate many new elements into a narrative of doctrinal consistency.

The conference would focus on the ethnography of religious combinations and re-combinations, some of them cast within the language of “conversion” and rupture, others cast within the language of continuity and persistence.  The policing of the borders of religions and the punishing of those who transgress them has long been an important function of religious hierarchies, creating heretics, apostates and outcasts.  But almost any study of localized practices will find signs of innovation, intersections and idiosyncratic interpretations.

This conference will focus on these innovations, intersections and idiosyncratic interpretations, in an effort to understand how globalization and new forms of media, migration and movement have de-stabilized conventional notions of the “world religions”, “big” and “little” traditions, and distinctions between folk practices and transnational belief systems.

Possible panels or sub-topics:

Is the term “syncretism” still useful?

“Islam Observed” Revisited:  How does Geertz’ work look today? —  Indonesia, Morocco and beyond

Should “syncretism” be used for the three great Asian traditions of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism?

Syncretism and Esotericism:  Occult Mixtures

Can “new religious movements” be described them as “syncretistic” without compromising their legitimacy?

Who does the selection, combining and reconciliation of different elements in a syncretic mixture?

What is the role of a literary elite as opposed to popular practice?

What can the study of religious syncretism teach us about processes of cultural change more generally?

What are the roles of ritual and myth in creating and/or stabilizing novel combinations of religious elements?

How is syncretism related to governance and governmentality?  Can there be a syncretistic political theology?

Is the term “synergy” (indicating a creative, inventive combination of different elements) a more appropriate one than the older notion of “syncretism”?

Charles Stewart (in Syncretism and Its Synonyms: Reflections on Cultural Mixture Diacritics, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 40-62 1999) has argued that syncretism has been seen as a positive phenomenon in Latin America and the Caribbean, but as a derogatory term when used in the context of African and Middle Eastern religion.  He relates this to the more recent history of colonialism in those areas, but the issue may be more complicated.  What are the regional differences in the use of the term syncretism?

Meeting Information:

When: April 11 (evening reception) to April 14, 2013 (morning)

Meeting Registration: Register through AnthroGateway–the AAA’s website for meeting registration. You may submit a paper or panel proposal before registering, and then register only later (for example, once your submission has been accepted by the program committee). It is also, of course, fine to register and attend without submitting a paper or panel proposal. Those who register through the link above before March 11 will get the lower online registration rate.

Where: Hilton Pasadena Hotel

Address: 168 South Los Robles Avenue Pasadena, California.

Phone: 626-577-1000.

For hotel reservations and SAR Discount visit the following link. Group Name: American Anthropological Association. Conference Code: SARS. The deadline for reservations is March 21, 2013.

Check-in is possible as early as April 9th, and check out as late as April 16th, but the conference panels themselves will be on April 12, 13 and 14.

2012 Geertz Prize open for nominations

The Society for the Anthropology of Religion would like to announce our annual juried competition for the Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion. Any single-authored or co-authored book focusing on the anthropology of religion, broadly defined, is eligible for the Prize. The Geertz Prize seeks to encourage excellence in the anthropology of religion by recognizing an outstanding recent book in the field. This year’s Prize coordinator is Lauren Leve. To submit a book for consideration, please send six (6) copies to the Prize committee by March 31, 2012. For full details, see the Geertz Prize page.

The prize is named in honor of the late Professor Clifford Geertz, in recognition of his many distinguished contributions to the anthropological study of religion. In awarding the Prize, the Society hopes to foster innovative scholarship, the integration of theory with ethnography, and the connection of the anthropology of religion to the larger world.