2015 Biennial SAR Meeting — Preliminary Schedule

Preliminary Schedule

Here is the Preliminary Schedule for our Biennial Meeting in San Diego, April 16-19. You should find your panel listed here and be able to make travel arrangements with this in mind.

Hotel Reservations

Please remember that the rate at the Handlery Hotel ($119 Single and Double, $139 Triple and Quad) will expire on March 17th. You can book the group rate here. Refer to: Society for the Anthropology of Religion for booking.


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 15, 2015 will get the lower online registration rate.

We look forward to seeing many of you in San Diego soon!


Preliminary Schedule

Society for the Anthropology of Religion 

Biennial Meeting – 2015

San Diego, CA

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). Except for the third panel on Friday, all panels are 1 hour and 45 minutes long, making for 15-20 minute presentations depending on the number of presenters/discussants per panel.



Reception (6:00pm-8:00pm)



1st session (8:00am-9:45am):

Religion, Morality, and Community Development: Frederick P. Lampe (chair)

  • Frederick Lampe: “My Husband’s Brother’s Sister”: Kinship Networks, Community, and Development in East Africa
  • Kate McClellan: “Communities Like Us”: Islam and the Development of Multispecies Morals in Jordan
  • Rachel Schneider: White Progressive Christianity and Transformation Ethics in South Africa

Negotiating Religious and Other Boundaries: Anand Vivek Taneja (chair)

  • Yi Liu: Pastor Hsi’s Legacy: An Indigenous Christian Community in North China
  • Anand Vivek Taneja: The Role of Islam in the Ethical Life of Hindus: Some Reflections on the Dargah of Firoz Shah Kotla
  • Christina Cappy: Enacting Morality in Morning Assemblies: Inside South African Schools
  • Adam Dunstan: The Environmental Concerns are the Cultural Concerns: Sacred Space and Science in Navajo Environmentalism
  • Amber Lee Silva: What Counts: Moral and Ortho in American Old Believers’ Projections of Judgment

Ethics of Difference: Moral Discourses, Regulations, and Boundary Marking: Aminta Arrington (chair)

  • Aminta Arrington: Fixing the Boundaries and Redrawing the Purity Map
  • Robert Priest: The Rhetoric of Filth in Moral Discourse
  • Yasmin Cho: The Ethics of Gustatory Taste: Ethnicity, Class, and Tibetan Buddhist Practices in Post-Mao China
  • Masi Majithia: The Memoirs of a Brahmachari: How the Identity of a Brahmachari Can Give Him Political Legitimacy

Morality of Movement: Migration, Pilgrimage, Diaspora, and Return (1): Suma Ikeuchi (Chair)

  • Donna Young: A Chapel, A Synagogue, A Mosque: Journeying through the Holy Land with the Sisters of Sion
  • Devaka Premawardhana: Egress and Regress: Religious Mobility in Northern Mozambique
  • Valentina Napolitano: On the Return and the Criollo Pope
  • Suma Ikeuchi: Temporal Return of Migrant Pilgrims: Japanese-Brazilian Pentecostal Converts in the Land of Their Ancestors


2nd session (10:00am-11:45am):

Moral Self-Fashioning (1): Stephen Glazier (chair)

  • Rachel Werczberger: Ritual and Authenticity in New Age Judaism
  • Stephen D. Glazier: Affect, Morality, and the Self: The Pre-Discursive in Afro-Caribbean Religions
  • Charles Farhadian: The Christ Event and the Immanent Turn in the Anthropology of Christianity
  • William Dawley: Peer Group Ethics and the Remaking of Masculinity: How Peer Groups in the Evangelical and Support Group Movements Help Transform Male Gender Identity in Urbanizing Costa Rica
  • Hector Guazon: Moral Subjectivity in an Unstable Place

The Labors of Morality: Working toward the Moral Good and Work as Moral Good: Aaron Greer (chair)

  • Rachel M Scott: Lottery Luck and Ethical Rewards: Gambling as Religious Practice in Thailand
  • Shari Jacobson: When Work Doesn’t Pay: The Protestant Ethic in Post-Industrial America
  • Caroline Block: The Call to Service and the Politics of Denomination in American Orthodox Women’s Talmud Study
  • Aaron Greer: Discipline and Party: The Hindu Ethic and the Spirit of Neo-Liberal Capitalism in Trinidad
  • Rupa Pillai: Cultivating Intention: The Ethics of Guyanese Yoga in New York City

Translating Religion/Religion as Translation: Interpretation, Recitation, & Performance:

  • Lora L. Kile: Juxtaposition of Morality: Sahagún’s Interpretation of the Méxica Tlacaxipehualiztli Ritualization
  • Pankaj Jain: “Dharma and Science Are Complementary”: Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization’s Experiments with Himalayan Communities
  • Edwin Zehner: Morality and Religion from the Thai Perspectives of Jariyatham (Ethics) and Kunnatham (Virtue): Issues of Translation
  • Saliha Chatoo: Performing Evil: The Language of American Evangelical Hell Houses
  • Ingrid E. Lilly: Constructing a Moral Voice from a Spirit-Possessed, Refuge Body: Babylonian Medical Cosmology in the Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel

Politics of Discernment in Christian Practice: Fred Klaits (chair)

  • Jessica Hardin: Discerning the Sick Body: Embodied Evidence and Critical Christianity in Samoa
  • Rebecca Bartel: Feeling the Spirit Move: Affect and Embodied Discernment
  • Fred Klaits: Insult and Insecurity: Discerning the Good Life in Two American Pentecostal Congregations
  • James Bielo: Discernment and Professional Activity: Notes from a Creationist Design Studio
  • Courtney Handman: Discernment and Difference: Bibles, Land Claims, and Epistemic Categories of the Person in Papua New Guinea
  • Rob Blunt: “The Oath is Our Leader”: Sovereignty, Language, and Ritual Supplementation in Colonial Kenya
  • Discussant: Eric Hoenes del Pinal


LUNCH 11:45am-1:00pm


3rd session (1:00pm-2:30pm)

Pentecostalism through the Lens of Politics, Sexuality & Religious Competition: Joshua Brahinsky (chair)

  • Jason Price: The Deliverance of Jacob K.
  • Priscilla Garcia: Pentecostal Politics, Democracy, and Morality in Brazil
  • Data D. Barata: Christianity’s Moral Dilemmas in a Hybrid Neoliberal Context: Relational Analysis of Struggle for Religious Equality in Ethiopia
  • Joshua Brahinsky: Pentecostal Mobilization, or the Lack of an Ethics of Ritual, Event, Resistance, and Agency?

Gender, Religion, and Conservative Culture: How Patriarchal Structures Enable and Constraint Religious & Ethical Agency: Mayfair Yang (chair)

  • Anubha Sood: Mental Ailments and Divine Treatment: Religious Healing among Women in North India
  • Thomas J. Csordas: Catholic Exorcism: Agency and Patriarchy
  • Sophie Bjork-James: Doing Gender/Doing Religion: U.S. Evangelicalism, the Family, and the Art of Submission
  • Mayfair Yang: Of Mothers and Goddesses: Religiosity and Women’s Agency in Wenzhou, China

Questioning Moral Authority: Contemporary Spirits in the U.S. and Beyond: Misty L. Bastian (chair)

  • Timothy R. Landry: Fragile Spirits of the Sacred Forest: Protecting Vodún through Secrecy in Benin
  • Michele Hanks: Between Electricity and Spirit: Paranormal Investigating and the Production of Doubt
  • Stephanie Boothby: The Ethics of Paranormal Investigation: How Morality and Meaning are Formed in the Face of the Supernatural
  • Misty L. Bastian: Dead Time: Temporal Regimes of Working Class American Paranormal Researchers

Sacred Histories and Reimagining Religious Ethics in South Asian Ritual Performance: Claire Robison (chair)

  • Claire Robison: Performing Ethical Practice through Alterity: Dramas and the Sacred Histories of a Hindu Community in Mumbai
  • Joel Gruber: Performing the Sacred Past into Existence: Ritual Enactment of Tibetan Buddhist Saintly Biographies
  • Rohit Singh: The “Secularization” of Muharram Commemorations in Leh, Ladakh
  • Lauren Smyth: Coffee under the Monastery: Authenticity, Religious Heritage, and “Beautifying” Ladakh
  • Discussant: Rico Monge


4th session (2:45pm-4:30pm)

Presidential Panel

James Laidlaw, Adeline Masquelier, Michael Lambek and Cheryl Mattingly


5th session (4:45pm-6:00pm)

Presidential Lecture: Joel Robbins


Reception (6:00pm-8:00pm)



1st session (8:00am-9:45am):

The Mediumistic Trial: Testing and Contesting Mediumism between Science, Religion, and Morality (1): Ehler Voss (chair)

  • Graham M. Jones: Jugglery without a License: Magic, Mediumism, and the Law
  • Janny Li: A Case of Quasi-Certainty: William James and the Making of the Subliminal Mind
  • Oliver Muller: Higher Beings Commanded: Paint the Fall of Icarus! The Presumed Absence of Mediumistic Art in the Former German Democratic Republic
  • Michael Kinsella: Is the Truth Out There? “Paranormal” Experiences, Other Worlds, and the Politics of Ontology

Alterity, (In)tolerance, and Ethics: Jodie Ann Vann (chair)

  • Jodie Ann Vann: The Ethics of Alterity: Transgression as Moral Practice at Phoenix Pagan Pride
  • Amy Flynn-Curran: The Campaign Was a Spiritual Low-Point: Proposition 8’s Lasting Impact on a Mormon Community in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Nur Amali Ibrahim: Homophobic Muslims
  • David Strohl: What is Moral Obligation? Religious Authority, Conscience, and Tolerance in an Indian Muslim Community
  • Patrick McKearney: The Ethics of Sacrifice and the Sacrifice of Ethics: Transforming People with Learning Disabilities from Curse to Blessing

Spiritual Therapies, Religious Doubt, & Ethical Critiques: Encounters between Religion and Healing: Ayala Fader (chair)

  • Dusty Hoesly: Healings, Weddings, and the Legal Limits of Ethical Practice
  • Quinn A. Clark: The Act of Listening
  • Karen Fjelstad: From Observation to Participation: The Making of a Non-Traditional Spirit Medium
  • Ayala Fader: Treating Religious Doubt: Jewish Religious Therapists and Double Lifers
  • Henrique Fernandes Antunes: Healing as Culture: An Ethnography of the Healing Rituals of a Brazilian Ayahuasca Religion

Moral Moods, Affects, and Ethics: China Cherz (chair)

  • Jason Throop: Mournful Moods: On Morality, Attunement, and Loss
  • China Scherz: Enduring the Awkward Embrace
  • Cathy Wanner: Mourning the Maidan
  • Charles Stewart and Joshua Burraway: Finessing Finitude: De-Historification and Religion at Moments of Crisis
  • Jarrett Zigon: Ethics of Dwelling, Politics of World-Building, Attunement


2nd session (10:00am-11:45am):

The Morality of Mortality: Perspectives on Death in Sub-Saharan Africa: Dianna Bell (chair)

  • Dianna Bell: Muslim Merit-Making in Posthumous Sacrifices in Mali, West Africa
  • Rosa de Jorio and Amadou Beidy Sow: Disputes around Mortuary Practices and Grave Sites in Post-Conflict Mali
  • Joseph Hellweg: Death as Moral Discourse: Dance, Song, Sacrifice, and Text in the Making of Dozo Funerals
  • Jesse Miller: Gegeneration, Reproduction, and Societal Harmony in Case Studies of African Death Ritual Through Sound
  • Discussant: Adeline Masquelier

The Morality of Millenarianism: Agency, Ethics, Diachronicity, and Other Underplayed Concepts: Jacob R. Hickman (chair)

  • Simon Coleman: What Does Pentecostal Heritage Look Like? From Linearity to Incommensurability in Moralizing the Millennial
  • Janet Hoskins: Left-Eyed Morality and the Postcolonial Age: Caodai Theories of the Period Before the World Ends
  • Jacob R. Hickman: The Fifth Pillar of World Religions: Moral Agency over Time in Hmong Millenarianism
  • Joseph Webster: Eschatological Agency: Moral Freedom and Prophecy Fulfillment on Land and at Sea
  • Hossein Mirrazi: Pilgrimage to Jamkaran: Messianic Representations, Identity Construction, and Apocalyptic Aspirations/Expectations
  • Discussant: Joel Robbins

The Relational Morality of Religious Healing Etiologies: Kimberly Marshall (chair)

  • Kimberly Marshall: “Blocking up the Healing”: Navajo Neo-Pentecostal Moral Etiology
  • Justine Buck Quijada: Porous Shamanic Selves: The Morality of Kinship
  • Amanda Lucia: From Healing to Sex Scandal: Understanding the Haptic Logics of Guru Intimacy
  • Nalika Gajaweera: Mindful Togertherness
  • Discussant: Thomas J. Csordas

Religion and Moral Sentiments: Nofit Itzhak (chair)

  • Tanya Luhrman: A Comparative Phenomenology of Good and Evil
  • Nofit Itzhak: On Love, Compassion, and Making Ethical Relationships in Christian Humanitarianism
  • Tyler Zoanni: Some Ambivalent Conceptions: Feelings of Difference in Evangelical Disability Ministries
  • Anna Corwin: Sentiments of Suffering: Moral Sentiment in a Catholic Convent
  • Julia Cassaniti: Moral Emotions, Religious Traditions, and the Variably Transcendental Self
  • Austin Gillett: Tradition, Agency, and Emotion in Hmong Moral Discourse
  • Discussant: Michael Lambek


LUNCH 11:45am-1:30pm


3rd session (1:30pm-3:15pm)

Author Meets Critics: Michael Banner

  • Michael Banner: “Ethics of Everyday Life: Moral Theology, Social Anthropology, and the Imagination of the Human”
  • Discussants: Thomas J. Csordas, Lesley Sharp, Richard Madsen, John Evens, Derrick Lemons

Intersubjectivity, Dynamism, and Negotiation: Existential and Phenomenological Approaches to Ritualization: Marc Roscoe Loustau (chair)

  • Marc Roscoe Loustau: The Absent Presence and Present Absence of Moral Doubt in Transylvanian Catholic Lifeworlds
  • Michael Agnew: “Our Lady Did This for Me”: Ex-votos and the Moral Contours of Caregiving at Lourdes
  • Kate Yanina DeConinck: The Ethics of the Intersubjective at the 9/11 Tribute Center: Ritualized Storytelling in the Wake of Mass Trauma
  • Katherine Dugan: “Dynamically Orthodox” Catholics: Mass and Technologies of Catholic Group Formation
  • Discussant: C. Jason Throop

The Mediumistic Trial: Testing and Contesting Mediumism between Science, Religion, and Morality (2): J. Brent Crosson (chair)

  • Ehler Voss: California Dreamin’: The Invention of Neoshamanism as a Mediumistic Trial of the 20th Century
  • Adam Klin-Oron: Cultivating the Wild Vision: Past and Present Channelers Making Meaning
  • Brent Crosson: Experiments with Power: The Scientific and Legal Trials of Religion in the Caribbean
  • Deana Weibel: Communitas, Morality, Sorrow, and Truth: Supernatural Means of Ascertaining Unorthodox Histories of Religiously Significant Sites

In Bad Faith: Trolling as Religious Praxis: Hoenes de Pinal (chair)

  • Jessica Johnson: Trolling on Mission to Save a “Pussified Nation”
  • Eric Hoenes del Pinal: Trolling for Souls: Street Preachers on American College Campuses
  • Jessica Mason: Believer, Activist, Provocateur? The Counterprotester’s Challenge
  • Joseph Blankholm: The Sincerely Held Beliefs of Nonbelievers
  • Discussant: Jon Bialecki


Rappaport Lecture (3:30pm-5:00pm): Webb Keane


Board Meeting (5:00pm-6:00pm)


Reception (6:00pm-8:00pm)



1st session (8:00am-9:45am):

Ritual, Sacrifice, & Suffering: Asher Brum (chair)

  • Asher Brum: Opus Dei: Suffering Rituals and Secular Moral Critique
  • Emilie Parent: Sundance in Quebec: Ethic of Blood and Suffering in an Indigenous Ritual
  • Thomas B. Ellis: Disgusting Ritual and the Potentiation of the Human Immune System
  • Sravana Borkatoky Varma: Blood Ties: The Tiwa Tribe and Sakta Tantra

The Christian Nation as Ethical Framework: On Moral Authority, Christianity, and the State: Naomi Haynes (chair)

  • Girish Daswani: Is Ghana under a Curse? Debating the Nation’s Past and Future in a Christian Present
  • Naomi Haynes: A Self-Proclaimed Christian Nation and a Pastor’s Bid for President
  • Jon Bialecki: Nations without States and States without Nations: Christian Nationalism and Christian Withdrawal in Southern California
  • Courtney Handman: The Irreducible Materiality of “Unity”: Christian-Israelite Critiques in Papua New Guinea Politics
  • Julia Klimova: How Dead is the Monster: Revisiting the Ethics of Church/State Relations in Russia through Leviathan, the Movie
  • Jacqueline Ryle: Blurred Visions: Christian State and Secular State Ideals in Fiji
  • Discussant: Simon Coleman

Roundtable: Theologically-Engaged Anthropology: A Consideration of Productive Theological Collaborative Partners: Derrick Lemons (chair)

  • Participants: Derrick Lemons, Brian Howell, Don Seeman, Michael Banner

Morality and Movement: Migration, Pilgrimage, Diaspora and Return (2): Stephen Selka (chair)

  • Stephen Selka: Mapping the Moral in African Diaspora Tourism in Brazil
  • Sarah Bakker Kellogg: “Someday We Will be Like the Jews”: Music and Moral Identity in the Syriac Christian Diaspora
  • Jennifer Sime: Rituals of National Catholicism: The Resurrection of St. James and Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • Jens Kreinath: Implications and Applications of the Actor-Network Theory: Bruno Latour and the Infrastructure of Shared Pilgrimage Sites in Hatay, Turkey


2nd session (10:00am-11:45am):

Ritual/Anti-ritual: Kaori Hatsumi (chair)

  • Kaori Hatsumi: Halleluiah People: The Catholic Easter Rite, Evil, and the Religious Sensibility of Tamil Fishers in Shri Lanka
  • Megan A. Moore: Lessons in Church Math: Brand Theology, Emotional Economy, and Rejecting Ritual in a Multisite Metro Atlanta Megachurch
  • Yang Shen: Rethinking “Traditions”: Reading Classics as Ritual

Hindu Moralities: Jennifer Ortegren (chair)

  • Pratap Kumar: Convenience Kavadi: Is There a Right Way to Observe Kavadi Ritual? A South African Perspective
  • Antoinette E. DeNapoli: “Change Is the Rule of Nature and the Nature of Dharm”: Experimental Hinduism and Emerging Moral Ecologies in the Practices of Hindu Renouncers in North India
  • Kalpesh Bhatt: Nityapuja, a Hindu Devotional Ritual: Mechanics of Moral Formation through Theological Construction of the Self
  • Jennifer D. Ortegren: Ritualizing Middle Class Morality: Karva Chauth and a New Hindu Dharma of Neighbors

Moral Self-Fashioning (2): Hanna Kim (chair)

  • Seema Golestaneh: Dissolutions of the Self: Ethics and Aesthetics in Iranian Sufi Rituals
  • Hanna Kim: Broken Houses and Too Much Local Brew: Immoral and Moral Ingredients in the Making of the Moral Self
  • Nicole Reisnour: Indexing Morality: Voice, Self, and Divine Guidance in Mabebasan Literary Performance
  • Monirith Ly: Buddhist Moral Meaning-Making through Community Service Learning
  • Guadalupe Barúa: Ethics, Misfortune, and the Quest for Bliss among “Fallen” Wichí

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

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.


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.



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



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



Presidential Lecture – Janet Hoskins



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)


Rappaport Lecture – J. Lorand Matory



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”

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.

Call for Proposals for the 2011 SAR Meeting

It is common to think of the practices referred to as religious as speaking about or to forces marked by their immateriality. Religion is the province of gods, spirits, and souls, whose existence is a matter of belief. Some religions even despise the material world as inferior or illusory–even as some philosophical traditions treat religions themselves as fundamentally illusory and only the material as really real. Certainly the analysis of religion often has bypassed acts and objects in favor of texts and theologies, or the excavation of underlying ideas or values.

Yet as many have noted, reflection on practices in even the most spiritualized of the most familiar of religions suggests how problematic such common sense may be. It is increasingly clear that the Reformation and the Enlightenment have played an inordinate role in shaping the background assumptions that have historically informed much of the study of religion. Yet most Protestants find Bibles essential, even as they constitute part of Christianity’s “problem of presence.” And if the stupas and begging bowls so familiar in Asian Buddhism find no place among Euro-American practitioners, what would the latter do without representations of Buddha and meditation objects? Are these and myriad media–such as the sacred texts of “religions of the book”–merely conduits for divine messages or instruments of social communion? Can gods and spirits move people, or people access gods and spirits, without the mediation of things? Is it only human believers who transport gods and spirits across time and space and make them count? Or is materiality–mediators who do more than simply transport; practices involving bodies even as they make souls–as vital to the making of deities as it is to the making of electrons?

For SAR’s 2011 biennial conference, we encourage reflection on the insights an anthropology (and ethnography) focused on materiality might provide into phenomena generally considered “religion.” We invite consideration of materiality in relation to religion in many dimensions. Contributions could explore practices such as worship, healing, pilgrimage, and ritual; the making or maintenance of religious places, ranging from features of the landscape to built structures; the treatment of, and memorials to, the dead; the impact of new technologies of production or circulation; clashes over objects, spaces, and practices sacred to some but not to others; embodiment and the senses in religious practice; semiotic ideologies that illuminate attitudes towards the material. We also urge consideration of matters that question past or present assumptions. Could a focus on materiality challenge our understanding of enchantment and disenchantment, or allow us to rethink “animism” and “fetishism”? How might it trouble translations: are terms such as “gods” and “spirits”, let alone “religion” too immaterial to render the forces that act in the world? Is the sacred is itself a material force, or revealed especially in certain features of the material world?

Given the topic, we welcome explorations of the theme not only in papers and panels, but also through film, photos, and multimedia presentations.

The SAR program committee will begin accepting proposals for papers and sessions immediately untilFebruary 8. To propose a paper or session, submit a title and 250-word abstract to the program committee chair, Paul Johnson, johnson.paulchristopher “at” gmail.com.

How to Register

The fee for registration is US$90 for members of SAR, $120 for non-members and $35 for students. Advance online registration can be done through the AAA’s secure web site. The fee for on-site registrations is $120 for members, $140 for non-members, and $40 for students.

You must be registered to attend the conference. Online registration will remain open until March 28.

Hotel Accommodation

Reserve your hotel room at the conference site at the rate of $129/night by March 29.

The conference site is the La Fonda Hotel in downtown Santa Fe. You can make room reservations online at the La Fonda Hotel web site, or call 1-800-523-5002, #1. (For international: 1-505-954-3500 or 1-505-982-5511) Monday to Friday between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Indicate that you are booking with SAR.

SAR conference rates are $129 for single or double occupancy. There is a $15 fee, each night, for each additional person. Rates are available from Monday, April 25 to Tuesday, May 3.

Childcare is available. The hotel concierge can help make arrangements for babysitting through Magical Happenings Babysitting Service, or individuals can contact them directly at 505-982-1570.

Getting There

There is a small airport in Santa Fe, but many more flights go to Albuquerque. From the airport in Albuquerque it is about one to one-and-a-half hours to Santa Fe. There are several options for getting there. You may, of course, rent a car. You may take a bus to catch a train in Albuquerue that runs to Santa Fe. Or you may take the Sandia Shuttle.

We have arranged a special group rate of $20 each way with Sandia Shuttle. To receive this rate, please make reservations by phone, by calling 888-775-5696 or 505-474-5696. Be sure to mention that you are with The Society for the Anthropology of Religion to qualify for our rate.

Please note that Sandia Shuttle is also offering a discount of 10% on charters, for any of you who might be planning to spend some extra time in New Mexico. Again, you must phone for a reservation and mention our group.