SAR 2023 Recap

Final Report
Society for the Anthropology of Religion (SAR) 
2023 Biennial Conference
University of Victoria, May 12-14, 2023

The 2023 Biennial Meetings of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion were held at the University of Victoria, in Victoria, British Columbia on the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples from May 12 to 14, 2023. Under the theme of “Religious Assemblages,” the conference was hosted by the Department of Anthropology at the University of Victoria and co-organized with the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives. Fifteen University of Victoria undergraduate and graduate students provided indispensable support as volunteers. A welcome ceremony was held with Doug and Kathy Horne in recognition of the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

Indigenous Tsawout elders Doug and Kathy Horne delivered the welcome address to the SAR membership.

During the conference 110 papers were delivered on 29 panels by scholars based in Canada, the US, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Finland, France, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Israel. There were 120 total registrants and panels were organized in 3 or 4 concurrent sessions. Roughly half of the attendees were graduate students.

The conference sought to provide career development opportunities for graduate students and junior scholars. There were 3 mentoring sessions for junior scholars on writing for the public (organized by Sophie Bjork James, Vanderbilt University), navigating the academic job market (organized by Rachel Brown, University of Victoria), and grant writing (organized by Courtney Handman, University of Texas). There were 4 workshops for graduate students to develop scholarship on the following topics: NGOs & Humanitarianism (directed by Britt Halvorson, Colby College), Postcolonial, Decolonial, & Anti-Colonial Approaches (directed by Angie Heo, University of Chicago), Anthropology & Theology (directed by Basit Iqbal, MacMaster University), and Religion & Environment (directed by Mayfair Yang, UC Santa Barbara).

University of Victoria faculty member Rachel Brown organized a membership session on navigating the academic job market

There were 3 keynote addresses at the SAR biennial. The Roy Rappaport Distinguished Lecture in the Anthropology of Religion was delivered by Irfan Ahmad of Ibn Haldun University. The Albert Hung Lecture was delivered by Lucinda Ramberg of Cornell University. Daromir Rudnyckyj of the University of Victoria delivered the SAR Presidential Lecture.

Lucinda Ramberg (Cornell) delivered the 2023 Albert Hung Lecture
Daromir Rudnyckyj (U Victoria) delivered the 2023 SAR Presidential Lecture

The conference was financially supported by the SAR membership and a number of units at the University of Victoria including: the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, the Centre for Global Studies, the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Global South Program, the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost, the Office of the Vice-President Associate Vice-President of Research, the Religion, Culture and Society Program, and the World History Program.

University of Victoria graduate students William Campbell (standing) and Leah Mernaugh (seated middle) and undergraduates Jonvie Lockhart (seated right) and Mackenzie Reed (seated left) ensured that the conference ran smoothly

Feedback from the conference was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees commented on the depth and rigor of the scholarly dialogue inspired by the papers and keynote addresses. Also well-regarded was the conference organization, which many attendees commented was impeccably coordinated. Finally, the weather cooperated and Victoria and the campus was revealed in full flower, so much so that many colleagues expressed an intent to apply for any positions that might come open in the coming years!

SAR 2023 Mentoring Sessions

Religious Assemblages
Society for the Anthropology of Religion (SAR) Biennial Conference

Attendees of the SAR 2023 Biennial Meeting at the University of Victoria are invited to join any of the following mentoring sessions.

Mentorship Session: Writing for the Public (Open to all)
Organized by Sophie Bjork James (Vanderbilt U)
Friday, May 12, 1:30-2:45 PM in MAC D114
This mentorship session covers strategies for writing op-eds and other public writing about
religion. We will cover reasons to or not to engage in public writing as well as resources available
for scholars wanting to engage in public writing.

Mentorship Session Grant Writing (Open to all)
Organized by Courtney Handman (U of Texas)
Saturday, May 13, 9:00-10:15 AM in MAC D114
This mentorship session will go over some of the main pitfalls to avoid and the most important elements to include in preparing a grant application. We will primarily discuss the Wenner-Gren application, although the discussion will be relevant to almost any dissertation research grant.

Mentorship Session: Navigating the Academic Job Market (Open to all)
Organized by Rachel Brown (U of Victoria)
Saturday, May 13, 2:45-4:15 PM in MAC D111
“Brace yourself: Navigating a declining academic job market.” In this mentoring session Dr. Rachel Brown will explore some strategies for navigating the ever-changing, declining and often confusing academic job market.

SAR 2023 Workshops

Small group workshops for graduate students:

This year we will host a number of small group workshops during the SAR 2023 biennial meeting. Each workshop will have room for up to four graduate students and be led by one faculty facilitator. Each graduate student will pre-circulate a short (no more than 10 pages double spaced) paper to their small group prior to the conference. During the conference, the faculty facilitator will meet privately with the small group and discuss the papers, as well as issues and concerns related to the topic more broadly. It is a great chance to have some focused attention on your work, meet other students working on the same issues, and develop your project.

Small group workshop topics and faculty facilitators:

  • NGOs & Humanitarianism — Britt Halvorson, Colby College
  • Postcolonial, Decolonial, & Anti-Colonial Approaches  – Angie Heo, University of Chicago
  • Anthropology & Theology – Basit Iqbal, MacMaster University
  • Religious Migrations/Migrating Religion – Candace Lukasik, Mississippi State University
  • Religion & Environment – Mayfair Yang, UC Santa Barbara

If you are interested in participating in one of these sessions, please turn in an application by March 20 that includes:

  • the name of the session you are interested in
  • a brief description of the short paper you would present (200 words max)

Please send your application via email to The deadline for applications is March 20, 2023.

You may apply to participate in up to two different sessions.

If selected, you will need to send your paper to your facilitator by May 1.

Call for Submissions: 2023 Geertz Prize

The Society for the Anthropology of Religion
A section of the American Anthropological Association
announces the 2023 juried competition for the


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 2021 or 2022. Books that have already been reviewed for the Prize will not be reconsidered.

The prize will be awarded at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in November 2023.

Submission guidelines

If you would like your book to be considered, please ask your publisher to contact me at To receive additional information on how to submit a book for consideration, please contact me via email. Deadline for submission of books is:

April 1, 2023

Naomi Haynes
Chair, 2023 Geertz Prize Committee

Travel Grant for Underrepresented and Underemployed Scholars Awardees

The SAR awarded travel grants of $500 to support the attendance and participation of three scholars in the 2022 AAA annual meeting in Seattle. Awards went to:

  • George Wu Bayuga of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs to present their paper “Queer Affect Abroad: Chinese Nuns and Remaking Catholic Worlds,” Panel title: Christian Possibilities and Asian Futures”
  • Aaron F. Eldridge, an Independent Scholar, to present their paper “A Topology of Aphanasis: Tracing the Non-Appearance of Lebanese Asceticism,” Panel title: “Ruin as Trace: Ethnographic Reckoning in the Aftermath of Destruction”
  • Zehra Mehdi of Columbia University to present their paper “Half Hindu, Half Muslim, full Indian: Working through Imagined Natives, Foreigners, and Imagined Others in South Asian Religious Homelands.”

Prizes Awarded at the AAA 2022 Meeting

Geertz Prize jurist Candace Lukasik presents Elayne Oliphant of New York University the 2022 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion for their book The Privilege of Being Banal: Art, Secularism, and Catholicism in Paris.
Candace Lukasik, SAR board member, presents Randeep Hothi of the University of Michigan the SAR Student Paper Prize award for their paper “The Massacre and Martyr(dom)s of Oak Creek: The Scale of Violence, Articulation of Agonisms, and Problem of Diaspora.”
SAR board member Candace Lukasik presents Justin Haruyama of UC Davis the SAR Student Paper Prize runner-up award for their paper “History Written in Advance: Christian Prophecy, Chinese-Zambian Relations, and Diffracted Modernity.”

CFP: 2023 SAR Biennial Conference

2023 SAR Biennial Conference

Theme: “Religious Assemblages”

A signature contribution of the anthropology of religion has been to reveal both the overt and covert ways in which religious practice both informs and can be conjoined to myriad other domains of social life.  From James Frazer’s interrogation of the pagan roots of Christianity to Saba Mahmood’s insights about the implicit Christianity of liberalism, the anthropology of religion has revealed assemblages of religious forms and practices with other forms and practices that superficially appear to be devoid of religious influence.

The 2023 SAR Spring Conference highlights this enduring contribution and build on it by emphasizing this critical perspective in the study of religion at-large.  We seek to showcase disciplinary and interdisciplinary work to highlight and develop understanding of religion both as a lived practice and a category.  The conference will be held in person.

Call for Papers

By focusing on religious assemblages we call for papers that underscore how, although religion is sometimes marginalized from other aspects of modernity, religious discourses and practices can be dissociated from older historical formations and re-combined with new elements.

Among the questions we seek to address are: How are religious practices conjoined to practices that appear on the surface to be irreligious? How is religion evident in domains that claim to be secular or irreligious?   How do religious traditions amalgamate influences from other traditions that appear to be discrete? How do actual experiences of lived religion depart from orthodox religious traditions?  How are modern institutions and forms invested with spiritual significance?  How can greater attention to the ways in which religion infuses myriad aspects of contemporary social life facilitate initiatives of decolonization and indigenization?

In addition to research on religion broadly conceived, we seek papers focused on secularism and liberalism, religion at the boundaries of other domains of social life, the relationship between religion and race/ethnicity, indigeneity, class, gender, colonialism, decolonization, and religious formations of white supremacy and ethno-nationalism.  The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2023.  Information on submission can be found here:

Travel Grants for Underrepresented and Underemployed Scholars

The Society for the Anthropology of Religion (SAR) will make five (5) awards of $400 each to scholars of color and underemployed scholars who will be attending the 2022 Annual Meeting in Seattle and will participating in SAR-sponsored panels. Scholars from groups underrepresented in the academy and those who do not have secure employment are welcome to apply.

To apply, please email the following three (3) documents to Daromir Rudnyckyj (, SAR President, by September 15, 2022:

  1. An accepted abstract for an SAR-sponsored panel at the AAA annual meeting.
  2. Notice of paper acceptance from the AAA.
  3. A personal statement outlining your current position/status, your doctoral degree date (or expected) and granting institution, and explaining why you fit the terms of the award (250 words maximum).