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.

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:

SAR 2023 Biennial-SAVE THE DATE

The Society for the Anthropology of Religion biennial conference will be held May 12-14, 2023 at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia.

Please mark your calendars now and watch for the call for papers, which will be forthcoming this fall.

It will be our first in person conference since 2019 so it will be a wonderful opportunity to get together in person again. As an added bonus, Victoria in May is lovely—an environmental marvel that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetimes!

SAR Spring Virtual Conference CfP

Society for the Anthropology of Religion

Spring Virtual Conference

May 14-16, 2021

THEME: From Ethics to Politics

Abstracts due February 15, 2021

Rappaport Lecturer: Amira Mittermaier, University of Toronto

Download the SAR CFP Poster

For the last 20 years, many of the most influential and dominant conversations in the anthropology of religion have focused on ethics, morality, and the subject-making processes of religious practice. These conversations pushed the study of religious traditions – especially Abrahamic ones – to the forefront of anthropological consideration and theory-building after a period at the end of the 20th century in which religion was often seen as just an expression of economic or political forces. Defining religious practice as a subject-making force of its own, much of this work centered on people for whom religious identities had become foundational. But in focusing on subjects for whom religious subjectivities and ethical formations were impossible to ignore, not only were some of the more marginal members of religious communities left to the side, but some of the connections between religious practice and other domains of social life were at times demoted.

The 2021 SAR Spring Conference theme hopes to push back against this trend by soliciting current research on religious practices and traditions that highlight the connections linking religion and politics. How do theories of ethical subject-making help us to understand how religious subjects confront political projects? What other theoretical traditions might help to highlight how political and religious concerns interact without dissolving religion or religious practice as an object of study? How can concerns with race, gender, ethnicity, or class become more integrated into theories of ethics, morality, and religious subject-making?

In addition to research on religion broadly conceived, we are particularly interested in soliciting papers focused on the politics of ethics, religion at the margins of other domains of social life, marginal members of religious communities, religion and race/ethnicity, religion and gender, religion and class, religion and colonialism, religion and decolonization, or the religious formations of white supremacy.

We are soliciting abstracts for organized panels as well as individual papers, from graduate students, faculty, and scholars working outside the academy. Because this will be a virtual conference, we are especially interested in non-traditional formats for panels that will work well on a video conference platform. Registration costs will be announced at a later date, but they will be significantly reduced in comparison to other years, and we hope that this reduced fee and lack of travel will allow for scholars who cannot usually attend the SAR conference in person to participate.


Individual papers for 15-minute presentations can be submitted on their own. In addition, organized panels of various formats can also be submitted.

All panels will be 75 minutes long. For standard 15-minute presentations, this means 5 presentations per panel. However, other formats are welcome and can be indicated on the panel submission form. For roundtables, author-meets-critics panels, interviews, or other formats, paper titles and abstracts for participants are not required (but can be submitted if participants would prefer).

The conference will happen in several three-hour long blocks: US Central time 9am-noon (UTC 14:00-17:00); UC Central time 2pm-5pm (UTC 19:00-22:00); and US Central time 6pm-9pm (UTC 23:00-2:00).

How to submit abstracts:

If you are submitting an abstract for an individual paper (one that is not part of a panel), or if you are the organizer of a panel, abstracts can be submitted by using this google form.

If you are going to be a participant (but not an organizer) on a panel, please do not use the google form! Instead, send the information below to your panel organizer, who will input it when they submit the information for the panel as a whole.

  • Name
  • Email
  • Affiliation
  • Paper title (if it is a standard panel with 10- to 15-minute presentations)
  • Paper abstract (if it is a standard panel with 10- to 15-minute presentations)
  • Accessibility requests (optional, see below)

Rough timeline:

Last day to submit abstracts: February 15, 2021

Announcement of decisions about submissions: mid-March 2021

Registration opens: mid-March 2021

Conference schedule announced: early April 2021


If an author of an individual paper or a panel organizer makes accommodations requests for themselves or any participants on a panel, the Accessibility & Meetings Coordinator ( will reach out to you and help identify if current AAA accessibility protocols will meaningfully support your access needs and/or if additional accommodations are necessary and available. This will be done upon completion of the abstract submission form and prior to the review period. Participants are not required to disclose their disability (mobility, auditory, sight, sensory, etc.) or identity status (Disabled, Deaf, Autistic, Chronically Ill, Mentally Ill, etc.), but are welcome to do so if they believe this information will influence the later discussion surrounding their access needs and/or accommodation requests. Please note that participants will NOT be penalized in any way for indicating that they have access needs and/or accommodation requests related to providing a virtual presentation.

If panelists or authors of individual papers do not want to disclose accessibility needs at this time, there will be another opportunity when each participant registers for the conference that accommodations can be requested.

Download and share the official SAR Call for Papers Poster by clicking the image above, or following this link.

2018 Student Paper Prize Meeting

Photo taken of the luncheon for the 2018 SAR Student Paper Prize winners, November 17, 2018.

2018 Student Prize Meeting

The Department of Anthropology at San Jose State University kindly agreed to host this lunch for SAR.

Names clockwise starting from the left end of the table: Simon Coleman, Leanne Williams, Kalpesh Bhatt (finalist), Robert Weller, Mayfair Yang (mentor), Jane Saffitz (winner), Roberta Ricucci, Mara Leichtman (judge), Stacey Langewick (mentor), Khalidah Ali, Crystal Sheedy (runner up), Fred Klaits (mentor), and Tyler Zoanni (finalist).

Our host from the Department, Jay Ou, is standing in the back. We also thank the Head of the Department of Anthropology at San Jose State U, Roberto Gonzalez.

To find out more about the SAR Student Paper Prize, and the upcoming call for submission, click here.