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!