FIELD NOTES: New AAR Group Announcement: Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence

We are pleased to announce AAR approval for a new program unit on Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence, beginning in 2013 and continuing for five years.  Current chairs are Michael Jerryson (Eckerd College) and Margo Kitts (Hawai’i Pacific University), and the steering committee is comprised of Mark Juergensmeyer (University of California, Santa Barbara), Hans Kippenberg (Jacobs University Bremen), Philip Tite (University of Washington), Julie Ingersoll (University of North Florida) and Jamel Velji (Haverford College).

Rationale and Mission

Since the end of the Cold War, incidents of apparent religious violence have become prominent worldwide. Scholars from various disciplines have attempted to account for these incidents, noting a resurgence of anti-colonialism, poverty and economic injustice, the failures of secular nationalism, uprootedness and the loss of a homeland, and the pervasive features of globalization in its economic, political, social, and cultural forms.  These are important contributions, but they often fail to address specifically the religious narratives proffered by the violent actors themselves. Those religious narratives are conspicuous in claimed motivations, and hence recently the debate has turned.  We no longer ponder whether people’s use of religion has a role in violence; rather, the discussion has turned to what kind of role it plays, and how this role affects the nature and scale of the conflict.

We contend that the theories, methodologies, and scales for studying the expanding field of religion and violence remain under-explored and that interdisciplinary work and collaboration should provide greater insights into the thorny issues involved.  The sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, poetics, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, economics, and political science of religion have provided great insights into the link between religion and violence and all are arguably interdisciplinary by nature.  The AAR Unit on Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence will provide a venue devoted specifically to interdisciplinary discussions of the subject.  We hope to channel and enhance contributions from the historically delineated (albeit constructed) humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. In that vein, we hope to hear papers presenting cross-disciplinary dialogue and research on the topic of religion and violence.


The unit on Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence is planning two panels for the 2013 meeting of the AAR.  Further details and formal invitations for papers are forthcoming.  For questions, please contact the chairs at [email protected].


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