Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence Group
Since the end of the Cold War, acts of religiously motivated violence have become prominent worldwide. Academics from various disciplines have attempted to account for these incidents, noting a resurgence of anticolonialism, 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. Yet the religious narratives that motivate these violent actors are too conspicuous to be ignored. Today, scholars no longer debate 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. This Group contends that the theories, methodologies, and scales for studying the expanding field of religion and violence remain underexplored and require interdisciplinary work and collaboration to provide greater insights into the thorny issues involved.
The sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, economics, and political science of religion all have provided great insights into the nature of religion and violence over the last few decades and all are arguably interdisciplinary by nature. This Group provides 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.
For the 2014 Annual Meeting of the AAR, we seek papers that examine the intersections of religion and violence, with attention to the condition in which religion lends itself to the justification and/or promotion of violence. Papers should demonstrate comparative or theoretical approaches. Below are recommended themes within this framework:
• Religion and torture: an examination of the role of religion in justifying torture devices and applications
• The violence of nonviolence: a look into the ambiguity surrounding self-pronounced nonviolence, such as strict forms of asceticism and activist, conceivably militant, movements for nonviolence
• Violence as performative: here we seek to explore violent behavior shaped by anticipation of a witnessing audience, whether actual or imagined, human or otherworldly
• Religious disputes on violence within communities: clearly religious rhetoric is significant here
• Religious dimensions to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict
In addition to these themes, we are soliciting papers for three cosponsored sessions:
• Religiously rooted practices of self-directed pain, such as self-flagellations, bodily piercings, and bodily transformations or alterations within rites of passage (cosponsored with the SBL Violence and Representations of Violence program unit)
• Representing and documenting religion and violence (cosponsored with the SBL Warfare in Ancient Israel program unit): exploring the ways ideologies of warfare are documented and represented in the ancient world that include the ancient Near East, Asia, Africa and the Americas
• Religious dimensions of violence, displacement, and politics in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo 20 years after the Rwandan Genocide (for a possible quadsponsored session with the African Religion Group; Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide Group; and the Religions, Social Conflict, and Peace Group): Two decades after the Rwandan Genocide, President Kagame still leads Rwanda. Rwanda’s gacacha courts that judged genocide perpetrators only closed recently in 2012. And violence continues just beyond Rwanda’s border in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. We seek contributions that explore the gendered, political, ritual, transnational and other dimensions of the current situation in relation to religion and ethics, broadly construed, in either or both countries.
In addition to these suggested themes, we welcome other submissions that fall within our program unit’s mandate. Our best to you in the winter weeks to come, and we hope to see you in San Diego.