North American Association for the Study of Religion: 2014 Annual Meeting, San Diego


Friday, November 21—Monday, November 24


Exectuive Council Meeting

8:30 AM-9:20 AM—Hilton Bayfront-Aqua Boardroom

Author Meets Readers: Elizabeth Pritchard’s Religion in Public: Locke’s Political Theology

9:30 AM-12:00 PM—Hilton Bayfront-303

This panel brings together scholars from different fields to discuss Elizabeth Pritchard’s recent book on John Locke’s political theology and its legacy for how we think about secularization, the public/private divide, religion and power, and liberalism’s configuration of toleration and religious freedom, to name a few themes. The panel will surely draw a wide scholarly audience by considering a series of historical, methodological, political, and theoretical questions: how might Pritchard’s rereading of a foundational archive in secularization theory change our approach to contemporary theoretical debates over secularization? How does Locke’s political theology compare to some of his rough contemporaries (e.g. Hobbes, Spinoza, etc.)? What previously unmarked forms of religiosity does this text make visible? What resources does this text offer for analyzing liberalism’s figuration of religion and the legacy of that figuration both in its Anglo-American context and in its colonial reach? What are some of the legal “lessons” to learn from rethinking Locke? What resources does this text offer for studying religious phenomena? And, finally: in spite of definitive evidence to the contrary, the supposedly Lockean definition of religion as private and apolitical remains persuasive and appealing to religious practitioners and scholars alike; why does this definition persist and how might Pritchard’s work shed light on the social, political, theological, and scholarly stakes of this persistence?

Winnifred Sullivan, Indiana University, Bloomington
Tyler T. Roberts, Grinnell College
Julie Cooper, Tel Aviv University
Robert A. Yelle, University of Munich
Elizabeth A. Pritchard, Bowdoin College 
Craig Martin, St. Thomas Aquinas College


Lecture: Iconographies of Democracy and Representations of Religion

Yvonne Sherwood, University of Kent

1:00 PM-2:20 PM—Hilton Bayfront-303

Lecture: Politics of Knowledge in the Study of Religion

Kocku von Stuckrad, University of Groningen

2:30 PM-3:50 PM—Hilton Bayfront-303

This lecture addresses the myth of scholarly neutrality and explores some of the consequences that accompany the idea of the socially embedded scholar. On the level of theory, the lecture looks at the problematic distinction between emic and etic, offering a vocabulary that acknowledges the direct impact of scholarly theories on religious discourse. On the level of practice, it problematizes the politics of inclusion and exclusion in academic work, focusing on shortcomings in peer-review processes and growing competition in the job market.

Lecture: Revitalizing the Comparative Enterprise: A Building Block Approach to Complex Cultural Concepts

Ann Taves, University of California at Santa Barbara

4:00 PM-5:20 PM—Hilton Bayfront-303

Annual NAASR Reception, co-sponsored with Equinox Publishing

Time and Location TBA


Panel: Strategies of Mythmaking at Christian Tourist Attractions

9:30 AM-11:50 AM—Hilton Bayfront-202B

This panel theorizes four present-day Christian tourist attractions as sites of ongoing social and mythic formation: The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, KY, Bible Walk in Mansfield, OH, and the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, FL. Working from Bruce Lincoln’s observation that “myth is ideology in narrative form,” the papers examine various strategies by which Christian tourist attractions enable visitors to interact directly within mythic configurations. This direct interaction functions as a type of pilgrimage, whereby visitors locate themselves within a mythic trajectory that begins with the creation of the world and points toward an eternity with (or, perhaps, without) Christ.

“Mythic Formation at the Holy Land Experience”
Erin Roberts, University of South Carolina
“Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego…and Jesus?: Anachronism as a Constituent Feature of Mythmaking”
Jennifer Eyl, Tufts University 
“Myth, Anachronism, and Fiction: The Creation Museum’s Production of Scientific and Biblical Misplacements”
Steven M. Watkins, Northern Kentucky University
“How to Build an Ark: Intertextuality and Authority Among Creationist Artists”
James S. Bielo, Miami University
“‘It is what it is’: Rhetoric of Legitimation and Authentic Identity Construction on a Christian Zionist Tour of Israel”
Sean Durbin, Macquarie University, Sydney


Business Meeting

12:00 PM-12:50 PM—Hilton Bayfront-202B

All members encouraged to attend

Presidential Panel: The Category of Religion in the Technology of Statecraft: Theorizing Religions as Vestigial States

1:00 PM-3:30 PM—Hilton Bayfront-202B

The panel will explore the theory that religions can be productively and interestingly thought of as vestigial states. Naomi Goldenberg describes ‘religions’ as sets of institutions, ideologies and practices that originate with reference to former sovereignties. The term ‘religion’ gains traction through history and is applied to ‘states’ that have been displaced through war, invasion or colonization. Vestigial states – i.e. ‘religions’ – are both tolerated and encouraged as attenuated and marginalized governments within fully functioning nation states as long as most forms of violence are renounced. Indeed, vestigial states tend to behave as once and future states that, although always restive, nevertheless ground the powers that authorize them by recalling earlier, now mystified forms of male sovereignty from which present (i.e. ‘secular’) states arise.

Naomi Goldenberg, University of Ottawa
William Arnal, University of Regina
Craig Martin, St. Thomas Aquinas College
Kathleen McPhillips, University of Newcastle
Elizabeth Pritchard, Bowdoin College
Winnifred Sullivan, Indiana University
Robert Yelle


Workshop: Introducing Theory in the Classroom

2:45 PM-5:05 PM—Marriott Marquis-Solana

This workshop—limited to approximately 15 participants—will focus on practical steps for introducing theory in the classroom. If you are interested in participating, please email the organizer, Tara Baldrick-Morrone ([email protected]). Participants will also be asked to read three essays on theory and the introductory course in preparation for the workshop (essays are TBD). The organizers will place the participants into groups by question before the workshop. The three questions that we will address are:

1. Who? Which theorists should be included in an introductory course, and which theorists should be excluded? Just as we must be self-conscious with our choices of data, so too must we be with our choices of theory. Simply, “why ‘this’ rather than ‘that’”?

2. What? If “there is nothing that must be taught,” what data should be included in an introductory course? How does one decide what to keep and what to discard? Are there “necessary” data that one must teach when “covering” certain ideas?

3. Where? Where should theory be placed in the structure of a course? At the end after the data have been presented? At the beginning in order to provide a lens through which the data should be considered? Throughout the semester? What are the benefits/drawbacks of each approach?

Workshop Leaders
Tara Baldrick-Morrone
Rebekka King
Suzanne Owen
Matt Sheedy


Panel: Conceptual Issues in New Testament Scholarship (Co-Sponsored with the Society for Biblical Literature)

9:00 AM-11:00 AM—Hilton Bayfront-314

Inventing Tradition in Thessalonica”
Sarah Rollens, University of Alabama
“Epistemology and the Production of History: “History” as a Discipline and Object in the Study of Early Jesus People”
Ian Brown, University of Toronto
“Gods, Religions, and Divine Exceptionalism: The Case of So-called Idolatry”
Emma Wasserman, Rutgers University
Craig Martin, St. Thomas Aquinas College
Jennifer Eyl, Tufts University
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