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AAR Sociology of Religion Unit Sessions–- 2020 Virtual Conference

Greetings from the AAR Sociology of Religion Unit,

We hope this finds you well and excited about this year’s AAR Virtual Annual Meeting. You are receiving this email because you’ve expressed interest in our unit. We are pleased to announce our lineup for AAR 2020.

This year, the Sociology of Religion Unit is sponsoring 4 sessions. You can learn more about them in the Online Program Book or mobile app, or use AAR’s 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting Online Planner. We hope you can make time to attend these sessions.

In addition, everyone is welcome to join our annual business meeting, which takes place on December 3 from 12:30-1:00pm EST (during the last 30 minutes of our third panel). We will discuss suggestions for our 2021 call for papers and openings on our steering committee.

Here are our sessions:


Bringing Back the Social into the Sociology of Religion (and Religious Studies)

Monday, November 30, 1:45 PM-3:15 PM (EST UTC-5)

Co-sponsored with Critical Theory and Discourses on Religion Unit and Critical Research on Religion

In her award-winning book, From Yoga to Kabbalah (2014), and her recent co-edited volume, Bringing Back the Social into the Sociology of Religion (2018), sociologist Véronique Altglas has argued that recent sociologists of religion focused on topics and methods such as rational choice theory, spirituality versus religion, lived religion, and religion as consumption have shifted away from what should be sociology’s foremost focus: the power of the social world and its institutions to push, propel, enable, and constrain us; to dynamically mold our comforts, discomforts, desires, repulsions, and the religious activities and ideas we embrace or reject. In this roundtable, we ask four scholars (two from religious studies and two sociologists of religion) to reflect on and assess Altglas’ argument, their own work, and the current state of sociology of religion and religious studies. These presentations will be followed by a response from Véronique Altglas and then audience discussion.


Rebecca Catto, Kent State University


Katja Rakow, Utrecht University

J.P. Reed, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

Fareen Parvez, University of Massachusetts


Veronique Altglas, Queen’s University, Belfast


Faith, Knowledge, and Rational Freedom: A Roundtable on Jürgen Habermas’ Also a History of Philosophy

Tuesday, December 1, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM (EST UTC-5)

Co-sponsored with Religion in Europe Unit and Critical Research on Religion

This panel explores philosopher and social theorist Jürgen Habermas’ recently published two-volume work on philosophy and religion, Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie [Also a History of Philosophy, Vol 1: The Western Constellation of Faith and Knowledge; Vol 2: Rational Freedom. Traces of the Discourse on Faith and Knowledge] (2019). In this work, Habermas “traces how philosophy successively disengaged itself from its symbiosis with religion and became secularized,” moving from the Axial Age through modernity to the present. Habermas also reflects on “the function of a philosophy that adheres to the rational liberty of communicatively socialized subjects.” The panel will examine the extent to which this new work revises and expands his theory of communicative action and connect this to his view of religion’s place in society. Panelists, all scholars of Habermas, will situate this new work within Habermas’ long career and his contributions to sociology, philosophy, and religious studies.


Warren S. Goldstein, Center for Critical Research on Religion


Eduardo Mendieta, Pennsylvania State University

Francis Schussler Fiorenza, Harvard University

Maeve Cooke, University College Dublin


Conceptualizing Religion and Rethinking Methods in the Sociology of Religion

Thursday, December 3, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM (EST UTC-5)

This panel uses multiple social sciences methodologies to rethink what counts as religious, showing us the importance of methodological choices for how we conceptualize and interpret the data of religious studies and the sociology of religion. Presentations include the use of geospatial imaging and ethnography to interpret Christian-Muslim social dynamics in Nigeria, interviews and analysis of photographs to reveal lived religion in personal homes in Latin America, qualitative and quantitative findings from a large survey of U.S. Jews, Christians, and Muslims regarding their perceptions of vocation in work settings, and historical and interview research into the lives of Boston-area fire chaplains. These papers highlight how social science research can help scholars of religious studies and the sociology of religion develop theories from the ground up and not take our categories for granted.


Dusty Hoesly, University of Southern Mississippi


Amidu Elabo, Princeton Theological Seminary

Faith and Topography: A Remote Sensing Analysis of Religious Interaction in Jos North, Nigeria

Gustavo Morello, Boston College

Modernity and Sacralization Practices: Photographs and the Sacred

Brenton Kalinowski, Rice University

Elaine Howard Ecklund, Rice University

Rachel Schneider, Rice University

Perceptions of Work as Calling

Wendy Cadge, Brandeis University

The Value Added of “Holding the Space:” A Case Study of Chaplains in Boston and Their Changing Roles Over Time

Business Meeting [last 30 minutes of this panel]

Dusty Hoesly, University of Southern Mississippi, Presiding

Rebekka King, Middle Tennessee State University, Presiding


Crossing Global and Religious Boundaries: Social Change, Identity, and Power

Tuesday, December 8, 4:00 PM-5:30 PM (EST UTC-5)

This panel centers stories of boundary crossing in a variety of geographic locations, religious traditions, identity formations, and power relations. Using social science methods, each paper will illuminate how these shifts reveal not only the socially-constructed and porous nature of religious boundaries but also the relationships of power in which such crossings are embedded and policed. Papers include a qualitative study of Judaizing evangelical Christians in Latin America, long-term ethnographic research on Afro-Cuban religious multiplicity, a qualitative exploration of Christian-Muslim interfaith couples in Europe, a mixed-methods analysis of the stigmatization of Muslims students on U.K. college campuses, and a textual analysis of South Asian Buddhist converts’ autobiographies as social revolutionary texts.


Jonathan Calvillo, Boston University


Mathew J. Guest, Durham University

Stigma and Suspicion in the Lives of Muslim Students: How the ‘Radicalisation’ Narrative has Changed Higher Education in Britain

Drishadwati Bargi, University of Minnesota

Social Revolution by Other Means: The Writing of Conversion in Dalit Autobiographies in Postcolonial India

Jualynne E. Dodson, Michigan State University

“Integrated Religious Multiplicity”: Challenge to Sociology of Religion

Please note: We have openings on our steering committee next year. If you are interested, we encourge you to attend our annual business meeting (see schedule above). We are seeking committee members who will attend the annual meetings, participate in the unit’s sessions and ongoing business reliably, and share enthusiasm for our unit’s mission and work. The Sociology of Religion Unit values a steering committee that is diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, age, religion, region, discipline, methodology, professional status, and type of institution.

For this year’s online/virtual conference, you may wish to bookmark these resources:

Please note that to join sessions, you must be a registered attendee, because your login credentials are your registration reference number and your last name.

Can’t locate your reference number? Request yours by emailing

Not registered yet? You can sign up here.

Other questions we haven’t covered? Email

We hope you will have a memorable AAR and we hope to see you at our sessions!

Warmest regards,

Dusty Hoesly,

Rebekka King,

Sociology of Religion Unit Co-Chairs