Pagans and the American Academy of Religion

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 16, 2007 — 1 Comment

If you happen to be on the west coast this weekend, you might want to stop by the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Diego. The AAR is the world’s largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion, and their annual meeting has become a vital place to hear about the latest scholarship in the field of Pagan Studies. Today, the day before the AAR meeting starts, the annual Conference on Contemporary Pagan Studies is being held.

The theme for this year’s CCPS is “Material Culture and the Cutting Edge”, and features paper presentations by Chris Klassen on student responses to Witchcraft, and a panel discussion on creating a professional academic profile featuring Doug Cowan, Nikki Bado-Fralick and Paul Thomas. In addition, there will be several research reports from a variety of scholars working in the Pagan Studies field.

As for the AAR Meeting, there are several presentations and panel discussions that the Contemporary Pagan Studies Consultation are involved in. First is the CPSC’s session focused on “Pagan Borderlands” featuring presentations by Dr. Wendy Griffin, Barbara Jane Davy, and Laurel Zwissler (among others).

“This session of Contemporary Pagan Studies on “Pagan Borderlands” will address the various ambiguities of the liminal edge – whether as a porous bridging area between diametrically different identities, a defensive bulwark against intrusion or loss, or as the very “edge of chaos” where innovation and dynamic change arise. Mirroring Paganism’s own perception of the lethal dangers and sacred gifts of nature, the Pagan navigates the “land at the border” as an awesome zone of both vulnerability and fecundity.”

Also of note are the joint sessions the CPSC is holding with the Ritual Studies Group, and the Religion, Politics, and the State Group.

“Pagans at the Gate: Breaking through Church/State Boundaries. Challenges from the margins of America’s pluralistic society provide insight into church/state issues well beyond the usual Christian right/secular left dichotomy that prevails in public discourse. Those who have argued for a more prominent role for religion in the public square have invited, perhaps unwittingly, previously obscure religious groups to stake their claims to America’s religious freedom and the promise of unbiased government treatment of religion. This panel addresses the struggles of one such group, the Pagans, whose efforts to gain acknowledgment in the public square and to attain their own rights have profound implications for the rights of others.”

For a more robust listing of presentations, talks, and panel discussions of interest to modern Pagans check out this link. For those of you disappointed that you couldn’t get to California this year to attend, take heart, the next AAR annual meeting is being held in Chicago, which should make it easier for those of us in the Midwest to attend. Pagan involvement in scholarship and academia is a vital component of our maturation, giving us a better understanding of ourselves, and communicating with outsiders the diversity and vitality of our movement.

PS – For my readers interested in Unitarian-Universalism and liberal religion, the blog “Transient and Permanent” has a run-down of UU-related events at the AAR.

Jason Pitzl-Waters