Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture held its Third Biennial conference. A smaller crowd held in a more intimate venue (we even sit in a circle like in camp!), the every-other-year gathering has quickly become one of the field's most enjoyable and rewarding. Fellow RiAH blogger Emily Clark shared her own thoughts on the blog here.
Well for those of you who couldn't make this year's gathering, the Center has just released the conference's proceedings. They include brief synopses of the conference's panels followed by every paper from the gathering. And as a conference attendee, I can tell you there is some material in here that is well worth your time. The whole proceedings are worth a read, but I'd like to particularly call your attention to the final set of papers on "The Future of the Study of American Religion." It was unlike any "future of the field" conversation I've heard before. Where other panels or conferences have pondered the unconsidered topics or neglected methodologies in the study of religion, nearly every paper at #RAAC2013's panel claimed in some manner that the future of the study of American religion lay in more robust forms of public engagement. To be sure, there were some historiographical gems. Nancy Ammerman, for example, made my week when she claimed that that the future of the study of American religion lay in the study of social class. But from David K. Yoo's call for instruction that connects with the concerns of the communities in which we teach to Kathryn Lofton's remarkably incisive claim that there is no future study of American religion that does not include a consideration of the interrelated economic, political, and fiscal crises that are affecting both scholars of religion and the communities they study, the panel collectively suggested that the future of the study of religion lay outside the hallowed halls of the academy. This sense of urgency and engagement seems to be gaining momentum throughout the academy and very well may be the future of the humanities.
Either way, add the R&AC's Proceedings to your reading list, and make sure to mark your calendars for the fourth biennial gathering in 2015.