Initiative for Religion in the American West: AAR Kickoff Saturday, November 23, 10-12:30

The following comes from Quincy Newell, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming. She wants to call your attention to a new Initiative for Religion in the American West which  will kick off at this year's AAR in Baltimore, and feature the kind of thing everyone always says we should do at academic conferences but few actually do: precirculate papers and then focus the conference session on a discussion of the papers.  Read all about it below, and of course at the Religion in the American West blog. 

Exciting New Initiative!

If you’ve browsed through your AAR program book, you may have noticed an “Additional Meeting” on Saturday morning.  In previous years, there was an official AAR program unit, the Seminar on Religion in the American West, where you could get your American West fix.  You may know that seminar members submitted a proposal to turn the seminar into a group; unfortunately the program committee rejected the idea, so the seminar finished its five-year run and left the AAR without a programmatic home for discussion of religion in the American West.

As a temporary solution to this sad state of affairs, a group of former RAW Seminar folks have put together the exciting new Initiative for Religion in the American West (IfRAW).  Sponsored this year by the Religious Studies Department of the University of Wyoming, IfRAW will hold its first meeting on Saturday, November 23, from 10-12:30.  (This gives you a chance to sleep in.  You’re welcome.)  There are three papers, ready for you to read NOW, that the group will discuss.  Then there will be a business meeting and decide on a strategy for the immediate future—ways to place sessions at other meetings, when and how (and if) to propose a program unit to the AAR again, and how to shape the call for papers for the Initiative’s next annual meeting at the AAR.

What can you do? 
First, read the papers and come to the meeting ready to discuss them.  Bring a friend!  Here’s how to get the papers: go to  The (case sensitive!) password is: IfRAW.  If you have any trouble, email Brandi Denison at relamwest AT gmail DOT com.

The IfRAW session this year is called “Theorizing Religion from the American West.”  Here’s the session description:
The Initiative for Religion in the American West invites all who are interested in the topic to attend our first annual session. This session takes up the task of conceptualizing religion and re-thinking the methods of religious study, taking the North American West as the point of departure rather than as the end result of western expansion. Three pre-circulated papers examine how a western regional vantage point alters how the category “religion” itself is defined, imagined, and academically employed in the study of North American religions. In addition to considering these “theories of religion of the American West,” the session also reflects on methods of study of religion that are suited to (and respond to) the study of religious people, practices, and institutions in the region. Paper authors will make brief presentations, followed by a response and extensive discussion among all attendees. The session will conclude with a brief business meeting to plan the future of the Initiative.

·         Catherine Newell, University of Miami, “Myth and Religion in the American West”
·         Sarah Moczygemba, University of Florida, “Cowboy Churches: Walking the Line between Myth and History”
·         Seth Schemerhorn, Arizona State University, “Of Pilgrimage and Parody: Don Bahr’s Principle of ‘Parody’ and O’odham Methods and Theories of ‘Writing’ History and ‘Mapping’ Territory”
            Respondent: Kristy Nabhan-Warren, University of Iowa

Second, help us get the word out about this session and about the initiative more generally.  Bring a friend to the session!  If you’ve been to past seminar sessions, and you thought they were worthwhile, tell people.  Help create some buzz for the Initiative.

Third, think about where you’d like to see this initiative go in the future.  Send your ideas in advance to one of the current IfRAW leadership team (Brandi Denison, Brett Hendrickson, Jim Bennett, and Quincy Newell).  These might be ideas about strategies for getting a new program unit, or just ideas you’d like to see in the next CFP.  Click here [link to:] to read the IfRAW statement of purpose and get those creative juices flowing!

Fourth, if you happen to be in leadership for another AAR program unit, think about whether you’d like to co-sponsor a session with us.  Since IfRAW is not an official AAR program unit, co-sponsoring won’t get you any additional sessions.  But it will help advance the IfRAW cause, and we will gladly help in recruiting high-quality presenters and respondents.

Fifth, consider whether you’d like your institution to be a co-sponsor of the IfRAW.  Additional Meetings cost money—not a lot, but some—and we need institutional sponsors.  If you are interested in helping with this part, contact Quincy Newell (qdnewell AT uwyo DOT edu) for details.