Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto
Call for Papers — Annual Graduate Symposium
April 24th – 25th, 2014
The Methods to Our Madness? An Inquiry into Methodology in the Study of Religion
The identity of the academic study of religion might be characterized paradoxically: first, the study of religions is a field of academic inquiry that is theoretically diverse and methodologically rich; second, lacking methodological orthodoxy, scholarly approaches to the study of religion are unpredictable and chaotic, or, as some may see it, mad. Underlying both descriptions is the problem of methodological variability in the study of religion. The spirit of diverse intellectual curiosity, arguably the chief strength of our field, is at times akin to “madness”—that is, characterized by chaos and disorder. And yet, many scholars have pointed out the generative and creative potential of that which is deemed chaotic. In this light, justifying our disciplinary existence is critical to discussions that reflect on the study of religion’s goals and limits, and is crucial for thinking about the future of the study of religions.
Several questions arise from these issues: is there something inherently diverse about “religion” which compels its study to be diverse in methodology? Does the image of order applied to chaos, or of method given to madness accurately reflect the task of scholars of religion? In what ways has the paradigm of “application” been replicated in our contemporary methodologies? How can we complicate this style of approach? What changes, either in method or in theory, when the study of religion appropriates the methods of other disciplines?
We invite papers that consider the following topics and related questions:
- madness, chaos, or disorder in philosophical, historical, or anthropological contexts.
- the use of philosophical concepts in the study of religion.
- complications of the natural scientific paradigm of “method” in the study of religions.
- area studies that address specific practices, rituals, or beliefs.
- critical reflections on “the material turn,” and its larger implications for method.
- the (im)possibility of knowledge given the difficulties of source transmission or collection.
- the historical development of the study of religion in general.
- questions about taxonomy and categorization.
- reflections on the discipline or “(un)discipline” of religious studies in light of the problems associated with method.
In order to be considered, interested applicants are to submit 250–300 word proposals including paper title, five keywords, author name, institutional affiliation, and contact information to Zoe Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org by January 6th, 2014. Successful applicants will be notified by February 10th, 2014. The keynote speaker will be announced closer to the conference date.