Situated at the nexus of several civilizational influences — including Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern — Southeast Asia, as a region, remains understudied in terms of its relevance to the theoretical and methodological study of religion.
This neglect is in part due to the tendency to reduce Southeast Asian religious systems to the named “world religions” often identified with other regions. As a result, indigenous practices are not viewed in terms of their conceptual and other linkages — and in some cases the dynamic interactions between those practices and the religious practices brought over by different classes of immigrants are frequently overlooked. However, and especially in the last fifteen years, exciting materials addressing different religious cultures in Southeast Asia have emerged. Hitherto, there has been little scholarly conversation at the AAR on Southeast Asia. And, perhaps even less commonly, are Southeast Asian religious cultures (e.g., Buddhist, Islamic, Christian, Hindu, “animist,” Chinese, and Pacific) put into conversation with one another. In light of this need in the field, we strive to provide a context for this conversation as well as to foster critical thinking about Southeast Asia as a region.
The Religion in Southeast Asia Program Unit invites proposals for individual papers, paper sessions, and roundtables.
Following extensive discussion on the steering committee, and inspired by the annual theme for 2017 – viz. Religion and the Most Vulnerable – this year will mark the beginning of a broader effort to cultivate a greater inclusiveness in the range of topics and participants involved in our Unit’s activities.
With this end in mind, we welcome contributions on any topic pertaining to religion in Southeast Asia, and will favor submissions from both underrepresented groups and those who have never before presented in this Program Unit. We are particularly interested in papers and sessions that explore the varying media and means through which people create and maintain, as well as question and challenge, religiously-laden vulnerabilities.
Possible topics and formats might include, for example, a roundtable discussion on inclusiveness and diversity in the academy, with specific reference to religion in Southeast Asia. Another possibility would be an organized panel on queer spiritualities, or the mounting challenges faced by LGBTQIA scholars in religious studies—or, again, new forms of religious bigotry and persecution in Southeast Asia, with a comparative eye to developments in Europe and America.
We are also hoping to co-sponsor a session with the Religious Conversions Unit, addressing the theme of “Conversion in Southeast Asian Contexts”.