[URBANTH-L]Call for Papers AAA 2009: Making “Real” Families: Relatedness, Transcendence and Boundary Making among Religious Communities in North America

amm9w at virginia.edu amm9w at virginia.edu
Sat Mar 7 12:16:47 EST 2009

Call for Papers Reminder, Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association Philadelphia, December 2-6, 2009


Todne Thomas (University of Virginia)
Asiya Malik (University of Virginia)

Making “Real” Families: Relatedness, Transcendence and Boundary Making among Religious Communities in North America
This panel explores the ways in which informal and formal socio-religious communities inform myriad kinship formations in North America.  For many years, immigrant religiosity has been rendered functionally as spaces preserving home cultures or fostering new immigrants’ assimilation to host countries.  However, current research illustrating the salience of transnational religious networks and the meaningful practice of domestic religious observances have begun to de-center denominationalism and/or sectarianism as the primary framework to analyze local and immigrant religious institutions.  Furthermore, anthropological conceptualizations of relatedness—that move away from understandings of kinship seen through a western lens rooted in biology—direct our attention to the processual nature of social relationships that incorporate agents into long-lasting ties of kinship.  By utilizing Carsten’s framework of relatedness, we allow for the broader inclusion of cross-cultural and religious understandings of kinship that incorporate both indigenous statements and practices as well as multifarious religious institutional employments of the term.  We are left with a view of religious communities that can be simultaneously familial, local, regional, (trans)national, and global in scope and identity, differentially fluid in their incorporation of new members, yet durable in their anchoring of religious subjectivities in collective spiritual and familial genealogies.

This panel examines religion as a social domain around which multiple types of kinship can be constructed and expressed.  On the one hand, we consider the on going salience of religious constructions and understandings of the “family” and how members of these socio-religious communities negotiate, challenge and recreate these ideals on a daily basis.  On the other hand, we investigate the role of spiritual commonality, place of origin, genealogy, class, language and ethnicity in producing varied constructions of everyday relatedness among religious practitioners.
In other words, we endeavor to show how varied kinship connections are mobilized to promote socio-religious unities transcendent of social difference.  Yet we also show how these multiple forms of socio-religious relatedness are employed by members to invoke hierarchies of inclusion through discourses of authenticity.  Rather than classifying these kinship formations along rigid sacred and secular lines, we explicate how members invoke and negotiate multiple forms of relatedness in both private and public settings and within and across national borders.  In addition to tracking these discourses, practices, and configurations of contemporary religious kinship, we analyze such forms against the presumed distinction of religion and kinship as disparate social domains and institutions of North American societies. 

Sample topics representing a variety of religious communities can include but are not limited to: church kinship among immigrant and native groups; relatedness among Islamic socio-cultural associations in North America; religion as a discourse for ethnic, class, or other forms of social difference; theologies versus everyday practices of religious relatedness; spiritual/ religious kinship as a tool for socio-cultural exclusion; family genealogy and historical trajectories as grounds for religious membership; spiritual genealogies and differential religious membership.

All abstracts submitted by faculty, graduate students and researchers should be informed by ethnographic research.  

Please submit abstracts (250 words) and a brief bio or CV by email to
amm9w at virginia.edu or tyt5t at virginia.edu by March 10, 2009. Participation in the panel will be
confirmed via email by March 15.

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