In Which We Use ‘the I-Word’ at the AAR

Attendance at this year’s American Academy of Religion annual meeting was down somewhat, an AAR staff member told me: about 5,000 instead of 7,000-8,000. He attributed the drop to the economy, not to the fact that the meeting was held in Montreal. I certainly heard no complaints about the venue.

Although I spent the Saturday being a tourist of magic, I was still able to make the main Paganism-related sessions.

The Contemporary Pagan Studies Group had three sessions, and they were well-attended by AAR standards, with more than fifty people at each one.

Our shared session with the Indigenous Religious Traditions Group went well. Suzanne Owen took on the whole question of how “indigenous” is employed in a paper called “Indigenous Religious Expressions? Mi’kmaq Tradition and British Druidry,” that I would like to read more of.

Amy Whitehead offered an illustrated version of her paper published recently in The Pomegranate, but in retrospect, it really belonged in our standalone session with the theme of “Idolatry.”

Yes, the I-word, sometimes subsumed in the broader term “materiality,” as in Graham Harvey’s presentation, “Materiality and Spirituality Aren’t Opposites (Necessarily): Paganism and Objects.”

The presentations were good, but of necessity just nibbled at the edges of topic, so I think that we will be having a session on “Idolatry Revisited” next year in Atlanta.

Our other session, “The Book and the Practice: The Relationship between Literature and Contemporary Paganism,” reflected one of my ongoing concerns–let’s move beyond citing the relationship between Stranger in a Strange Land and the Church of All Worlds and look at a broader range of “artistic representations … and their influence on and the mutually interdependent relations with a variety of Paganisms as they are practiced today,” to quote the language of the call for papers.

There is a lot more to do there too. At least we are not running out of ideas for conference sessions.

2 thoughts on “In Which We Use ‘the I-Word’ at the AAR

  1. Angela Raincatcher


    These look like interesting papers. For those of us unable to attend AAR, or who are not affiliated with an academic institution, is there a way to find, buy, and/or read these works?


  2. Chas S. Clifton

    Usually the only way to get a copy of a conference paper is to contact the author directly and beg nicely.

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