Choosing This Year’s AAR Pagan Studies Papers

Finally finished — I hope — with the process of selecting papers to be presented in the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group’s sessions and in our joint session with the Indigenous Religious Traditions Group at next November’s American Academy of Religion annual meeting.

Being co-chair is one of those secretarial-type gigs I get stuck with. It’s the penalty for being literate.

Thanks to all the steering committee members of both groups for their proposal evaluations, and thanks to the AAR staff for selecting a new software program that makes evaluation and session-creation easier. I still sweat bullets over the process, but it all seemed to work OK.

The less enjoyable part of the process is having to write to the people whose proposals were not scored highly enough. Here again the new software makes it easier to scoop up all the evaluation comments, paste them into a document, remove identifying names, etc., and pass them on. People need to know why their proposals were scored the way they were — were they just not suitable for the “call,” were they insufficiently analytical, or did they just promise too much?  At least one proposal this year sounded more like a book outline than what could be covered in a 20-minute talk.

Some folks must just skip over this excellent advice on proposals.

Some sessions have respondents —  scholars who summarize, evaluate, and critique all the papers after the presentations are over, serving as a sort of discussion leader during the Q&A. My next goal is to try to get the writers and the respondents communicating earlier in the writing process. I had a bad experience once of serving as a respondent and trying to write my critique only hours before the session — I felt as though all I produced was incoherent babble.

What will the papers’ topics be? I don’t want to jump the gun on the AAR’s process, but I will announce them in due course.