Some Tips For Joining Professional Association for Religious Scholars

There are some of you out there wondering probably, this religious studies stuff sounds cool. How does Rod get to present so many papers at conferences?

Well, there first time I presented a paper it was at the 2008 Joint Annual Meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society and Society for Pentecostal Scholars. All because I wanted to meet Jurgen Moltmann, whose theology changed my life, oh, yeah, and it was on Duke’s campus, so I was hoping (and did so) to run into Stanley Hauerwas.  All of that happened because I saw a poster for the event, a call for papers, wrote and emailed a paper proposal, and it was accepted.

So, here are a couple of tips.

1. I would start by finding a scholarly professional yada yada organization that deals with religious studies. Pretty simple. There is: The American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Evangelical Theological Society, and American Schools of Oriental Research for archaeology. Check out their membership requirements, you will have to pay to be a member, student member, etc. etc.

2. Second, look for Calls for Papers online or at your school. Calls for papers inform you what kind of paper conferences are looking for, where the conference is being held. Why go to conferences? Why present? To network with other scholars, to be a public intellectual, to share your research work with others in your field. A good place to start is RELIGION CFP.

Some organizations will let you propose a panel, as 2 friends and I did for the regional AAR. Depends entirely on the CFP. I went as an Independent Scholar because I do not have an official relationship with an educational institution, either by employment or going to school there. At conferences, you represent what school you go to. Independent Scholars who present are rare, but they are there.

Paper presentations and/or panels can become book ideas, collections of essays, etc., so it’s important to do your best work. I myself over-prepare when I present, and I usually aim to write more than I need to, and then cut down the pages, saving the other work for a potential article. For the panel presentation on Harlem Renaissance and Black Religion(s), I had about 28 pages of work on 2 writers, and I decided to go with just one, but use my other work in the future. Over-preparing and over-reading helps me immensely with Question and Answer sessions. I have always done this.

In terms of practice, speaking comes naturally, and I practiced my presentation once, and it was during work, and I timed myself at what, 35 minutes, and that was with a ton of distractions. On Saturday, the presentation with me albeit talking a little fast, was at 28 minutes. My plans for me to go to the next level is to have a script ready for me, but still use the script less and less, and make my presentations more conversational with dialogue. How will that work in the Academy? I am still thinking that through.

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4 thoughts on “Some Tips For Joining Professional Association for Religious Scholars

  1. Religion CFP

    excellent post on scholarly associations. Thanks for the shout-out about our call for papers.

    Also I think you should add tags to this post of:
    AAR, SBL, sblaar,

    and maybe post links to the twitter feeds of AAR and SBL as another way for people to keep up with what is going on in the religion academy

  2. Charles

    Good post, Rod. I’ll just add a plug for the scholarly organization that I belong to, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion: It’s a good one for those whose background/training leans a bit more toward history or the social sciences (psychology, sociology, economics, etc), and the journal that they publish contains some top-notch research.


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