February 19, 2014

CALL FOR PAPERS: Religion and the American West Group at the American Academy of Religion (AAR)

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 22-25, 2014

Religion in the American West Group

Statement of Purpose:

The Religion in the American West Group is a forum for graduate students, independent scholars, and faculty who situate their work regionally in the North American West, broadly conceived. The study of religion in this region allows scholars to use a broad array of methodologies (historical, anthropological, literary, sociological, and others) to explore the most pressing questions in the field of American religion and in Religious Studies more generally. These include, but are not limited to: the history of empire and colonialism; the connections between religion and violence; the construction and deployment of racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities; transnational movement of people and ideas; religion and the natural and built environments; myth-making and its role in the construction and critique of nationalist ideologies; and the development of the category of religion. The purpose of this subfield is not to remain in the American West, to define the West, or to argue that religion in the West is unique. Instead, by situating scholarship regionally, scholars of the American West are able to develop theories and methods that can be useful interpretive lenses for other regions defined by land, transnationalism, migrations, diversity, and colonialism. Moreover, the Group supports the development of a rigorous intellectual community by pre-circulating papers in advance of the national meeting and maintaining a blog.

Call for Papers:
Proposals for individual papers or a full session are solicited on the following topics:

• Drawing on the meeting’s location in San Diego, we invite proposals that touch on the the notion of boundaries in the North American West. In addition to considerations of the U.S.-Mexico border, we encourage submissions that highlight how religion in the region has facilitated and/or constrained crossing boundaries of ethnicity, race, socioeconomic class, language, gender, sexual orientation, aesthetics, and other constructions of difference.

• Religion and natural resources. We solicit proposals that examine how religion influences and is influenced by the intersection of environmental resources and limitations and human needs in the American West. Possible themes include but are not limited to water usage, urbanization, local environments, agriculture, land ownership, and tourism.

The deadline for proposal submission is
Monday, March 3, 5:00 PM EST

Method: PAPERS

Process: Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members until after final acceptance/rejection


Brandi Denison, b.denison@unf.edu
Brett Hendrickson, hendribr@lafayette.edu

Steering Committee
John-Charles Duffy, duffyjc@muohio.edu
Kathleen Holscher, kathleen.holscher@unm.edu
Sarah M. Pike, spike@csuchico.edu
Thomas Bremer, bremert@rhodes.edu

link to CFP at AAR site:

February 14, 2014

The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Announces 2014 Awards

The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies is pleased to announce multiple awards for 2014 that are available for scholars conducting research related to Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or/and Wyoming. Please see the descriptions below. Follow the link to https://reddcenter.byu.edu/Pages/Apply-for-an-Award.aspx for further information and application instructions. Applications for 2014 are due by 11:59 p.m. MST on March 15.

The Redd Center offers the following awards:

Faculty Research Awards provide up to $3,000 to faculty members at any academic institution to conduct research on any topic related to Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming.  Research may be conducted at any location.

Independent Research and Creative Awards provide up to $1,500 to researchers who are not connected to an academic institution for studying Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming.  Research may be conducted at any location.

Summer Awards for Upper Division and Graduate Students at any academic institution provide up to $1,500 for research support for any topic related to Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming.  Research may be conducted at any location.

The Annaley Naegle Redd Student Award in Women's History provides up to $1,500 for research support concerning any aspect of women's history in the American West (not limited to the Intermountain West).  Applications not receiving the Redd Award but dealing with Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming will be considered for the Summer Awards for Upper Division and Graduate Student Awards, Research may be conducted at any location.

Public Programming Awards provide up to $3,000 to any organization planning a conference, museum exhibit or lecture series on a topic related to Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming.

Fellowship Awards in Western American History provide up to $3,500 in research support for scholars who travel to BYU to use the L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library.

Clarence Dixon Taylor Historical Research Awards provides up to $2,500 for completed works from researched based upon Utah, Carbon, and Wasatch Counties. Nominations can include theses, books, papers, monographs, articles, symposiums, dramatic presentations, lectures, etc. Students and faculty of Brigham Young University or other institutions or other recognized scholars are eligible.

Visiting Scholar Program enable university faculty of all ranks, independent scholars, freelance authors and other public intellectuals to visit and conduct research at BYU. It provides a stipend of $2,500 per month for 2-4 months, office facilities, a networked computer, a research assistant, a limited photocopying budget, and campus library and activity privileges.  Visiting Scholars participate in Center activities and deliver public and classroom presentations on their work.

Publications Grants to Presses provide up to $3,000 to assist in the publication of scholarly studies on Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming . The grants will be given to academic publishers to help offset the costs of publishing books and to lower the books’ selling price. The book should already have been accepted for publication by the press and be ready for publication. The Redd Center may honor authors whose books receive a publication grant with a public lecture and book signing at Brigham Young University. The Center will defray the author's travel and lodging expenses.

To apply for an award, visit the Redd Center website (http://reddcenter.byu.edu), and click on “Apply for an Award” on the right hand side of the homepage. You will then be taken to our awards application page. After you have completed your application, you will receive a message indicating that your application has been successfully submitted. In addition, you will receive an email confirmation at the email address you list on your application. If you have any questions about the application process or about submitting your application, please contact Amy Carlin at 801-422-4048 or  amy_carlin@byu.edu. If you have questions about the substance of your application, please contact Brian Q. Cannon, Redd Center, director, brian_cannon@byu.edu.

This announcement was originally emailed across the H-Amrel listserv on January 31. 

February 10, 2014

Considering and Re-Considering "the West"

By Cara L. Burnidge

Recently High Country News, and its wonderfully titled"The Goat Blog," (with "News and Views From High Country News Writers and Editors), considered and re-considered an issue that is familiar to readers of this blog: What is meant by "American West"?

In her post "What the West would look like with state boundaries drawn by culture, population, or watersheds," Jodi Peterson noted that "our definition of the West has morphed over the years." She writes that they "cover the 11 Western states, and for us, one of the key characteristics of those states is their high proportion of public land."
You can see their map of the West here, which leaves out Texas, because of its few public lands, but also leaves out Alaska, despite its allotment of public land, as shown on the right.

This working definition, of course, hasn't stopped High Country News from considering other states and regions in its discussions about the West. Peterson draws attention to Colin Woodard's American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America , a national map drawn according to watershed boundaries, and other possibilities of reconsidering regional identity in the West and the U.S. more broadly.

Peterson didn't include it in her piece, but I'm reminded of this map included in Max Fischer's "40 More Maps that Explain the World."
 "North American languages, before colonialism" highlights the diversity, but perhaps more importantly, the presence of languages and cultures prior to colonialism. It also brings attention to "America," "the West," and "the American West' beyond its current U.S.-state borders, an endeavor that I imagine Petersen and  RelAmWest readers agree on.

After their discussions, Peterson notes, High Country News decided to stick with their slogan “for people who care about the American West.”    Even though the conceptions and representations change, depending on one's orientation, she says, "our mission"--and therefore the name--"stays the same."

While our name--Religion in the American West--has stayed the same and our interest in "the West" continues, I am not satisfied in the same way Peterson is with the essence of "the West," as geographic space or place, as scholarly subject, or as subfield. I'm looking forward to the coming weeks on the blog, where we will highlight our contributor's interests in and approaches to "the West." Perhaps it won't be the essence alone, but the questions at hand that will gain interest as well.

February 7, 2014

Milestone: 200 Posts!

Gif Credit: nbcsnl.tumblr.com
We've reached the 200-post milestone! Thank you readers and contributors for helping make this blog a space to share ideas, try out new theses, and learn about new and innovative approaches to the study of religion in the American West. Thank you especially to Quincy Newell and Brandi Denison for starting the blog and shaping this space for our scholarship. You've given us much to celebrate!

Stay tuned for more to come at RelAmWest! If you're interested in contributing a post or receiving email notices about the blog and/or the Religion in the American West AAR Group, contact us at relamwest@gmail.com or follow us on twitter (@relwest1).

February 3, 2014

Book of the Month:

Robert L. Dorman. Hell of a Vision: Regionalism and the Modern American West. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012.

reviewed by Brett Hendrickson

There are two continua at play in Robert Dorman’s fascinating study of how the West has been perceived and handled over the past century and a half. The first and most prominent of these continua, found in the subtitle of the book, is the tension between regionalism and national unity. The second is the long-running debate about what land in the West can and should do: new frontier of agricultural and industrial paradise or unique setting of magnificent and virgin landscapes that are already spoken for by nature, by Indians, or by “authentic westerners.” The author does a wonderful job of allowing the story of the American West to move to and fro on these continua, and the reader can enjoy the sparks that fly when competing claims and ideas for the region and for the nation scrape against one another.

The question of regionalism is begged when one talks about the American West, and the cast of characters Dorman depicts in his book know this. From John Wesley Powell’s vision of a managed settlement of the West, to the Bureau of Indian Affair’s assimilationist manipulations of Native Americans, to Edward Abbey’s radical and environmental isolationism, to the Sierra Club’s paradoxical plea that the West be saved as a common and nation-wide heritage, it has long been up for debate how much the West should be known as its own special place, or if it should be known as an integral extension of the rest of the country. To complicate this debate about identity, the regionalism of the West has so often broken down into more and more minute expressions of localism, often going far beyond the typical divisions of Pacific Northwest, California, Mormon Country, Great Basin, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Plains, and Texas.

Tensions about use of the West are tied to the question of region vs. nation. The anti-regionalists, to over-simplify Dorman’s fine analysis, want the area to be planned, tilled, ranched, mined, and managed as part of the national project. An example of this that Dorman discusses is historian Karl Wittfogel’s fear that the exploited, nationalized West could become a despotic “hydraulic society” that depended on “centralized works of water control.” The regionalists, who often include Native American groups as well as Mexican Americans, not to mention Western exceptionalists like Wallace Stegner, Willa Cather, and Earth First!, remind the would be exploiters and national project builders that the region cannot be made in the image of the East. The Dust Bowl, the poverty of reservations, and the contentious localism within the region itself make their point abundantly clear.

Another fascinating and provocative point that Dorman makes has to do with academic fashions and the notion of region. Take these examples:

[The regionalists’] cardinal sin was to attempt to define the regional characteristics of the West (aridity, wide-open spaces, predominant federal ownership of land, etc.). To do so was to “essentialize” the West—to fix its characteristics as a given, an essence—which to the postmodern, poststructuralist mindset of the 1990s was the gravest of scholarly errors....Historian Virginia Scharff declared that to “claim any object, idea, place, process, or people for the category ‘West’ is to fix things, thoughts, and social processes, and lives that are, historically, only contingently, contradictorily, and discontinuously Western” (176-7).

The opposing view:

Other scholars begged to differ with this assessment of regionalism, continuing to find it a potent source of cultural radicalism. Conceptually, their focus was on the subregional localist West....Regionalism was therefore “an alternative and oppositional tradition, one that worked against the construction of nation and empire and that challenged the construction of masculine and feminine that underwrote the projects of nation and empire” (177-8).

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that religion is barely mentioned in Dorman’s book. But one does not need to try very hard to apply Dorman’s observations about regionalism and its discontents to the study of religion in the West. This reader was inspired by Dorman’s book to think more about questions of regional religious study vis-à-vis the study of religion in all of North America. We know that regionalists tell stories that complicate nationalist myths. But we also know that regionalists can reify localist myths. That’s why we keep working and why books like Dorman’s are so helpful.