IfRAW Statement of Purpose

The Initiative for Religion in the American West (IfRAW) emerged from a highly successful AAR Seminar focused on Religion in the American West.  Seminar participants found lively, engaging, intellectually sophisticated discussion in the seminar’s annual meetings from 2008 to 2010.  Unfortunately, AAR seminars have a five-year life span and when seminar participants applied to create a new AAR program unit to continue the seminar’s scholarly exchange, the application was denied.  A group of seminar participants have therefore created the IfRAW.

The purposes of the IfRAW are:
  1. To provide a site for continued scholarly exchange on religion in the American West.  This includes the presentation of new research as well as discussion of how study of religion in the American West informs the study of American religion and, indeed, the study of religion more broadly.  As such, it requires both ongoing engagement with the primary sources as well as theoretical and methodological conversation with the broader field.
  2. To cultivate a community of scholars (already created through the work of the AAR seminar) interested in religion in the American West, and to nurture young scholars in the subfield.
  3. To develop resources for teaching about religion in the American West in courses dedicated to the topic as well as those on American Religion, the West, or the study of religion or American History more generally. Such resources include model syllabi, course units, classroom exercises and assignments, and effective primary and secondary sources.
  4. To create a permanent home for this scholarly community, whether as an AAR program unit, an entity housed within another scholarly organization, an independent academic society, or some other form.  Whatever form it takes, this permanent home shall allow for the periodic physical meeting of the community in addition to online forms of collaboration and communication.
We intend the IfRAW as a temporary measure until the fourth purpose, the creation of a permanent home, can be accomplished.  Like the seminar from which it emerged, we expect that the IfRAW will last a maximum of five years.  During that time we will hold an “additional meeting” at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting each year.  We will also encourage IfRAW attendees to organize sessions at other scholarly meetings (such as the American Historical Association, the American Studies Association, the Western History Association, and so on) in order to nurture fruitful cross-disciplinary conversations.

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