Religion in the North American West


The Williams P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art solicit papers that examine religion in the North American West. Selected participants will take part in a two-part symposium to workshop their papers leading to an edited volume. The symposium and resulting volume will examine the religious, spiritual, and secular histories of the Trans-Mississippi West, including western Canada, northern Mexico, and the trans-Pacific West such as Hawaii, the Philippines and American Samoa. The symposium will focus on the West(s) created by the contact of settler-colonists, migrants, and indigenous peoples from the 16th to 21st centuries. Paper topics should not merely be set in the North American West but should engage significantly with the region as a constitutive part of religious histories and experiences.

This symposium will bring together scholars who are critically engaged with the documentation of the rich religious past of the American West and who address the wider historiography of the region. We solicit paper proposals that center the West in North American religious history and engage the categories of religion, spirituality, and secularism in light of the regional context. We are particularly interested in proposals that consider land use, empire, gender, settler colonialism, transnational movement, and/or the production of religion as an academic and legal category. While the methodological bent of the symposium is historical, we will also consider submissions featuring interdisciplinary methods, an expansive understanding of the “archive,” and an examination of material and mediated forms of religion. Jennifer Graber (University of Texas at Austin) and Quincy Newell (Hamilton College) will be participants in the symposium, and will contribute essays to the edited volume.

We welcome proposals from scholars of any rank or affiliation who would like to contribute substantively to this project on religion in the North American West. Selected participants will meet twice to present and workshop their papers: once at SMU’s satellite campus in Taos, New Mexico, September 29-October 2, 2022, and a second time at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, April 20-23, 2023. Travel, meals, and lodging will be generously covered by the Clements Center and the Eiteljorg Museum. Conference co-conveners, Brandi Denison (University of North Florida) and Brett Hendrickson (Lafayette College) will edit the papers and submit them to an academic press with lists in both religious studies and western history.  Please submit a one-page CV and a 500-800 proposal that describes your project, the research undertaken, and its relationship to the symposium’s theme by November 1, 2021, to Brandi Denison and Brett Hendrickson.

For more information about the symposium, contact the conference co-conveners or the Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

Image: Jose Rafael Aragon (Colonial Spanish American santero, ca. 1896-1862). San Jose Retablo, ca. 1830-1840; ponderosa pine board, water-based paints, hide.  Courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum.