Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Off to see the Pagan Studies crowd

I've been turning off the overhead fluorescent lights in my office, leaving just the desk and reading lights on, so that I can watch the eastern sky turn mauve over the prairie. Today is effectively the first day of Thanksgiving break, and that means leaving for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, this year in Atlanta, a city in which I would otherwise have no interest what so ever. (The AAR is slowly divorcing itself from its parent, the Society for Biblical Literature; annual meetings will go their separate ways in a few years.)

Eleven years ago I attended my first AAR-SBL meeting in San Francisco. I knew no one other than my professors from graduate school. (I had attended a couple of religional AAR meetings only.) It was huge, overwhelming (probably 7,000-8,000 attendees), humbling. I felt outclassed and out of place, a nobody, in his first year of teaching at an unknown state university.

In 1995 (Philadelphia), the first group of scholars working with Paganism and/or "nature religion" got together just for a meet-and-greet. "Nature religion," of course, can be either a euphemism for Paganism or, as in the case of Bron Taylor's or Catherine Albanese's work, something much broader. We still have not bridged that gap.

By 1997 (San Francisco, again) we were applying for "consultation" status in the AAR--a regular meeting slot, in other words. We were turned down and kept on presenting papers and having panel discussions in the marginal "additional meetings" category. And that year Fritz Muntean and Diana Taylor started The Pomegranate (see links on the right), which is now a bona-fide peer-reviewed journal. And in 1998 (Orlando) I met Erik Hanson of AltaMira Press, who was bidding for but did not get Bron's and Jeff Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature project, which went to Continuum instead. But thanks to that contact, I got to know Erik and eventually signed to write Her Hidden Children: I will be taking a rough draft ms. to Atlanta with me.

And this year our little additional meeting has grown to an all-day Pagan Studies session.

I'm still humbled, but now it's by the way in which interest has grown, the volume of scholarly writing has exploded, and by the fact that I'm editing The Pomegranate. Now I'll be approaching people to publish papers, soliciting book mss. for the AltaMira Pagan Studies series . . . suddenly four days don't seem like enough.

Expect more news here in about a week.


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