Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Pagan Studies at the American Academy of Religion

Ten years ago here in Philadelphia, a group of 20 or so people sat in a circle of chairs at the Philadelphia Convention Center. The meeting was convened by Dennis Carpenter and Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary to bring together people interested in the academic study of Pagan religion. We did not do much except introduce ourselves.

The following year, Dennis and Selena did not attend (and have not attended since), so I got the job of organizing a follow-up meeting, where we agreed that having a listserv would be a good thing.

Meeting in 1997 in San Francisco, we decided to apply to be an official program unit. We were turned down for two reasons: we had not demonstrated sufficiently that our needs were not met it pre-existing units (e.g., New Religious Movements) and also the AAR was simply not as open to new program units, since they and their older parent, the Society of Biblical Literature, were having some trouble finding meeting venues with sufficient small rooms for the dozens of concurrent sessions. Those were the official reasons for the denial, at least.

So beginning in 1998, we started holding our own pre-meeting session and giving papers. The original 2.5-hour session grew to the full-day Conference on Contemporary Pagan Studies, which will continue in the future.

In 2004 we applied again. This time, the AAR and SBL had agreed to meet separately after 2007, which decision helped with the meeting-space issue. Suddenly new unit proposals were welcomed, and ours, supported by evidence of scholarly activity (papers presented, books and articles published, the existence of The Pomegranate) sailed right through.

Leaving for home today, I'm buoyed by thoughts of this meeting's packed rooms (more than 60 people at both the CCPS and official Pagan Studies session) and the quality of the presentations. We're off and running.



Blogger gl. said...

congrats, chas! sounds like you earned it!

1:22 PM  
Blogger Broomstick Chronicles said...

Selena and Dennis attended in San Francisco in 1997. XO

1:33 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...


I had not remembered their being there, perhaps because they were not so actively involved in the first attempt to start a Pagan Studies consultation, the one that was rejected by the AAR program committee.


8:29 AM  

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