American Association of

History

The American Society for the Study of Religion (ASSR) was founded in 1959. Two years earlier, a symposium was sponsored by the family of Paul Carus, former secretary of the World’s Parliament of Religions held in 1893. Even after the Parliament, Carus was active in Parliament business and the larger study of religion for the remainder of his life. The scholars gathered for that initial symposium included Charles Adams, Ludwig Bacchofer, Marshal G.S. Hodgson, Winston King, Edmund Perry, and D.T. Suzuki.

In the following year, the American Council of Learned Societies’ Committee on the Study of Religion established the ASSR as the American branch of the International Association for the History of Religions. Early active members included Joseph Kitagawa, Kenneth Morgan, and Edmund Perry. Early past presidents have included Erwin Goodenough, Mircea Eliade, Wilfred C. Smith, Joseph Campbell, Norvin Hein, Charles J. Adams, Joseph Kitagawa, Edward A. Tiryakian, and Ninian Smart. For a full list of past presidents, see below. In 2001 the ASSR elected its first woman president, Judith Berling, of the Graduate Theological Union.

Since 1959 the ASSR has met annually at the end of April and pursued a particular theme in the study of religion over the course of three days. ASSR meetings have followed a tradition of a small number of paper presentations and a large amount of time for discussions. Its meeting topics tend to reflect the trends in the field. Recent topics have included "Religious Controversy," "The Marginalized," "Religious Identity," and "Visual Culture." For past programs, see below.

Since its inception, the ASSR has been intentionally interdisciplinary. Its members come from a variety of disciplines, including classics, philosophy, history, anthropology, philology, and art history, as well as the study of religion. In addition to scholarly pursuits, the ASSR will occasionally provide support for religion departments in need, in keeping with its history of making a case for the centrality of the study of religion within the academy.

For a fuller early history, see Wendy O'Flaherty, "On the ASSR and Joseph Kitagawa," in History of Religions, Vol. 25, No. 4, Religion and Change: ASSR Anniversary Volume (May, 1986), pp. 293-295.

 

Past Programs (Click to view content)

Note: It was traditional for meetings to end with a "roundup" session. Beginning with the 1961, the name listed after the semi-colon indicates the member who led the roundup session that year. The practice was abandoned between 1997 and 2007 and renewed again in 2008.

Year

Place

Topic

Presenters

1960

Arden House

Miscellaneous

W. Smith, von Grunebaum, Bellah, Kitagawa

1961

New York

Religion and Social Change

Parsons, Berkes, McFarland; Nelson

1962

New York

Images

Eliade, Goodenough, Hodgson; Schneider

1963

New York

Piety through Law

Blau, Chan, C. Adams; Hein

1964

New York

Adaptation of Tradition to New Conditions

Kitagawa, Singer, Goldin; Harrelson

1965

New York

Religion and Government

Frye, Jacobsen, Ross

1966

New York

Types of Methodology in the Study of Religion

Stendahl, M. Smith, Tapp; Long

1967

New York

Secularization and the Sacred

Campbell, H. Smith, Taubes; Bellah

1968

New York

The Nature and Role of Religious Belief

Dimock, J. L. Adams, W. Smith; W. King

1969

Chicago

The Culture of Unbelief

Bellah, Perry, (Kitagawa); McFarland

1970

Cambridge

The Nature of Religious Authority

Werblowsky, Robinson, Tiryakian; Panikkar

1971

New York

New Modalities of the Sacred

Hutchison, Nelson, Long; Jonas

1972

Chicago

Secrecy in Religion

Welbon, Middleton, Schimmel; Bolle

1973

Nashville

Root Metaphors in Religious Traditions

Oxtoby, Wayman, Ricoeur; Carman

1974

New Haven

Divinized Femininity in the Development of Religious Traditions

Kramrisch, Pope, McFarland; C. Adams

1975

Toronto

Demonic Powers and Their Cults

Tiryakian, J.Z. Smith; H. Smith

1976

Princeton

Transformation in Sacrifice

Turner, van Buitenen, Glatzer; Campbell

1977

Chicago

The Meaning and Function of the Dead

Earhart, Oxtoby, Sandmel; Harrelson

1978

Philadelphia

Scripture, Theories and Uses

Carman, Stendahl, Carstens; Streng

1979

Cincinnati

Role of Biography in Religious Traditions

Schimmel, Reynolds, Silberman, Smart; J.Z. Smith

1980

Chicago

Methodology

Polomé, Gager, Harrelson; O'Flaherty

1981

Toronto

How Religions Express Themselves Politically

Lawrence, Hopkins, Earhart; Perry

1982

Durham-Chapel Hill

Religious Uses of the Visual Arts

Maquet, McFarland, Vazquez; Middleton

1983

Stony Brook

Religions and Change I: Pluralism

Tapp, Elder, Kraabel; Peacock

1984

Chicago

Religion and Change II (Special Silver Anniversary Program)

Panikkar, Fernandez, Smart, Kitagawa, Sivin; Long

1985

Claremont

New Religions: Ancient and Modern

Robinson, Robertson, Middleton; Penner

1986

Toronto

How Religions Handle Conflict Situations

Hein, Berling, Silberman; Ching

1987

Minneapolis

Sacraments

Welbon, Williams, Slater; Smart

1988

Stony Brook

What Makes Some Categories Better for Comparison than Others?

J.Z. Smith, Robertson, Lincoln; Davis

1989

Philadelphia

Conversion a Useful Comparative Category?

Nagata, Peacock, Long; Waldman

1990

Dallas

Formatting Comparisons toward Understanding Religious Life

Berling, Carman, Smart, Hopkins, Lawrence, Keyes, Penner; Sullivan

1991

Columbus

Interpreting Religious Texts

W. Smith, Middleton, Lawrence; Tapp/Streng

1992

Cambridge

The Practice of Religion: Meditation and Mysticism

Sivin, Swearer, Williams, Segal; Welbon

1993

Chicago

The Practice fo Religion: Violence

H. Smith, Morgan, Oxtoby; C. Adams

1994

Williamsburg

The Practice of Religion; Pilgrimage and Diaspora

Graham, Hein, Welbon, Earhart, Davis, Ebersole, McFarland; Knipe, Nagata, & Strong

1995

Santa Cruz

Religion and Political Responsibility

Davis, Tiryakian, Kasulis, Hopkins; J.Z. Smith

1996

Baltimore

The God Hypothesis

Swearer, Reynolds, Bell, Eaton, Segal, Oxtoby; Earhart

1997

Atlanta

The Changing Face of North American Religious Pluralism

Eck, Kasulis, Swearer, Nanji, G. Laderman (guest), Lawrence Earhart, Segal, Slater; McAuliffe, Lawson, Courtright, Eck

1998

Durham-Chapel Hill

Focusing on the Marginalized: New Methodological Issues

B. Smith, Kasulis, Lawrence, Lease, Peacock, Berling, Hackett, Martin, J.Z. Smith, Ernst, Holt, Nagata, Reynolds, Graham, Hawley, Hecht

1999

Northfield, Minnesota

Role of Scholars Responding to Religious Controversy, Conflict, or Change

Hackett, Jurgensmeyer, Strenski, Tweed, Silk (guest), Kasulis, Lease, Berling, Elder

2000

Chicago

Religious Self-Definition: The Influence of Other Local Religions

B. Smith, Bell, Ebersole, Reynolds, Graham, Newby, Oxtoby, Tiryakian, Kasulis, Strenski, Segal

2001

Lazy K Bar Ranch, near Tucson

The Other Senses of Religion: Taste, Sound, Smell, and Touch

Keyes, Lawrence, Richman, Segal, Strenski, Lease, Hackett

2002

Cambridge

Responding to September 11th

Kasulis, Graham, Tiryakian, Hackett, Ernst, Holt, Strenski, Patton, Lawson

2003

Waynesville, North Carolina

Religious Groundings: Making Connections to Particular Places

Peacock, Klein, Keyes, Strong, Hawley, Aronowicz, Ebersole

2004

Newark

Urban Religion

Newby, Eck, Brown, Berling; J.Z. Smith

2005

Atlanta

Who Can Speak for Traditions?: Scholarship, Politics, Diaspora, and e-Religion

Patton, Johnson, Courtright, Robbins, Newby, Hackett

2006

Cambridge

Visual Culture

Blier (guest), Kendall, Gyatso, Hopkins, Carrasco, Tiryakan, Tweed, Jones, Eck

2007

Berkeley

Food and Food Practices

Shapiro (guest), Sullivan, Knipe, Mann, Lease

2008

Lewiston, Maine

Dreams

Kripal, Cabezón, Johnston, Bongmba, Cladis; Patton

2009

Chicago

The Real and the Fake

J.Z Smith, Peacock, Johnson, Doniger, Jones, Patton, W. Sullivan, Tweed; Reynolds

2010

Granville, OH

Religion and Economy

Graf (guest), Swearer, McDermott, Richmond, Johnston, Shiels (guest), Ernst

2011

Atlanta

Miracles

Patton, Strong, Yu, Frankfurter, Hollenback, Aronowicz, Lawrence, Hackett

2012

Santa Barbara

Embodied Mind

Tweed, Taves, Kasulis, Holdrege, Robbins, Weisenfeld, Peacock

2013

Chapel Hill/Durham

Children

Orsi, Ziolkowski, Johnson, Hardacre, Strenski

2014

Cambridge

Scale

Sullivan, Nielsen, Urban, Newby, Hardacre, Strong

2015

Houston

Myth

DeConick (Guest), Strenski, Patton, Kripal, Gottschalk, Johnston, Bender, Newby

(Hide this content)

 

Past Presidents (Click to view content)

  • Erwin Goodenough (Yale)
  • Mircea Eliade (Chicago)
  • Wilfred C. Smith (Harvard)
  • Joseph M. Kitagawa (Chicago)
  • Joseph Campbell (Sarah Lawrence)
  • Norvin Hein (Yale)
  • Charles J. Adams (McGill)
  • Edward A. Tiryakian (Duke)
  • R. Ninian Smart (Lancaster & UCSB)
  • Frederick Streng (Southern Methodist)
  • Williard G. Oxtoby (Toronto)
  • Bruce B. Lawrence (Duke)
  • Bardwell L. Smith (Carleton)
  • Thomas P. Kasulis (Ohio State)
  • Judith Berling (GTU, Berkeley)
  • John Strong (Bates)
  • Laurie Patton (Emory)
  • Thomas A. Tweed (Notre Dame)

(Hide this content)


Records

The archives of the meetings and business of the ASSR since its inception in 1957 until 1996 are housed at Harvard Divinity School’s Andover Library. Records since 1996 are in the process of being collated for inclusion in this archive.

A description of the collection can be found at:
http://www.hds.harvard.edu/library/bms/bms00577.html