News

Miniconference Planned for 2011 on Religion, Peace, and Violence

AHA Staff, February 2010

Council Working Group Invites Proposals and Suggestions

Inspired by the success and impact of the miniconference on same-sex marriage held at the 124th annual meeting in San Diego, and responding to the crucial roles played by religion in the scale and nature of violence in the world today, the AHA Council decided to present a similar threaded miniconference during the 125th annual meeting, to be held January 6–9, 2011, in Boston, focusing on the theme, “Historical Perspectives on Religion, Peace, and Violence.”

Matching and building on the theme of the 125th annual meeting, “History, Society, and the Sacred,” the planned miniconference will encourage explorations of religion as a force both in encouraging violence and inspiring peace. We are eager to make the most of a key asset of the AHA, by bringing together scholars in varying time periods and geographical locales.

To plan and coordinate the miniconference, the AHA Council has formed a working group. Iris Berger, vice president of the Research Division, and Patricia Limerick, vice president of the Teaching Division, will co-chair the working group, which will also include Trudy Peterson, member of the Professional Division, Barbara Tischler, member of the Teaching Division, along with a member of the Program Committee for 2011, and a specialist on the topic.

The Council and working group invite AHA members who wish to participate in the miniconference to submit proposals relating to the topic, “Historical Perspectives on Religion, Peace, and Violence.” We welcome every disciplinary specialization, and we are eager to provide the occasion for exchanges between and among diplomatic, political, military, religious, social, cultural, and gender historians.

The working group proposes a number of possible questions for exploration. On what occasions has historical violence had religious belief as its principal cause? On what occasions has religious belief acted with equal strength as a motive for peacemaking? Do examples like Desmond Tutu’s role in South Africa’s reconciliation movement, or Jimmy Carter’s postpresidential humanitarian campaigns, stand for widespread patterns in history? Has there ever been a purely secular war?

How common are atheists in foxholes? Has the experience of combat provided the foundation for religious conversion, and transformed soldiers into peace activists? Has the emergence of violence in religious revitalization movements among colonized peoples followed similar patterns? Has the practice of casting the colonized as without souls been a precondition of violence practiced by colonizers? What lessons (if any!) does the study of the history of religion, peace, and violence offer to public officials and policymakers today? What have been the relationships between religion and violence in the public and private spheres?

The process of identifying themes and topics is still under way, so that suggestions from AHA members will receive serious and respectful consideration. Please e-mail your ideas and proposals by April 1, 2010, to Noralee Frankel, AHA’s assistant director for women, minorities, and teaching, who serves as the staff member of the working group.