Chair, Geography of Religion and Belief Systems (GORABS) Specialty Group, Association of American Geographers

gorabsI’m happy to announce that I’ve been elected to be Chair of the Geography of Religion and Belief Systems (GORABS) Specialty Group at the Association of American Geographers (AAG).  This follows two years of being the GORABS secretary.  David Butler (University College Cork) is now immediate past chair, Garrett Smith (Kennesaw State University) is now secretary, and David Rutherford (University of Mississippi) has kindly agreed to stay as treasurer.

I see the job of the GORABS Chair as to promote religion as an analytic in human geography by liaising with the academic geography community through the Association of American Geographers. This means that at a practical level, my job is to represent our specialty group to the AAG organizers, to make sure religion sessions and papers at the AAG get sponsored, to recruit an Annual Lecturer for the next two years, and to raise awareness about developments in religion, secularization, and belief systems in the discipline.  I’ll be working with a very well-constituted board that is committed to advancing geographies of religion as a growing field in both human geography and religious studies. If you are working in geographies of religion and want to present a paper or organize a session at the AAG in 2014 and 2015, please contact me with any ideas you might have so that we can get those sessions sponsored.

At a theoretical level, my job, as is the job of the board, is to demonstrate to the geography community that geographies of religion are broader than what has conventionally counted as the scholarship in a small subfield of cultural geography.  Religion isn’t just an object to be mapped, nor is it a subject to be studied.  It is an analytic that seeks to unpack the uneven geographies of secularization processes, the grounded theologies that undergird both conventionally ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ practices, the experiences of lived religions (including what’s becoming known as a ‘hauntological’ approach), and the way that ‘belief systems’ aren’t fully worked out worldviews but geographical imaginations that undergird political, economic, social, and cultural processes in the world. Just as race, class, gender, and sexuality are analytics in human geography, religion as an analytic can lead to theoretical innovations and open doors to new empirical work in geography. These in turn are critical geographies, challenging modern modalities of space not only with the existence of religious phenomena, but by forcing geographers to reckon with the circulation of uncritical secular theoretical postulations even in our own discipline. Studies in geographies of religion are thus central to the continuous re-imagination of what it means to do geography as academic practitioners.

I am optimistic about the next two years, and I am excited, as our field has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last few years. I expect nothing less in the next few as well. If you want to keep track of these developments, please like us on Facebook and add yourself to the JISCMail listserv.