This conference explores the intersections of religion and constructions of the normal in twentieth and twenty-first-century American life. We consider three broad themes: the creation of American religious norms, the work religion has done to produce and maintain notions of the normal American, and the ways in which certain religious perspectives have become normalized in American political and social life. The first section, “Norming Religions,” focuses on the production of a religious mainstream and margins. The second, “Religion and the Normal,” considers the work religion has done to aid in the classification of persons, the disciplining of American subjects, and the mediation of notions of the normal. The final section addresses the normalizing of religious influence in American public life.
The conference will highlight connections between American religious studies and a variety of fields, including politics, the history of science, disability studies, critical race studies, and gender and sexuality studies, for example. We hope that the approach will open productive conversation about how these fields can inform the study of American religion as well as highlight the contributions that Americanists in Religion make to varied disciplines across the humanities as well as in the social sciences and sciences. This interdisciplinary thematic approach promises to raise new questions about the place of religion in modern American life in ways that more conventional approaches to the study of religious traditions as distinct entities may obscure.