American Academy of Religion
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF RELIGION
The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is the major learned society and professional association of research scholars and teachers in the field of religious studies. The Academy serves over 7,500 members, the great majority of whom teach in some 1,500 college and university departments and schools in North America. Its mission is to promote excellence in scholarship and teaching in the field by fostering reflection upon and understanding of religious traditions, issues, questions, and values. Within a context of free inquiry and critical examination, the Academy welcomes all disciplined reflection on religion—from both within and outside of communities of belief and practice—and seeks to enhance its broad public understanding. It is inclusive of the whole range of methodologies and theories used to study religion. The Academy does not endorse or reject any religious tradition or set of religious beliefs or practices. Its commitment is, rather, to the highest standards of scholarship.
The AAR's history is one of development from a small group of biblical scholars to its current status as the largest, most comprehensive association dedicated to promoting the academic study of religion. In 1909 four professors of biblical studies formed the Association of Biblical Instructors in American Colleges and Secondary Schools. Intended as a sister organization to the already-established Society of Biblical Literature, its purpose was to promote excellence in teaching. The group continued to meet under the original name until 1922, when members voted to change the name to the National Association of Biblical Instructors (NABI or "prophet" in Hebrew). Dramatic expansion of the study of religion in the post-World War II period led to NABI's transformation into the American Academy of Religion in 1964 and to the AAR's rapid growth during the succeeding decades.
Activities. The AAR fosters knowledge of religion and religious institutions in all their forms and manifestations through a wide variety of programs and membership services. Among these are an annual scholarly conference, a major publishing program, research grants and book awards, professional services, teaching workshops, and annual regional meetings. The annual conference, held jointly with the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), attracts scholars from all over the world. The Journal of the American Academy of Religion publishes current scholarships across the spectrum of the field. Through the Spotlight on Teaching periodical and an ongoing series of teaching workshops, the AAR provides its members with opportunities to learn more about recent pedagogical innovations and to improve their teaching craft. To inform members about current issues of interest to religionists, AAR and SBL jointly publish Religious Studies News quarterly. The two societies also offer a comprehensive Employment Information Services program that helps coordinate the efforts of position-seekers and employers. The Association of Department Chairs offers a range of services at the departmental and institutional levels.
A member of both the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Humanities Alliance, the Academy works to improve support for all the humanities and to foster the role of religious studies as an integral part of the humanities. The Academy's executive offices are located in Atlanta.