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Mission

About the Seminar: The Seminar on Religion in the American West at the American Academy of Religion aims to facilitate new scholarship and teaching on the historical and contemporary dynamics of religion in the western half of the United States.

About this website: The Seminar has created this website to encourage and support scholars in teaching the religious history of the American West. The site also reports on current research by Seminar participants and serves as a communication portal for the Seminar.

Why study religion in the American West? Although it is often neglected by both western historians and religious historians, the study of religion in the U.S. West can challenge standard historiographical narratives, provide new insights for the study of American religion more broadly, and reshape the cultural history of the region.

Where is "the West"? The meaning and boundaries of the American West are notoriously difficult to define. Where earlier scholarship was dominated by the notion of a "shifting western frontier," in more recent decades historians have advocated histories of geographical regions that emphasize place rather than process. Our approach to this question, informed by an emphasis on cultural and religious history, attends both to place-based histories and to the multi-directional human migrations and encounters that have been so central to the region. Thus, for our purposes, the boundaries of the “American West” are intentionally fluid, and are meant to include questions about the shape-shifting nature of the concept and the region. When, and for whom, are certain regions included in “the West,” and what significance does the concept of “the West” have for national and regional identities?

© 2009-2010   A project of the Seminar on Religion in the American West at the American Academy of Religion.