Annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature

November 23-26, 2019    San Diego, California

The term “religion” has come under close scrutiny recently—for example, Nongbri, Before Religion (2013) and Barton/Boyarin, Imagine No Religion (2016).  Brill’s forthcoming Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic, edited by David Frankfurter, similarly challenges the term magic, which the editor has “alternately shunned and reclaimed … on  a five-year cycle.”  Is the term (and the category of) magic useful in the study of ancient ritual practices? Can it be “re-claimed” or re-defined so that it more adequately describes ancient practice? Or, is it simply too normative, too biased?

SAMR seeks papers that:

  • explore other terms for supposedly ambiguous or illegitimate ritual, or that propose additional definitions of “magic” that uncouple the magic-religion dichotomy, or that argue that such attempts are impossible;
  • challenge the premise that the rituals and specialists that scholars have labelled ‘magic’ were indeed those imagined as ambiguous or illegitimate in their historical/cultural worlds;
  • investigate the validity of the category of “magic” through an analysis of the modern corpora of so-called “magical” texts.

Proposals should be submitted electronically through the SBL website. The deadline is Wednesday, 6 March, 2019. You must be a member of the SBL or seek a waiver in order to deliver a paper. Papers should last between 15 and 20 minutes. Abstracts should contain a title and a word count, but should not have any information regarding the identity of the submitter. All abstracts will be reviewed anonymously. Authors whose papers are selected will be sent materials from Frankfurter’s forthcoming book for preparation of their conference papers. Please direct all queries to SAMR at

You can link to the SBL submission site here.