AAR Member Spotlight

Maxwell Kennel

Maxwell Kennel - an AAR member since 2013 - is currently a Research Associate in the Centre for Social Accountability at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He defended his dissertation in May 2021 in the Religious Studies Department at McMaster University, and he has recently held a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto (2021-2023).

For the AAR, Kennel serves on the editorial board of Reading Religion, where he regularly contributes reviews and suggests new reviewers and notable books.

Why did you get involved with AAR and how is your work aligned?

I’ve been going to the AAR meetings since I was a masters student and I’ve appreciated the interdisciplinary breadth across the AAR units as I moved from studying Christian theology and the philosophy of religion toward themes in political theology and religious studies, and now into new directions at the intersection of health and religion. I like that I can meet people through the AAR whose work is more focused on addressing social pathologies and theoretical problems than remaining safely inside disciplinary bounds.

What is your area of expertise or field of study?

I’m trained as a scholar of religion in the area of western religious thought and religion & politics, and my work focuses on epistemological and critical approaches to keywords like the postsecular, violence, conspiracy, and social accountability. I also work a bit in Mennonite Studies focusing on philosophical, secular, political, and literary figures in the tradition. These projects have resulted in two recent books: Postsecular History: Political Theology and the Politics of Time (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) and Ontologies of Violence: Deconstruction, Pacifism, and Displacement (Brill, in-press 2023), with two moreunderway (one on critical theories of conspiratorial thinking called Critique of Conspiracism, and one on antiviolent ontologies called Mennonite Metaphysics).

How has AAR been beneficial to you and your career?

The people who I have met at the AAR have been challenging and supportive in the best ways, and the panels I have been involved with over the years have yielded several connections I would not have otherwise been able to make. I’m also a huge fan of the book exhibits.

What book is on your nightstand that you're reading or intend to read in the future?

I’m slowly working through Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob, which is one of the most profound books I’ve ever encountered (and the Fitzcarraldo edition is beautifully made with French flaps and a cardstock cover!).

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Outside of work, I really enjoy a good bowl of ramen, stand-up comedy, and listening to bands like In Flames and Soilwork.

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This feature is devoted to profiling AAR members making waves in their departments, institutions, and communities—as well as AAR at large!

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