Laurel Schneider received her BA from Dartmouth College, then worked at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament. That work helped to sharpen her lifelong interest in religion and culture, which led to her M.Div. from Harvard and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt. She taught at Colby and North Central Colleges, Chicago Theological Seminary and is now at Vanderbilt University in Religious Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies and the Graduate Department of Religion.
An active member of the AAR since 1995, Laurel served on the first AAR Committee on the Status of LGBTIQ Persons, drafting with that committee the academy’s policy on diversity in the profession. She was a member of the national Workgroup on Constructive Theology 2001-2015 and co-chaired from 2009-2016. She is the author of Beyond Monotheism: A Theology of Multiplicity, (Routledge 2007) Re-Imagining the Divine: Confronting the Backlash Against Feminist Theology (Pilgrim 1999), co-editor of Polydoxy: Theologies of Multiplicity and Relation (Routledge 2010), co-author of Awake To the Moment: An Introduction to Theology (WJK, 2016). She has numerous articles and anthology chapters relating to concepts of multiplicity, divinity, sexuality, race, and postcolonial theory and is currently at work on queer virtues and incarnation.
I am interested in serving the members of the AAR as Secretary of the Board because of the members of the AAR. My entire professional life has been shaped and constituted by multiple criss-crossings of scholarly relations thanks to the Academy and its many and vibrant participants. My early exposure to the luminaries in my field and even more importantly my exposure to the great diversity of voices, approaches, and experiments played out on panels, in hallways, and overcrowded hotel rooms shaped my own voice and commitments in ways that cannot be entirely unraveled or parsed. Over the years as I progressed in my career, my participation and learning also progressed and changed. As a junior faculty member in small institutions I was often completely alone: the only woman in the department, the only lesbian on the faculty, the lowest-paid member of the faculty, and so on. It was members of the AAR who gave help and guidance through those early years. It is still members who advocate for themselves and others, who reach back to pull forward, who mentor by example and who address the issues that affect religious studies in institutions of higher education in which the study of religion is often misunderstood or dismissed. The study of religion in educational institutions is often precarious, especially for junior and contingent faculty and the AAR is an important body casting nets of connection without which our losses would be great.
I accepted this opportunity to be considered for the role of secretary to the Board because I feel that it is time for me to give back in a larger way to the members of the AAR. I hope to help in the work of the academy where it is both anchor and inspiration, where it restores relations spread thin by distance and isolation and where it enables vital collaborations. The Board is facing unprecedented challenges from the pandemic and its ongoing and long-term effects. Its work will be important for the future of the AAR, in particular the future of all that the AAR has given to its members through the various activities and arms of the organization. The Board and staff must imagine a way forward that continues the vital mission of the organization for the disciplines it houses in a world that is fundamentally altered by the economics, medical realities, social inequities and institutional shifts that are already affecting every level of academic life. As secretary, my goal will be to serve a wonderful slate of board leaders in their work to keep the vibrant diversity of AAR scholarship in all of its professional and intellectual forms front and center. I look forward to the opportunity to serve in this way.