Association for Bahá’í Studies – Call for submissions

Posted: 2019/02/26

43rd Annual Conference

10 am, August 8th to 1 pm, August 11th, 2019
Westin Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Beyond Critique: Laying the Groundwork for Social Transformation

The theme for the 2019 Association for Bahá’í Studies (ABS) Conference—Beyond Critique: Laying the Groundwork for Social Transformation—builds on insights shared, and knowledge generated, at ABS gatherings over the past few years. A plenary presentation at the 2016 conference in Montreal, highlighted the “lamentably defective” nature of our current social order and the distinct contribution of our intellectual abilities, when inspired by the Revelation, in creating sound alternatives.[1]

Several contributions at the 2017 conference delved deep into knowledge systems that have given rise to the present order, and ways in which they perpetuate social, economic and political inequalities, instead of resolving them. This line of thinking calls for a need to examine the interconnection between knowledge and power. As demonstrated at last year’s conference by a panel of presenters working to build community with refugee populations in Clarkston, Georgia, important questions must be asked about how new knowledge is generated. Several presentations offered examples of the ways in which knowledge generated in active engagement with community (and, therefore, with social reality) can offer uniquely relevant and potentially transformative insights for a given context.

This year, ABS seeks to extend this line of thinking to reconcile two intentions in the process of generating, diffusing, and applying new knowledge: on the one hand, continuing to explore some of the deficiencies of the current order, while at the same time moving beyond critique alone, to introduce modes of thought and practice that align with Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for social transformation.

The 2019 conference invites intellectual pursuits that endeavor to correlate the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh with lines of inquiry in various fields and disciplines in order to effect change at the level of thought, with further implications for change in practice and attitude. Specifically, we welcome contributions that help us grapple with the following questions:

  • How can we explore fundamental defects in present knowledge systems, while at the same time, advancing our understanding and generating spiritually grounded alternatives?
  • How can we engage in a critique of the underlying ideologies of knowledge systems without being limited by relativist, postmodern and materialistic modes of thinking?
  • Through Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, how can we ensure that our contribution to discourse includes both a deep understanding of what is, but also informed insights of what could be?
  • How can Bahá’í scholarship contribute to knowledge that seeks to lay the groundwork for new social structures built on principles of justice and oneness?

Call for Breakout Session Proposals

Deadline is 24 March 2019.


This year we are striving to make the breakout sessions more participatory in order to foster learning and the exchange of ideas. The expectation is that you will organize a 20-minute presentation and a 20-minute small-group study/ discussion based on an relevant excerpt of your choice from the Writings or from the wider discourse (these can be excerpted from the presentation itself) and one or two questions that would facilitate deepening. This would be followed by 20 minutes of Q & A. The small-group portion of the presentation is in addition to the portion allocated to Q&A.

PRESENTATION TIME WILL BE STRICTLY ENFORCED. You will have a 1-minute and a 5-minute warning by the chair in order to allow for this new format.

The Association for Bahá’í Studies welcomes proposals for presentations in breakout sessions focusing on any subject of Bahá’í scholarship. The goal of the breakout sessions is to stimulate and promote intellectual inquiry across a broad range of themes. Proposals from all disciplines and professions are welcome, including the sciences, humanities, and fine arts. The format for breakout sessions lends itself to sharing works-in-progress as well as formal research findings. Breakout sessions are intended for the presentation and discussion of original work, as distinct from practical workshops or facilitated discussions that can be found in other community gatherings. They do not need to follow the format of a traditional academic presentation, but presenters should be well-grounded in the subject on which they are speaking.

Proposals may be submitted for a single paper (60-minute session), or for an entire panel of up to four people (120-minute session). Please carefully read the conference theme statement and call for presentations and strive to relate your proposal to the theme statement.

Owing to practical constraints, the selection committee cannot accept all proposals. The selection committee will approve proposals on the basis of the following considerations: contribution to knowledge, suitability of the topic for the ABS conference, relevant background of the speaker to address the topic, clarity of the proposal, overall variety of the program, and overall diversity of the presenters. Youth, young adults, and first-time presenters are particularly encouraged to apply.

Please submit your proposal online by following this link.

NEW THIS YEAR! Artists wishing to present or perform at the ABS Conference, please submit your proposal using this form.

[1] Dr. Farzam Arbab, The Intellectual Life of the Baha’i Community. The 34th Hasan M. Balyuzi Memorial Lecture. Association for Baha’i Studies Annual Conference, 12 August 2016.