American Academy of Religion (AAR)

Welcome to the Contemplative Studies Unit (CSU) of the American Academy of Religion.

Established in 2010 and with its first meeting in 2011, the Contemplative Studies Unit (CSU), formerly the Contemplative Studies Group (CSG), aims to strengthen and develop Contemplative Studies as an academic field of inquiry, especially in the context of Religious Studies and the American Academy of Religion.

Our program unit provides a forum for the investigation of contemplative practice and experience, considered inclusively and comprehensively; for critical discussions on the field itself, including theoretical and interpretive issues; as well as for the application of contemplative practice to academic life and university culture. The latter includes the possible contribution of "contemplative pedagogy" to teaching and learning.

The Contemplative Studies Unit thus aims to gather together currently-diffused groups as well as dislocated, marginalized and under-represented individuals in the academy. To this end, we encourage research that is topical, tradition-specific, as well as comparative and cross-cultural. We also invite scholars to investigate contemplative practice and experience in ways that traverse and transcend the boundaries of traditions, disciplines, and research methodologies.

The CSU underwent a successful review in 2018 and now has a five-year, renewable term (2018-23). As a pre-2012 program unit, we are allotted one independent panel and one co-sponsored panel at each annual AAR meeting.

The leadership group of the Contemplative Studies Unit consists of the following individuals.


  • Harold Roth, Brown University
  • Judith Simmer-Brown, Naropa University

Steering Committee

  • Loriliai Biernacki, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Douglas Christie, Loyola Marymount University
  • Niki Clements, Rice University
  • Anne Klein, Rice University
  • Jared Lindahl, Brown University
  • Michael Sheehy, University of Virginia

We welcome the participation and suggestions of anyone interested in Contemplative Studies. Please direct all correspondence to Dr. Louis Komjathy.

View the Contemplative Studies Group Proposal (PDF).

Access AAR page of the Contemplative Studies Unit.