Welcome Back 2018, Part 1

The new semester is almost here and you know what that means…

Welcome back videos! (Yes, that’s a plural.)

We had a busy summer, getting ready for a new school year. There’s been a few changes and a few adjustments — our eye’s always on the details.

We hope you too had a great summer and are all set
for another school year to start.

Welcome Back: Tidying Up from UA Religious Studies.

Taco Insights on Faculty Service

With the start of another school year right around the corner I’m thinking about service — one of those three main areas into which scholars usually divide up their work (the others being research and teaching, of course — and the order in which they’re written is not insignificant). It’s not hard to find faculty posting on social media bemoaning committee work, as if it gets in the way of a professor’s real work, but I’m here to say how important it is to the long term well-being of a Department — the primary unit that helps to make possible those individual careers. Continue reading

Voyant Tools on the REL Blog: Isn’t this Ex-Site-ing?

Voyant Tools allows you to read web pages. Voyant helps you do analysis of sites, too. The kind of reading done by Voyant might be called “scraping,” which covers activities such as text analysis, statistical analysis and data mining. In order words, Voyant may help you pull things out from a site more quickly than you would by spending days reading hundreds of web pages associated with a particular URL.

The graduate students who take REL 502 at the Department likely hear about it from Dr. Altman and use Voyant before their semesters end. I was reminded of this powerful tool during a workshop at the 2018 Digital Pedagogy Lab. The facilitator, Lee Skallerup-Bessette, used Voyant to analyse the data provided to her by the participants during registration. All she did was present a word cloud. Continue reading

Whose Evangelicalism is in Ruins?

Inside of Old Sheldon Church ruins

The American Academy of Religion, the national scholarly association for religious studies in America, just sent out its program of plenary addresses for its upcoming annual meeting this November. The abstract for David Gushee’s Presidential Address caught my eye.

There are a number of things to say about this. First of all, I told ya’ll this would happen during the nomination process three years ago. Looking closely at the abstract, the phrase “will perform ‘religion in public’ in a confessional vein” jumps out at me right away. The theme of the annual meeting, chosen by Gushee as president, is “religion in public” and this sentence shows the versatility of that phrase. The phrase “religion in public” usually connotes the area where scholars investigate how things called “religion” show up in the public sphere. Or sometimes, especially within the AAR and it’s mission to “enhance the public understanding of religion,” religion in public means that scholars share their knowledge about things called religion with the public. But this is neither of those. Gushee will be performing religion in public. He will be bringing the thing called religion into the public. But what public? A room full (or maybe not full) of scholars in a massive conference center who paid the exorbitant registration fees of the AAR? That’s not exactly Times Square or a CNN studio.

Continue reading

Publication News

We just got word that a paper co-written by Sierra Lawson (entering the second year of her M.A. in our Department) and Prof. Steven Ramey has been accepted to be published in the coming year in UK peer review journal Culture & Religion.

What’s it on?

Sourcing Stereotypes: Constructing and Challenging Simplified Knowledge

Abstract

The social media uproar in Fall 2017 over a nursing textbook chart that presented generalized characterizations of minority groups generated an assumption that medical training needs more Religious Studies expertise. Analyzing the sources that the chart cited, we trace the authors’ assertions to studies of varying quality and identify several specific processes involved in simplifying knowledge for dissemination, as the authors disregarded the limits of each specific study and ignored counter-evidence or otherwise evaded critical scrutiny. Comparing this example to examples from world religions discourse illustrates both differences and similarities in the process of constructing simplified presentations. While both presumably developed out of good intentions, they generate significant problems in their effort to shape material to support larger arguments. Thus, scholars across disciplines should critique and complicate their own processes for generating simplified knowledge.