The Conference: A Response

By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures at Emory University. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

The other day I was listening to the recent Dept. of Religious Studies podcast about conferences, more specifically about the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (the national conference for our field’s main professional organization) and SECSOR (the Southeastern regional AAR conference). While listening to this podcast, I related to many of the comments and experiences discussed. But before I get ahead of myself…, for those who haven’t heard it yet, here’s a few spoilers: “The Conference” considers the perspectives of Prof. Laura Levitt, an established scholar who was recently the 15th Aronov Lecturer at UA, and REL major Sierra Lawson (soon to be one of REL’s first MA students) and REL major Parker Evans, both burgeoning academics within Religious Studies. So I thought I’d offer my two cents as a person stuck somewhere in the middle of that spectrum (having just completed my M.A. and about to start my own Ph.D. degree at Emory). While I’m certainly still very early career myself, perhaps this can be a helpful guide to those just starting out. Continue reading

“And must it leave when you have gone away?”

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is completing her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

As I’m sitting here working and prepping for finals season, I have my Christmas music playlist on in the background. Eventually Trans-Siberian Orchestra‘s “This Christmas Day” started playing. Have a listen (if you aren’t familiar with TSO, I highly recommend them!):

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On Immigration, Identity, and White Privilege

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is completing her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

Hi, I’m Andie, and I’m an immigrant. But we’ll get to that. As I wrote this on Election Day in the U.S., I, like many of you I suspect, got very little work done. Instead, I was tuning in on social media to see the latest buzz on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. As I was scrolling through facebook, I came across an article that a friend posted which featured this tweet from Ann Coulter.

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It’s Fall, Y’all!

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is completing her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are turning colors, the air is cooling down (in some places, at least), and pumpkin flavored/scented products are taking over. Growing up in Alabama, I always enjoyed (well, maybe not always) decorating for fall in late September/early October. Every year, my mom would get out the gourds, dried decorative corn, wreathes in orange, red, and yellow tones, and fall scented candles. It was always kind of exciting to mark the passing of summer to autumn, longing for days of cooler weather (if you’ve ever lived in Alabama, you know what I’m talking about).  Continue reading

The Problem with the Primacy of Primary Sources

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is completing her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

Over the past few weeks I have heard repeated talk of primary sources vs. secondary sources, privileging the former over the latter in every case. The argument that was made in these instances is premised on highlighting the legitimacy and groundedness of the primary sources, as if they focus on something “real,” (such as religion on the ground, or “real world” examples). These are then juxtaposed with the secondary sources, which are seen as subsequent discourses on primary sources, mostly concerned with meta-discourses — regarded mainly as “thinking about thinking” or “talking about talking” — which are given that secondary ranking because they aren’t talking about something “real” or answering the reader’s question (in fact, often they leave them with more questions than answers, whereas primary sources are all about answers). In some cases, these secondary sources are dismissed with a “So what?” I say “dismissed” not with a negative connotation, but with a sense of such indirect relation to the “real world religion” that the “meta-discourses” are seen as not worth the same time and engagement as their juxtaposed primary sources.

What strikes me as interesting about this distinction between primary and secondary sources is that the use of that very language largely relies on some essentialized notions of religion, as if it exists authentically, apart from subsequent claims about it. Continue reading

Home, Sweet Home

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is completing her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

When I moved to Boulder, CO for graduate school two years ago, I entered the program with a cohort of students from all over the U.S., so — perhaps unsurprisingly — one of the immediate questions everyone asked was, “Where are you from?” Then came the task, of course, of keeping track of who was from where, and so on. Being in a new place and surrounded by new people, our identities were quickly determined for each other by our former city/state. so I was initially labeled as “the girl from Alabama” — by both my cohort and even some professors.

I’d be lying if I said I was never reluctant to identify myself by my home state of Alabama, but this was the first time in my life where that signifier took somewhat of a new shape. I was “the girl from Alabama” now. Where before leaving the state I may have casually enjoyed watching football games, occasionally said “Roll Tide” as a sign of approval, participated in the daily complaining about how hot it was as if it was somehow unusual, etc., it wasn’t something that I ever considered as part of my identity. In retrospect, it was likely because these were so common-place where I lived that to me — to us, I should perhaps say — it wasn’t seen so much as an identity-marker, but rather just part of the everyday. It was uninteresting — mundane, perhaps, in the sense that everyone in the Southeastern US likes, or is at least familiar with, football and saying “Roll Tide” is just part of the vernacular. In fact, it was something I likely tried to distance myself from, in a sense, to assert my individuality amongst a crowd. To me, these things were just part of my day-to-day life. Continue reading

Stereotyping Gender: I’m 100% Masculine

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 4.24.18 PMBy Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is completing her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

Some weeks back, I saw several of my friends posting their results of this Gender Role Test on Facebook. I usually tend to keep scrolling, but after seeing several of these results, I just couldn’t resist what I knew would make for a fun blog post. The test itself is 36 questions to which you answer in varying degrees of agreement or disagreement. The test description reads:

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 7.32.54 PMWhile I’m not familiar with Bem’s work, I do find it somewhat telling that despite the acknowledgement of stereotyping, this test proceeds to do just that. As I went through the questions, it became quite clear to me that I was going to be labeled as “masculine” — not because these traits are inherently masculine, but rather because that is what we have come to take for granted as a masculine traits (e.g., assertive, dominant, ambitious, to name but a few listed in the test) — as opposed to “feminine” (e.g., polite, mild, soothing). Of course, it is worth noting that there are only two gender identifications with which one can identify. And while one can easily push back and say that these traits are gender fluid, etc., etc., what I find most compelling is the way in which these quiz questions reify gender norms broadly speaking. I suspect most people might nod and agree with their results, unless of course, they get something as drastically “different” as mine.  Continue reading

Classification Matters: Mindfulness in the Classroom

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is now completing her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

A course I am TAing for this semester opens each class with a mindfulness exercise for calming and finding one’s center. It starts, “Plant your feet firmly on the floor, adjust your posture,” moving eventually to noticing breathing patterns and trying to adjust them accordingly. As I joined the class a week late, I was unaware that this was part of the routine. Sitting there on my first day, I was a bit astounded that this was actually happening in the classroom. I should note that I was not inherently against it, but rather classifying it with any sort of religious ritual that might take place. At that moment, all I could think about was how this could not only be considered religious by some but also potentially could be making students very uncomfortable (whether there was a statement on day one of voluntary participation, I don’t know). However, having lived in Boulder for a year and a half, I have grown accustomed to Boulder’s affinity for Eastern religious practices or rituals — whatever those may be — and their pervading daily life. Continue reading

The Effects of “Bad Religion”

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is now working on her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

Many of you may be following, or at least aware of, Rowan, KY county clerk Kim Davis denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the recent Supreme Court ruling (on June 26, 2015) that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. In the days following Davis’s refusal to cooperate, I have seen a lot of “bad religion” claims being made on social media and news media sites — i.e., claims by some that she exhibits an improper or inauthentically religious position. It has also since come out in the press that Davis has been married four times and had an affair with one man whom she eventually married. So what strikes me as interesting are the types of reactions and articles I have seen while scrolling through Facebook, seeking to invalidate her: she’s a hypocrite, she’s playing fast and loose with the Bible, her “personal beliefs” are infringing on others’, as a divorcée and adulterer she has no moral high ground — the list goes on. Continue reading

“You don’t know what that means!”

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is now working on her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

Several weeks back, I came across College Humor’s “If Gandhi Took A Yoga Class” video. In the clip, they have Gandhi challenging “western” yoga practices and understandings. Take a look… (Warning, there is some foul language)

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