“Dr. Green Rocks!”

Spring semester 1984 flyer for courses in the department

There was a memorial service on campus yesterday for Patrick E. Green, who passed away on October 20, 2019. He came to the University of Alabama, from the University of Texas, back in 1969. That’s back when the field that some of us today take for granted was just getting going and the UA Department that we nowcelebrate as being over 50 years old was in its infancy, with its few faculty housed in ten Hoor Hall. For that was just a couple years after the first time someone other than campus ministers were teaching courses on religion, and back when doctoral programs in the study of religion, as we think of them today, didn’t exist. Continue reading

Bringing REL to San Diego–#aarsbl19 #naasr2019

San Diego Convention Center, Palm trees are in the front of it.

November is in full swing, and that means it is annual meeting season for scholars of religion. The North American Association for the Study of Religion, the American Academy of Religion, and the Society of Biblical Literature will all conference in San Diego, November 23-26. Many of our REL faculty and graduate students will be on the program. Learn a bit more about what they’ll be up to and where you can find them.

Continue reading

We Can’t Leave Tesla Alone

Montenegrin monument to Nikola Tesla

Madeleine Lewis graduated from UA in 2017 with degrees Religious Studies and Applied Mathematics. She is now teaching English and Computer Science in Montenegro with the Fulbright Program.

This past September, Elon Musk tweeted, “Finally, we will do Nikola Tesla proud by having his cars in his countries of origin!” This claim about beginnings, coupled with the fact that I have lived in what some people assert to be Tesla’s singular country of origin for over a year, sparked my curiosity as a scholar of religion.

Continue reading

Revising our Mission

Screen shot of Tweet saying: How does a professional org recalibrate to take higher ed changes into account, esp when grad students/un- & under-employed comprise a large portion of members & annual attendees...? A question we should have already answered. So let’s get cracking.

I posted the above the other day while retweeting a story on Twitter about some of the obstacles that can stand in the way of early career scholars — notably those that are financial, such as annual registration fees at our conferences. Stories like these are not new to social media commentaries on the current state of academia, of course, but they took on even more urgency in the light of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature’s joint decision to put QR codes on name badges for the upcoming 2019 conference. Although the retraction statements that came out a few days later (read the AAR‘s and the SBL‘s) emphasized the goal of using the codes for enhanced networking (as the SBL statement put it), at least according to the email that SBL members received when their name badges were first distributed online, the codes were to be used to identify people using someone else’s badge (a so-called “pirated name badge”) — prompting such attendees either “to register immediately or be removed from the meeting.”

Unless there’s a rash of people in the wider public pirating name badges, it’s not tough to imagine that those who would be directly impacted by the spot scans would be grad students and under-employed scholars, sharing a name badge to get into the book display. Continue reading

A Good Book with Prof. Richard Newton

Ppening chapter of Wilfred Cantwell SMith's book, discussed in this post.

The tenth episode in our A Good Book series has been posted to Vimeo, featuring Prof. Richard Newton discussing Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s book, What is Scripture?

Take a look…

Interested in learning more about Prof. Newton?
Watch his appearance on our other series, ar·ti·facts

#AmericanExamples2020 Cohort Announced

American Examples

Some snazzy new American Examples mugs have started appearing on social media.

That’s right. The 2020 American Examples cohort has been assembled. You can find all of the participants and learn more about them at the American Examples site.

Is Our MA For You?

Photo of the department webpage for prospective MA students

 

It’s that time again, when people are considering applying to graduate programs for the coming academic year. Later in the Fall semester our Graduate Committee will begin making acceptance decisions and will be nominating some of the newly admitted students for competitive, campus-wide fellowships, to help them fund their studies, not to mention making decisions about who will hold the Department’s graduate teaching assistantships. So I thought it was a good time to say a few things about why you might consider studying religion at the University of Alabama. Continue reading

Always Look at Who’s Talking

A textbook chart that unironically presents how "Arabs/Muslims," 'Asians," "Blacks," "Jews," "Hispanics," and "Native Americans" respond to pain. It is titled "Focus on Diversity and Culture: Cultural Differences in Response to Pain"

Textbook chart from Nursing: A Concept Based Approach to Learning, published (then withdrawn) by Pearson

As the AAR presents its newly drafted Religious Literacy Guidelines, Sierra Lawson (BA ’17, MA ’19) and Prof. Steven Ramey return to their research on the implications of classification to raise important questions about the politics and consequences of such a framing.

Religious literacy, which typically refers to knowledge about religions, differences between religions, and diversity within each religion, can reinforce problematic claims about social groups (as evident in the chart reproduced above). Useful knowledge can easily become harmful, especially when it tends towards selective generalizations and ignores the issue of who is doing the talking.

Continue reading

Introducing Dr. Edith Szanto

Title card for Prof. Szanto's interview

Dr. Edith Szanto joined REL just this past August, coming to us after working for several years at the American University of Iraq, in Sulaimani. Now partway into her first semester, she’s been teaching an introductory course on Islam and, in the Spring, will be teaching REL 100 Introduction to the Study of Religion along with an upper-level seminar on the way Islam has been conceptualized in Europe and North America.

Thanks again to REL grad Andie Alexander and REL major Kyle Ashley
for their movie-making skills.

Religious Literacy and the Definition of Religion

world religions info grpahic

The US field’s largest professional association, the American Academy of Religion, recently released a set of guidelines (3 years in the making) on promoting religious literacy in 2 and 4-year US colleges — find it posted here as a PDF. Continue reading