The Myth of Universal Standard


By Joshua Blackwell
Joshua Blackwell is a junior Biology major from Alabaster, Alabama. Despite his scientific focus, Joshua is also passionate about music, philosophy, and theology. Upon graduating, Joshua hopes to attend medical school.

Over the past many years, we as Americans have become consumed by our culture. Rarely acknowledging the existence of an outside world, we idolize our own celebrities, magazines, fashion, and literature. Designers and authors may find inspiration in the work of others, of course; for the most part, however, attention to other cultures has not generally been forwarded to the average American consumer. This has resulted in a relative American seclusion, which has had profound effects upon our perception and treatment of certain forms of entertainment and style originating outside our own culture. Continue reading

Praxising What We Preach: Kickball and the Communitas of an Academic Department


Why do we teach our students social theory? Why teach them about collective effervescence, habitus, and discourse? I think we do it because we find these theories to be useful tools for analyzing and explaining the world around us. But often, I think, we academics are wont to apply these same theories to our more intimate surroundings. Theory is often a tool for explaining that stuff out there and rarely do we see it as a tool that we can put to use nearby. We don’t often praxis what we preach. Continue reading

How Art Thou?


By Chris Beacham
Chris Beacham is a junior undergraduate majoring in Psychology and minoring in Religious Studies. He is from New Orleans, and enjoys filmmaking and reading eastern philosophy.

Next to the word love, the word art is probably the most vague and general term in the English language. Merriam Webster dictionary defines art as “something that is created with imagination and skill that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” It seems to me that in a sense everything could be considered art. The computer in which I am typing this blog is art, the glasses I am wearing are art, a house is art, etc. Since they were designed and created by people, they can be considered not just primarily functional, but also artistic. It can evoke a response beyond the mechanical use, even on the subtlest levels. Despite this, the word art is used discriminately even when it is such a blanket term. Continue reading

Membership Has Its Privileges

popecommunionMy first book, Manufacturing Religion, was a critique of what I called the discourse on sui generis religion — that is, the approach to studying religion that presumes its object of study is somehow unique, self-caused, original, one of a kind, can’t be fully explained, etc. To rephrase it, it was a critique of those who think that, when it comes to studying religion, a special set of interpretive tools must be used, to get at the deep meaning of religious acts and symbols, tools that are different from how we study other mundane aspects of the human.

Because, well, religion is just different. It’s religion! Continue reading

“I’ve Seen Things…”

Picture 3This semester I taught our senior seminar, required of all majors and minors before they graduate from the department. It was on the topic of tradition.

Well, not really.

It was on the topic of the discourse on tradition.

That’s a difference that matters, I think. Continue reading

The 6th Annual Manly Cup!


Back in 2009, the Religious Studies Student Association rekindled the flames of an old rivalry in Manly Hall: The Manly Cup. What was, in 2009, a heated competition and turf war between the RSSA and Theta Alpha Kappa, the Religious Studies Honor Society, has evolved into a competition between the REL students and faculty. Continue reading

Religion on the Television (Part 4)

4a americans

The theme of children discovering religion apart from their non-religious parents is also developed on another popular show. Set in the 1980s during the Reagan Administration, The Americans is the story of two Russian spies who have set up a home and a family in the vicinity of Washington, DC. Philip (Noah Emmerich) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) execute frequent missions on behalf of the KGB under their cover as owners of a travel agency. Their children know nothing of their parent’s “true” identities, although the teenage daughter, Paige (Holly Jennings), is beginning to suspect that things are not quite what they seem. Continue reading

The Nature of Truth, Categorization, and Other Blurry Matters


By Brooke Champagne
Brooke Champagne is an instructor of English and the Assistant Director of First-Year Writing at The University of Alabama. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Louisiana State University. While she makes her living as a teacher, she is a perennial student of writing, religion, and language, including REL 419 in Spring 2014.

If categorization is an ideological act, then the literary nonfiction genre is undergoing a major existential crisis. While there are many permutations surrounding nonfiction writing (journalism, memoir, etc.), over the centuries the one steadfast criterion for the genre was that it had to be true. Continue reading