Hold Your Fire, Coz the Author is Already Dead

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I’ve often used Borges’s wonderful little piece, “Borges and I” in classes, as a quick way into the debate on the death of the author.

If you’ve not read it, it’s worth taking a moment to look it over. Tackle Foucault’s essay, or Barthes’s for that matter, on much the same topic too, if you’re ambitious. It’s worth your while, I think. Continue reading

Attention Budding Religious Studies Scholars

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    Fragonard, A Young Scholar (Wallace Collection)

“Thoughts are the precious seeds of which our universities should be the botanical gardens.  Beware when God lets loose a thinker on the world—either Carlyle or Emerson said that—for all things then have to rearrange themselves.  But the thinkers in their youth are almost always very lonely creatures.  ‘Alone the great sun rises and alone spring the great streams.’  The university most worthy of rational admiration is that one in which your lonely thinker can feel himself least lonely, most positively furthered, and most richly fed.”

–William James, “The True Harvard” (1903)

Before loosing you on an unsuspecting world, the Religious Studies Department wishes to cultivate your thoughts in the manner James extolls.  With hopes of furthering your ideas most positively, richly feeding your research, and providing stimulating intellectual companionship, we invite you to participate in the Department’s 4th Annual Religious Studies Undergraduate Research Symposium. Continue reading

Legitimacy of Classification at Standing Rock

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Anastasiya Titarenko is a junior majoring in Religious Studies. She has spent the fall semester interning for a non-profit in Wellington, New Zealand.

Classification matters. In North Dakota, it arguably permits the violation of one’s First Amendment rights.

The First Amendment states that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Seemingly explicit, the Amendment actually leaves room for interpretation.

To start, who gets to decide what “peaceably assemble” means? Continue reading

“All of the evil that he represents for me…”

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-1-27-13-pmSeeing cheering crowds in Miami, first thing this morning as I checked my phone for overnight news, celebrating Fidel Castro’s death, made me think a little about our disdain when there were rumors of people cheering after the twin towers collapsed (Trump routinely cited this early in his campaign); when is death — or better, whose death — worth cheering, I wondered?

But as the morning wore on and more news came out, my attention shifted to an issue that has long preoccupied me: our authority as scholars.

In fact, it’s a topic I spoke on last weekend, at our field’s main national conference, as part of a panel commenting on this year’s conference theme: revolutionary love. It struck me as entirely inappropriate for scholars of religion (but for liberal theologians, sure, why not?) for a variety of reasons, one of which was the problem of assuming that just because we study religion we therefore have something relevant to say about social issues, i.e., the ability to diagnose ills and provide remedies. For that’s what the panel was on: whether love was an effective political force. Continue reading

REL Heads to Texas for the American Academy of Religion

Postcard reading "Greetings from San Antonio, Texas"

via Boston Public Library on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Something happens every weekend before Thanksgiving. No, not the cupcake tune up game before the Iron Bowl. It’s the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the national scholarly society for the academic study of religion. This weekend many of the faculty from REL are headed to San Antonio for the meeting and they have some pretty interesting plans.

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When Considering a Career in the Humanities, Think Globally

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Tenzan Eaghll received his Ph.D. from the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, in 2016. He is currently an English Instructor at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok. For his publication and contact information see https://utoronto.academia.edu/TenzanEaghll

Ecclesiastes 11 states, “Cast out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back.” Like all biblical passages, this sentence can obviously be interpreted in many ways, but for me it contains a special insight about how to succeed in our contemporary global market: it suggests that it is best to scatter your talents and skills as far as possible, and to allow the winds of opportunity to take you where they may. Now, as a bit of a nihilist, I am not usually one to quote bible passages, but given the current economic situation of academia in the West this one seems helpful because it encourages you not to put all your proverbial eggs in one basket. In an odd way, it provides a glimmer of hope to the dire situation that Humanities graduates like myself find themselves in after completing their B.A.s, M.A.s, and Ph.D.s, and offers a simple piece of advice: when considering a career in the humanities, think globally.

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But First a Word From Our Students…

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Madeleine Lewis is a senior studying mathematics and religion at the University of Alabama. They spend their time researching conspiracy theories, making tacos in a tiny kitchen, and inciting resistance in their peers, among other things.

We’re asking some current REL students to finish a few sentences for us….

The first REL course I took at UA was: Religion and Literature: Authority, Authorship, and Canon with Dr. Simmons.

One of the most curious things I’ve learned so far in one of my REL courses is: the context leading up to Jim Jones’s mass murder at Jonestown and the group dynamics of The Peoples’ Temple.

A practical skill I’ve learned in REL is: how to form lasting and friendly relationships with my professors.

The coolest thing about the second floor of Manly Hall is: the little metal trough that McCutcheon fills with peanuts and uses to feed squirrels on the balcony. I call it Basil’s buffet.

One thing not a lot of people know about REL is: how aptly theories of religion apply to popular culture and politics.

Make your own slogan: How did Donald Trump win the 2016 election? Study religion and find out.

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.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-1-12-41-pm Continue reading

But First a Word From Our Students….

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Keeley McMurray is a junior double majoring in English and Religious Studies. When she isn’t writing papers or contemplating the meaning of life, Keeley loves to travel, listen to Jeff Buckley and make art.

We’re asking some current REL students to finish some sentences for us….

The first REL course I took at UA was: Honor’s Intro to Religious Studies with Dr. Rollens.

One of the most curious things I’ve learned so far in one of my REL courses is: the existence of terrorist groups comprised of Buddhist monks. Goes to show how every religion can spawn a myriad of interpretations and practices.

A practical skill I’ve learned in REL is: the wonderful ability to step out of my own life and look at things from an aerial perspective. Every individual functions under a different cultural script that shapes their unique perspective. Realizing this has made me a more peaceful, loving, and respectful person.

The coolest thing about the second floor of Manly is: the small troughs of nuts left out for the visiting squirrels. It always makes my day to see them stuffing their faces with the treats left out for them.

One thing not a lot of people know about REL is: that it applies to virtually every part of the human experience.  And it makes you fun at parties — this is a topic that seems to engage everyone. People flock to you when you are able to understand and respect their perspectives…and an endless supply of REL fun facts doesn’t hurt, either.

Make your own slogan: Did Tom Cruise evolve from a clam? Study religion and find out!