The Jim Salem Chair Award Goes to REL

We’re very pleased to announce that, at the year-end A&S chairs event over the weekend, Dean Robert Olin presented the annual Jim Salem Chair Award to REL’s own Prof. Russell McCutcheon.

Instituted by the Dean after the death, in July of 2012, of the longtime American Studies Department Chair, Jim Salem, the award recognizes “outstanding leadership to students, faculty, and the College.” Salem, who chaired the search committee that brought Dean Olin to UA, was known for his enthusiasm, dry wit, and use of American pop culture as a way into understanding 20th century American culture and politics.

Prof. McCutcheon came to Tuscaloosa in the Fall of 2001, to chair REL at a time when the Department was on the brink of reinvention; while serving three terms as chair (2001-2009; 20013-present) he has also had a productive research and teaching career at UA, being named to one of the campus’s few University Research Professor positions in February of 2018.

Given annually, the Jim Salem award is selected by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and, with Dean Olin’s upcoming retirement in September, this marks his last selection for this award.

Congratulations, Prof. McCutcheon!

6th Annual Undergrad Research Symposium

REL is again hosting its undergrad research symposium, held this year in
Gorgas Library 205, so there’s plenty of room to join us and hear some of the research that our students have been doing.

It starts at 9:00 am Friday, February 22. There will be two panels (9-10 and 10:15-11:15), both of which are chaired by M.A. students in the Departments.
And Prof. Crews is our host.

Pictured above: the 5th annual event, held at the University Club in Spring 2018

 

Prof. McCutcheon has Lots of Pots on the Stove

Prof. Russell McCutcheon, who came to UA as the REL Department Chair in the summer of 2001, sometimes says that the career of a scholar involves keeping a lot of pots boiling, all at a different rates. The trick is knowing which can just simmer, on the back burner, and which ones need attention because they’re about to boil over.

Well, this year four pots that were each bubbling away on their own resulted in some new books, all of which were published in just the past few months. But they’re each a different sort of book. Continue reading

A New Honors Day Tradition

We have a new award to announce, which will be given out each year at Honors Day on the balcony: the Alum Liaison Committee Award.

This award (funded by alums and the Department) will recognize up to four students (one Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior) who submit a short essay (500 words) on their experiences in our classes, e.g., how they found us, what surprised them about the field, and interesting uses to which it might be put. It’s open to any student in an REL course and each award comes with a $100 prize.

The members of our Alum Liaison Committee will be reading the essays and making the decisions, so please visit the page (linked above) for this new award to learn more and consider making your own submission in this inaugural year (due March 1).

Coming Attractions

It’s going to be another busy semester around Manly Hall — REL has some guests coming and things are happening.

Along with three candidates visiting campus this month for a tenure-track faculty position that we hope to fill for Fall 2019 (devoted to social theory of Islam) — and we’ll be talking to some students about joining each interviewee for a chat over coffee — we have Prof. Tim Jensen flying in from Denmark to deliver the 17th annual Aronov Lecture and REL grad Chris Hurt is due from California to join us at another Grad Tales event, hosted again by our Alum Liaison Committee. (Chris, on keyboards and vocals, is one half of the group Jamestown Pagans.) With our alums in mind, we should also mention that they’ll again be offering a careers workshop later this semester, with some practical advice that you’ll find useful, no matter what you’re aiming to do after university. And, as part of the College of Arts & Sciences’ Alabama/Greece Initiative, Prof. Touna will be hosting a professor from Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, for a week — he’ll be offering guest lectures and making some class visits — and a group of early career scholars are visiting campus as part of our new American Examples working group, organized by Prof. Altman and funded by both the Department and the College of A&S. (Did we say that we’re applying for a fairly large external grant to make this an annual event…?)

Did we mention the sixth annual honors research symposium at the end of February? You should talk to an REL prof — asap — if you have a paper you’d like to revise and present.

Of course Honors Day is also coming, the first Friday of April, with the Department’s annual ceremony on the balcony around noon (immediately following the completion of the A&S event at Moody Music Hall). Oh, and we’ve got something new to announce about Honors Day but we’ll leave that for a separate notice.

So welcome back and we hope you have a great Spring semester.

20 Conference Dos and Don’ts

With the our field’s main annual conference just days away, we thought we’d offer a public service announcement to those who may be new to navigating the heady intellectual environment of a scholarly meeting.

So here goes…

1. Don’t wander into the book display unprepared; instead, psych yourself up for the over-stimulating audio-visual onslaught that is a convention center ballroom filled with thousands and thousands of books — many of which are on either Jesus or the Apostle Paul — and nearly as many tweed-coated scholars fighting over them or talking to each other in the middle of the aisle. #obstaclecourse Continue reading

Identity in Inter-Korean Politics

Jacob Inglis is a junior from Huntsville, Alabama majoring in International Studies and minoring in Korean, Asian Studies, and the Randall Research Scholars Program with an interest in Inter-Korean politics and diplomacy.

The world watched over the past year as war on the Korean Peninsula, an inevitable outcome according to North Korea, seemed poised to reignite. Amidst the backdrop of the controversial deployment of additional anti-ballistic missile systems, the testing of North Korea’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the mainland U.S, and the alleged detonation of a hydrogen bomb by North Korea, tensions on the Korean Peninsula were at their highest point in the decade since the relationship between North and South Korea deteriorated following the failure of the former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung’s Sunshine Policy in the mid-2000s. However, the start of 2018 brought an unexpected opportunity for diplomacy when North and South Korea agreed to enter the Olympic stadium under the joint Korean Unification flag (pictured above) at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. Continue reading

Adventures in Archives, Classification, and Eldridge Cleaver

Dan Wells is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Religion at Florida State University. He is currently finishing a dissertation entitled, “Better Dead Than Red: A History of the Christian Crusade Aesthetic.”

Growing up I wanted to be Indiana Jones. I wanted to see some adventure. Long before my awareness of the almost innumerable issues that plagued the series, I thought melting Nazi faces off with ancient artifacts while wearing a cool hat and neglecting professional responsibilities in service to the preservation of history (it belongs in a museum!) sounded rather great (can we pause to recognize how terrible it must have been to be Prof. Jones’ graduate assistant?). With those childhood dreams in the rearview (mostly in the rearview, that is), my adventure usually leads me to a dusty library archive where my only hopes to melt Nazi faces comes during my lunch break when I might encounter a Nazi on Twitter. In a recent adventure to the Bancroft Library at UC-Berkeley, I was in search of the “holy grail” archival find that might take my current research project to the next level. Combing through files on former Black Panther Party Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver, I stumbled upon an article that caught my eye. While not the “holy grail” I was looking for, the find serves as an example of what one might stumble upon in the archives and more importantly, how acts of classification have real life, tangible consequences. Continue reading