Michael J. Altman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies. Dr. Altman's areas of interest are American religious history, theory and method in the study of religion, the history of comparative religion, and Asian religions in American culture. Overall, his research sits at the crossroads of American religious history and religious studies, using the theoretical insights of religious studies to dig deeper into what we mean by "religion" in religious history. His current research examines cultural constructions of Hinduism in 19th-century America.
We are really cranking out the podcast series on our Study Religion podcast here in REL. One of our latest podcast series is an American Examples and RELdl production hosted by Religion in Culture MA student and American Examples fellow, Ciara Eichhorst. It’s called “Examples” and it’s a podcast that explores what we have come to call the “examples approach” to studying religion in culture. The examples approach sees specific case studies of religion in America as opportunities for investigating larger theoretical questions. It’s what we’ve done in the essays in volume 1 of American Examples: New Conversations about Religion and the forthcoming volume 2. (There are two more volumes on the way, btw.) But now we are doing that in a podcast where Ciara sits down with scholars who are part of the American Examples project and gets them talking about their examples and what they do with them.
As a scholar of religion, I’m interested in the term “belief.” I find it to be a very curious term. For example, why would 75,000 people fill a football stadium for two nights of Wrestlemania earlier this year to watch professional wrestling matches that they didn’t believe were “real”? Because pro wrestling is “fake,” right? No one believes it’s a real sport or a real competition, right? But yet enough people in the spend their time and money on these matches they don’t believe in to support two major nationally televised pro wrestling companies (All Elite Wrestling and WWE) on top of numerous regional “independent” wrestling promotions. Continue reading →
The American Examples steering committee is proud to announce the cohort of participants for the 2022 American Examples workshops. American Examples is a collaborative working group for early career scholars of religion in America, broadly conceived, from a variety of disciplines. American Examples engages the study of religion in America across the three areas of research, teaching, and public scholarship. This year, our entire cohort is non-tenure track participants, continuing our emphasis on opening up opportunities for early career scholars. We also have a range of disciplines in the cohort, ranging from religious studies to history to Slavic languages and literature.
This year’s cohort includes:
Yasmine Flodin-Ali, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jem Jebbia, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University
Steven Kaplin, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University
Andrew Klumpp, editor of the Annals of Iowa at the State Historical Society of Iowa
Jacob Lassin, Post-doctoral Research Scholar at the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies at Arizona State University
Rachel Schwaller, lecturer in the Departments of History and Religious Studies at the University of Kansas
Suzanne van Geuns, Ph.D. candidate in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto
Kristine Wright, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion at Princeton University
American Examples is a collaborative working group for early career scholars who study religion in America, broadly conceived, from a variety of disciplines. The program is generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. American Examples engages the study of religion in America across three areas: research, teaching, and public scholarship. Drawing on expertise from across the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, American Examples produces scholars whose work exceeds the academic and geographic boundaries of “American religion” or “American religious history.”
American Examples seeks applications for participants in its 2022 program. AE consists of three workshops, each with its own focus: research, public scholarship, and teaching. As COVID-19 continues to make planning difficult, we are currently planning to hold the three workshops virtually. The AE Steering Committee is closely monitoring the COVID situation and leaves the possibility of in-person meetings possible should conditions improve nationally and in Alabama.
Participants will be given a $750 stipend for their participation in the program.
Sometimes there are tough questions in the academic study of religion. That’s why there’s 1-800-REL-HELP, a hotline for your most difficult religious studies quandaries. Written by participants in the 2020 American Examples working group and produced by recently graduated MA students Jack Bernardi and Jeremee Nute, these videos answer questions about everything from atheism to ritual and cults to charisma.
Did you know that we are now accepting applications for American Examples 2021? American Examples is our Luce Funded program of workshops for untenured scholars of so-called “religion in America.” You can find out more at the American Examples website. Or, you can just listen to the podcast below where American Examples alumni Travis Cooper and Hannah Scheidt talk about their experiences in the program. Applications are due October 31 so listen and apply!
American Examples is back. The series of workshops, funded by the Luce Foundation, is seeking applications for the 2021 program. This year’s program will be virtual but it will still include three workshops covering research, public humanities, and teaching. The program is open to any non-tenured scholars of so-called “religion in America” (very broadly defined). Priority is given to applicants off of the tenure-track. Applicants from communities underrepresented in the academy are especially encouraged to apply.
Many of the REL faculty pitched in late in the spring and into the early summer to adapt to our new COVID reality by hosting a series of informal Zoom discussions about teaching with our 2020 AE participants (and even a couple 2019 AE folks). The discussions offered everyone a chance to share how they were experimenting with remote teaching and how to better prepare for their fall courses. I think everyone involved found the discussions fruitful.
This fall we are adapting again, though with greater preparation. Rather than the planned face to face workshop on public humanities, we have shifted to a new model. Beginning last week, the #AE2020 cohort has been joining myself and another REL faculty for informal conversations about the public humanities and how we think about them here in our department. Last week Prof. Jeri Wieringa joined us to talk about the role of digital platforms and tools in public humanities and the relationship between public humanities and digital humanities. This week, Prof. Richard Newton spent time talking about how scholars can craft a public persona and how to manage things as an online public scholar of religion. Next week, Prof. Nathan Loewen will join us for our final conversation to discuss the REL 502 Public Humanities Foundations course he is teaching and how public humanities relates to both the graduate and undergraduate classroom. The first two conversations have proven useful and fun and we look forward to another great one next week.
Along with these conversations, the 2020 AE participants will be working on producing a series of short accessible videos on key terms in the study of religion. In these videos the participants will take a term that is useful to them in their research (text, canon, law, ritual, etc.) and use an example from their research to explain the term. The idea being that scholars who study things in times and places outside the United States might also use that term and that teachers or interested members of the public might find their explanations useful. We hope these videos will reach a public audience, via a new AE YouTube channel, but we also think they will be useful in introductory religious studies courses. After all, the classroom is probably the public space scholars of religion have the most frequent access too. Our students are the public too.
And on top of all of this, the 2021 AE cohort is just around the corner. Keep your eyes peeled for a 2021 call for participants for a newly designed remote version of AE. That should be out very soon.
I have the good fortune to have been granted a sabbatical this semester. But what does that mean? What should I do? I looked up the word “sabbatical” in the Oxford English Dictionary and found a number of definitions. Continue reading →