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.
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 the three areas of research, teaching, and public scholarship. Drawing on expertise from across the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, American Examples’ training and mentoring produces scholars whose work exceeds the intellectual and geographic boundaries of “American religion” or “American religious history.”
American Examples seeks applications for participants in its newly expanded 2020 program. AE consists of three two-day workshops, each with its own focus: research, public scholarship, and teaching. The workshops are hosted at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and led by mentors drawn from the faculty of the Department of Religious. Travel, lodging, and meals in Tuscaloosa for participants are paid for by American Examples.
Research- March 5-8, 2020: A collaborative discussion of chapter length works in progress that will lead to the publication of an edited anthology of participants’ chapters.
Public Scholarship- May 7-10 2020: An introduction to a number of digital tools for building public digital projects and presenting research to larger publics through digital platforms.
Teaching- Oct 1-4, 2020: A collaborative and engaging series of discussions and activities that will equip participants with new methods and pedagogy for teaching courses on religion in America.
It’s been a while but the Study Religion podcast is back! Go find us wherever you get your podcasts and be sure to subscribe, rate, and comment.
In this episode we welcome Prof. Tim Jensen from the University of Southern Denmark, the president of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR). Prof. Jensen spent some time in conversation with our own Prof. Richard Newton and some of our MA students in Religion in Culture about how the academic study of religion looks from a global perspective beyond the Unite States.
On the first page of Imagining Religion, historian of religion Jonathan Z. Smith writes:
For the self-conscious student of religion, no datum possess intrinsic interest. It is of value only insofar as it can serve as exempli gratis of some fundamental issue in the imagination of religion.
For Smith, and I agree with him, scholars should choose particular examples as data that suit particular questions that they want to answer. In this way, the scholar of religion is not bound by “the boundaries of canon nor of community” in their pursuits. Thus, the data for religious studies is not limited to things that seem “religious” in the common use of the term. Furthermore, it is not the “religious” data that directs our research, but the larger theoretical questions that we seek to answer through the data we select.
This brings me to WrestleMania. Today WWE will put on their 35th annual WrestleMania show and I think there are three aspects of the show that could be of interest to a scholar of religion in the Smithian vein. To be clear, I don’t think a religious studies approach to WrestleMania should go find the things that seem obviously religious happening at the event, nor am I arguing that pro wrestling is also a religion. Rather, I am pointing out a few places where a scholar asking certain questions might find some data to theorize with.
So, I present a Religious Studies Guide WrestleMania 35.
When we all get back from Spring Break on March 18 it will officially be time for registration advising for the Fall 2019 semester. Prof. Altman has set aside Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoons from noon-3:30 for advising appointments. So please email him and let him know a time and date that fits those afternoons so you can chat about the excellent courses we’re offering next semester and how to get you one semester closer to graduation!
Earlier this fall we announced a new working group for early career scholars of religion in America, American Examples. Thanks to funding from REL and the College of Arts and Sciences we will be hosting 6 participants on campus for a workshop that will produce an anthology of new papers taking a new approach to the study of religion in America.
We are happy and excited to announce the participants in the inaugural year of the working group:
Since Prof. McCutcheon has offered a couple of posts with advice about the job market, one on campus interviews and one on the process more broadly, I thought I would add a post about another piece of the job market process: the CV.
The topic of the CV came up the other day in our REL 502: Public Humanities Foundations course when we were looking at professional websites the students had built. Every student had included some sort of CV on their site but as we talked it became clear that why that CV was there and what it was doing needed to be thought out more clearly. Continue reading →
The American Academy of Religion, the national scholarly association for religious studies in America, just sent out its program of plenary addresses for its upcoming annual meeting this November. The abstract for David Gushee’s Presidential Address caught my eye.
There are a number of things to say about this. First of all, I told ya’ll this would happen during the nomination process three years ago. Looking closely at the abstract, the phrase “will perform ‘religion in public’ in a confessional vein” jumps out at me right away. The theme of the annual meeting, chosen by Gushee as president, is “religion in public” and this sentence shows the versatility of that phrase. The phrase “religion in public” usually connotes the area where scholars investigate how things called “religion” show up in the public sphere. Or sometimes, especially within the AAR and it’s mission to “enhance the public understanding of religion,” religion in public means that scholars share their knowledge about things called religion with the public. But this is neither of those. Gushee will be performing religion in public. He will be bringing the thing called religion into the public. But what public? A room full (or maybe not full) of scholars in a massive conference center who paid the exorbitant registration fees of the AAR? That’s not exactly Times Square or a CNN studio.
The latest episode of the REL podcast, Study Religion, is now available wherever you get your podcasts. This episode gives a glimpse into the guests we have had visit the department this past spring. Every year our department welcomes guests who come and give lectures or visit with faculty and students. This past semester we had two excellent guests visit the department as part of our lecture series. First, Dr. Elijah Siegler was our Zachary Day Memorial Lecturer and gave an excellent talk on religion in the films of the Coen Brothers. Then, Dr. Linell Cady came as our Aronov Lecturer. Dr. Cady spent time with a group of faculty discussing the current state and future of religious studies in higher education. She also delivered a wonderful lecture on spirituality, science, and secularism in America. This episode is a taste of these visits from our guests.