“Happy Arbitrary New Year”

January 2020 calendar

A friend on social media wished everyone a “happy arbitrary new year” last night. And it got me thinking.

We all know — right? — that there’s a variety of dating systems that have existed historically, let alone today (case in point: see the January 25th Chinese new year on that image up above…?). So, at some level, most of us surely understand that it isn’t really the start of a new year today. Instead, should we grant the Gregorian calendar‘s legitimacy for how we organize time, then, yes, today is the start of a new year. Continue reading

Have You Met Emily Crews?

Title card reading: we sat down with Emily Crews and asked her some questions

Emily Crews is in the second year of teaching full-time in REL (while finishing her dissertation at the University of Chicago), devoting her time mostly to Honors intro courses but also teaching our monthly evening film class.

If you’ve not had a class with her then this is your chance
to get to know a little more about her work.

Thanks to REL students Kyle Ashley
and Savannah Aldridge for the movie magic.

Playing Favorites

Students meditating in classA couple weeks ago I was at a session of the American Academy of Religion’s annual conference where the topic of experiential learning came up, mentioned in the context of classes that do such things as invite students to meditate so that they can experience for themselves a taste of the mindfulness that they’re reading about in the course. Continue reading

“Dr. Green Rocks!”

Spring semester 1984 flyer for courses in the department

There was a memorial service on campus yesterday for Patrick E. Green, who passed away on October 20, 2019. He came to the University of Alabama, from the University of Texas, back in 1969. That’s back when the field that some of us today take for granted was just getting going and the UA Department that we nowcelebrate as being over 50 years old was in its infancy, with its few faculty housed in ten Hoor Hall. For that was just a couple years after the first time someone other than campus ministers were teaching courses on religion, and back when doctoral programs in the study of religion, as we think of them today, didn’t exist. Continue reading

Revising our Mission

Screen shot of Tweet saying: How does a professional org recalibrate to take higher ed changes into account, esp when grad students/un- & under-employed comprise a large portion of members & annual attendees...? A question we should have already answered. So let’s get cracking.

I posted the above the other day while retweeting a story on Twitter about some of the obstacles that can stand in the way of early career scholars — notably those that are financial, such as annual registration fees at our conferences. Stories like these are not new to social media commentaries on the current state of academia, of course, but they took on even more urgency in the light of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature’s joint decision to put QR codes on name badges for the upcoming 2019 conference. Although the retraction statements that came out a few days later (read the AAR‘s and the SBL‘s) emphasized the goal of using the codes for enhanced networking (as the SBL statement put it), at least according to the email that SBL members received when their name badges were first distributed online, the codes were to be used to identify people using someone else’s badge (a so-called “pirated name badge”) — prompting such attendees either “to register immediately or be removed from the meeting.”

Unless there’s a rash of people in the wider public pirating name badges, it’s not tough to imagine that those who would be directly impacted by the spot scans would be grad students and under-employed scholars, sharing a name badge to get into the book display. Continue reading

Is Our MA For You?

Photo of the department webpage for prospective MA students

 

It’s that time again, when people are considering applying to graduate programs for the coming academic year. Later in the Fall semester our Graduate Committee will begin making acceptance decisions and will be nominating some of the newly admitted students for competitive, campus-wide fellowships, to help them fund their studies, not to mention making decisions about who will hold the Department’s graduate teaching assistantships. So I thought it was a good time to say a few things about why you might consider studying religion at the University of Alabama. Continue reading

Introducing Dr. Edith Szanto

Title card for Prof. Szanto's interview

Dr. Edith Szanto joined REL just this past August, coming to us after working for several years at the American University of Iraq, in Sulaimani. Now partway into her first semester, she’s been teaching an introductory course on Islam and, in the Spring, will be teaching REL 100 Introduction to the Study of Religion along with an upper-level seminar on the way Islam has been conceptualized in Europe and North America.

Thanks again to REL grad Andie Alexander and REL major Kyle Ashley
for their movie-making skills.