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.

Religious Literacy and the Definition of Religion

world religions info grpahic

The US field’s largest professional association, the American Academy of Religion, recently released a set of guidelines (3 years in the making) on promoting religious literacy in 2 and 4-year US colleges — find it posted here as a PDF. Continue reading

An e.g. of How Meaning Works

Title card for the artifacts video series

Yes, REL videos are back for some of our ongoing series — such as the artifacts series, in which faculty are invited to talk a bit about something in their office.

In this episode, Prof. Richard Newton, who first joined REL last year.

See the whole artifacts series here.

Not Your Typical MA Program

Our third group of incoming MA students started classes this past August, joining four full-time MA students now in their second year. So we thought it was time to introduce them all to you, and ask them to tell us what they’re studying — from people, places and things to the digital tools useful in doing their work.

For more information on REL’s Religion in Culture MA, visit our website and
contact Prof. Merinda Simmons, our Graduate Director.

Thanks to REL grad Andie Alexander and
current REL major Kyle Ashley for creating this video.

How Not to Reinvent Yourself

Sierra Lawson is a BA and MA graduate of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama who is now pursuing her Ph.D. in the study of religion at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In this post she reflects on how, as a TA, she’s using a model of the field we’ve come to call the examples approach.

As someone who describes their research interests as investigating claims about Marian devotion in modern Latin America, you can imagine my surprise upon being assigned a teaching assistantship in Hebrew Bible this semester. Continue reading

It’s About More Than the Review

So, I wrote a thing recently about how writing book reviews is not worthless.

But I got some push back concerning how some people in the profession, such as contingent faculty, don’t have the time or the ability to work for free by writing book reviews. I did say writing review was good for people at all career stages, after all, no?

I find this response lamentable, to be honest, because I don’t happen to think that writing book reviews is all about the review that results. In fact, even though that earlier post was written to contest some unnamed senior person who claimed that they were professionally worthless, the assumption that writing a book review is about the review (and so, is it really worth it…?) is a problem that many seem to share, regardless their career stage.

I don’t think its about the review, though. Continue reading

It’s Not Worthless

Yes, I tweeted the above, this morning, in response to a tweet about “an older prof” who supposedly said to someone that writing book reviews is “professionally worthless.”

What I find so frustrating is the contempt that many scholars (older or younger) seem to have for the day-to-day machinery of the field — from reviewing essay submissions to journals, reviewing book submissions to publishers, reviewing tenure & promotion applications, reviewing books, and editing journals to advising students, supervising graduate work, and even serving in administrative positions. And, yes, I think contempt is the right word, at least judging by the way many talk about such activities and how we value them (in things like tenure and promotion standards) — or how we joke about them and make a show either dodging those bullets or falling on those spears. Continue reading

Country Music

WSM radio performance of early country music duet

You a fan of country music? If so, then you may already know about Ken Burns’ new 16 hour documentary, on PBS. (Maybe you’ve seen some of his others…?) But if you’re not a fan you probably should still be watching it, since (at least in the first episode) it provides some wonderful examples of how a scholar who goes digging in the archives, after the little details, can unearth some really interesting things. Continue reading

Internships as Part of the REL M.A. Program

Caity Bell's work space, this past summer, preparing a museum exhibit

We recently sat down with Caity Bell, a second year M.A. student in Religious Studies, and talked about internship opportunities. This past summer she helped frame historic representations during her internship with the Landmarks Association of DeKalb County (pictured above).

1. How did you first hear about the chance to do an internship as part of your MA in Religious Studies?

Caity: I first heard about the opportunity during one of our colloquium sessions. Dr. Merinda Simmons, our Grad Director, had invited Dr. Susan Reynolds, Editor for Alabama Heritage, to discuss the various ways she’s used her degree in the Humanities to her benefit in jobs outside of traditional academic positions. Susan mentioned at the end of our meeting that she was looking for interns to help out at the magazine the following semester and I was quick to apply for the position. Though I didn’t choose to receive academic credit for the internship I did still work it into the independent study I was doing with my advisor, Dr. Steven Ramey. Continue reading

The Aaron Aronov Chair in Judaic Studies

We have some news: Associate Professor Daniel Levine, a faculty member in UA’s Department of Political Science, has just been appointed by the University of Alabama Board of Trustees as the Aaron Aronov Endowed Chair in Judaic Studies. He will now have a co-appointment to both Political Science and the Department of Religious Studies, teaching equally for both units — with his first REL course (a Core course on religion and politics) coming in the Spring 2020 semester.

Dr. Levine studies International Relations, political philosophy and theory, as well as Middle Eastern politics. His research draws on Frankfurt School social theory and on the history and philosophy of social science to examine the interactions between academic scholarship and public policy. Currently, his focus is on fear: both the direct experience of it, and its “afterlife” in history and public memory, as well as in the workings of political institutions and in discussions and implementations of policy. Continue reading