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.

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