(Just Like) Starting Over Pt. 2

Ellie Cochran is a senior at UA, majoring in Religious Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies with a depth study in Environmental Management. She will be graduating this May and plans to pursue a Master of Science in Family Financial Planning & Counseling.

As mentioned in my first blog post, (Just Like) Starting Over Pt. 1, I have spent part of my final semester as an undergraduate sitting in on the Religious Studies honors introductory course (REL 105) that is required of majors. While this course is technically the same introduction material that I received three years ago in my intro class (REL 100), I have noticed some distinguishable differences between the honors and non-honors courses.

Continue reading

A Religious Studies Guide to WrestleMania

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.

Continue reading

A Look Back on 2018-2019

Yes, it’s Honors Day again!

And what better time is there to look back on another great year in REL — from a busy student association, some wonderful B.A. students, and faculty who all go the extra mile, to grad students successfully using Manly Hall as a springboard
to bigger and better things…

Highlights from 2018-19 from UA Religious Studies on Vimeo.

See you on the balcony around 12:00 noon, for some awards,
some food, and a few surprises.

Thanks to Ellie Cochran for the slide show

 

(Just Like) Starting Over Pt. 1

4 students writing lists related to book chapters on a marker board. There backs are turned toward the camera.

Ellie Cochran is a senior at UA, majoring in Religious Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies with a depth study in Environmental Management. She will be graduating this May and plans to pursue a Master of Science in Family Financial Planning & Counseling.

Over the last few months, in the final semester of my undergraduate degree, I have been participating in an independent study in the Department of Religious Studies, which includes sitting in on the Honors Introduction to Religious Studies course, taught by Prof. Emily Crews. In addition to sitting in on two different sections of her course each week, and reviewing many of the same readings that I did in my own intro course three years ago, I have also regularly met with Prof. Russell McCutcheon and discussed new readings on pedagogy in the humanities. While there has been quite a bit of overlap between the kinds of things I learned in my introductory course, taught by Prof. Merinda Simmons, my experience of sitting in again on this 100-level course has been surprisingly different than what I expected when the semester began in January. Continue reading

Using Sports to Understand Social Perspectives

Ally Manel is a sophomore from Holbrook, New York. She is a dual degree
candidate in Biology and Religious Studies, as well as a member of
the University of Alabama Equestrian Team.

With the Final Four just around the corner, millions of people will tune in to watch their favorite college teams compete for the title of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Thousands will pack into the stadium to watch the games, and there are bound to be many angry fans each time the referee makes a close call. Now, being a sports fan, I am no stranger to the frustration felt when a referee seems to be favoring the opponent. After all, I am certain where my loyalties lie, and when the ref makes a call that seems unfair, it certainly feels like they lose the objectivity expected of them, as if they have allegiances with the adversary. Now, no one is perfect, and when the tables are turned and the referee seems to favor my team, I suddenly see the calls as fair. The contradictions in my critique of the referee can be translated into responses to traditions such as Hinduism. Sometimes, outsiders see certain viewpoints of Hindu myths as contradictory to Hindu ideals, just as close calls by referees can be seen as both fair and unfair to outsiders.

In Hinduism, Hanuman is a significant deity and is given the honorable title of “destroyer of evil.” In one particular Hindu comic, “Hanuman to the Rescue: Hanuman brings the Sanjeevani,” by Anant Pai, Hanuman is given the task of delivering a plant to Lakshmana, another influential deity, in order to save his life. While bringing the plant, Hanuman has to kill hundreds of his enemies to get back to his home and Lakshmana. To Hindus, the story is thought to represent the truest form of loyalty and sincerity, and the violence against the enemies is seen as necessary. To some outsiders of the religion, the violence used to kill the enemies in order to save Lakshmana is seen as contradictory to the ideals of the religion. For instance, take the Hindu idea of ahimsa, meaning nonviolence. Many Hindus attempt to live by this principle, and for the comic to portray violence so openly, some see it as contradictory to ahimsa. Whether the comic is contradictory to the religion, though, is not what I am here to decide. Instead, it’s important to note how an individual’s own biases, experiences, and background shape the opinion they form. Maybe Hindus are more willing to overlook Hanuman’s violence because his intentions are to destroy evil, and without taking a violent approach, evil will persist. If one looks from a different perspective, though, the violence might be viewed as wrong and unnecessary.

Taking this back to March Madness referees, a referee may make a certain call because of something they learned in training, or a similar play that went down, just in the same way that a Hindu might overlook Hanuman’s violence because of an experience they’ve had, while another person might see the act as a bit problematic. These differing opinions are simply inevitable, and it is important for us to take into account the different sides of every story. These different experiences can change an entire ideology, as seen with the story of Hanuman retrieving the plant. The biases of authors and readers lead to different versions of stories, and in order to fully understand a story, often the reader must consider their own biases as well as the writer’s experiences.

 

Image credit: via MaxPixel (CC0 1.0)

On Ancient Greek Ethnic Identity

As part of UA’s Alabama/Greece Initiative, Prof. Ioannis Xydopoulos visited the Department of Religious Studies just before Spring Break, hosted by REL’s Prof. Vaia Touna. After meeting with students, exploring Tuscaloosa, and guest teaching in one of Prof. Touna’s classes, our visitor from Aristotle University (AUTh) in Thessaloniki, presented his research on issues of ancient Greek identity.

Continue reading

Chris Hurt Returns for Grad Tales

Last night REL welcomed back 2008 grad Chris Hurt, who had a thing or two to say about the continuing relevance of his liberal arts degree at UA. Interviewed by Justin Nelson (himself an REL grad from 2007), Chris talked about how he ended up at UA from Mississippi, his experiences in our classes, as well as how he found his way to Los Angeles after graduation — where he now lives, working at Wag while also pursuing a career in music. Continue reading

Apples and Oranges, Similar yet Different

AnnaLaura Campbell is a Junior from Bailey, MS, majoring in Accounting and minoring in Religious Studies. After graduation, she plans to attend law school and study business law or continue her education in Accounting with a master’s degree and CPA license.

We’ve heard the phrase many times in our lives: “That’s like comparing apples and oranges!” But what does it actually mean? Apples and oranges are both fruits, relatively circular, and a healthy snack, but they are distinctly different from each other when it comes to color, taste, and texture. We often use this phrase to reference the comparison of two separate entities that are seemingly similar to each other, but inherently different. We don’t just apply this idea to fruit, though; we compare people in the same way.

Continue reading

The Implications of Designations

A lot of people in our field now advocate approaches that find religion either in unexpected or overlooked places. What once might have been called the implicit religion movement, at least as once associated with the work of the late Ed Bailey, has now been joined by the more-or-less related lived religion, material religion, religion on the ground, as well as the embodied religion approaches, all of which aim to identify religion in places where scholars, who have long been preoccupied with reading texts (and thereby studying what some of our literate predecessors left behind), have not found it before, often due to some sort of scholarly bias. Continue reading

Spring Semester Coming Attractions

After Spring break there’s plenty happening in REL.

Apart from the American Examples workshop, mentioned in a post yesterday, on the first Monday back, starting at 10 am, we have our annual button event, just in time for the upcoming registration for Fall classes (which opens on Mon, Mar. 25). Once again, Prof. Newton is at the helm and he’d love to see you stop buy, hand out a few buttons and some info on classes. The REL tent will be set up adjacent to Manly Hall, in the usual spot.

On March 27, from 7-9 pm, Grad Tales returns, with REL grad Chris Hurt being interviewed by REL grad Justin Nelson (and member of REL’s Alum Liaison Committee). Chris, a 2008 grad, has a day job, sure, but is also actively pursuing a career in music, out in LA, with the Jamestown Pagans. More info about our event here. Or catch him on lead vocals and keyboard here: Continue reading