The 19th Annual Aronov Lecture

Poster for March 23rd Aronov Lecture

Join us for the 2022 Aronov Lecture with Prof. Andrea Jain,
hosted by Prof. Steven Ramey.

March 23, 2022 at 7pm (Central Time)

The Aronov lecture will be virtual again this year as we transition back to normal operations and look forward to next year’s in-person event.

Andrea R. Jain, Ph.D. is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis, editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and author of Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture (Oxford 2014) and Peace Love Yoga: The Politics of Global Spirituality (Oxford, 2020). She will join Prof. Ramey in a virtual conversation about the state of the field that will open a Q&A with those attending.

Jain’s works in progress, including the documentary film “Predation,” call for humanities scholars to center questions about the current pandemic and planetary crisis. The purpose of humanities scholarship, Jain argues, should include the following: to remind scientists and health experts that equity must be at the center of their response to pandemic and planetary crisis; to uncover and analyze the needs for repair in the relationships between human societies and environmental bodies and non-human animals; and to diagnose capitalism’s death-dealing structures and the causes of ecological death in the hope that activists, in turn, can build on that scholarship to imagine radically different futures.

Current and past REL students will soon receive the Zoom link for the Aronov lecture by email in the coming days.

Guests from off-campus are invited to register at
https://bit.ly/2022AronovLecture

Learn more about REL’s annual Aronov lecture.

Our thanks to Prof. Jeri Wieringa for her work behind-the-scenes to make these virtual events possible last year and again this year.

Join Us For the 9th Annual Day Lecture

Day 2022 Flyer

Join Prof. Michael Altman in a virtual conversation with Cody Musselman of Yale University
February 16, 2022 at 7pm (Central Time).

Cody Musselman is a scholar of contemporary American religion with degrees in Religious Studies from Yale University, Harvard Divinity School, and Kalamazoo College. Her work focuses on the theories and embodiment of religion in everyday life. Her current manuscript, “Spiritual Exercises: Fitness and Religion in Modern America” uses the fitness franchises CrossFit and SoulCycle as case studies for theorizing religion in popular culture.

Cody’s work focuses on spiritual but not religious (SBNR) fitness cultures of neoliberal capitalism, which involves carrying out fieldwork among CrossFit boxes and SoulCycle studios. She was a participant in American Examples 2021 and a contributor to Uncivil Religion — a joint REL/Smithsonian Museum online initiative.

To attend, please register at https://bit.ly/DayLecture2022.

Learn more about the annual Day Lecture

Announcing Uncivil Religion: A Digital Resource about Religion in the January 6 Attack on the Capitol

A screenshot of the Uncivil Religion home page

Following announcements from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the University of Alabama, the Department of Religious Studies is proud to announce a new digital resource produced in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s Center for the Understanding of Religion in American History

Uncivil Religion uses publicly available digital media to trace the threads of religious symbols, ideas, discourses, and identities throughout the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Launching just days before the one year anniversary, the project includes a series of interpretive essays and a curated set of galleries of digital media that represent the various ways religion showed up that day. The essays, all of which were written by internationally recognized scholars of religion and politics, use individual examples of digital media from January 6 to explore the larger role of religion before, during, and after that day.

Prof. Mike Altman, from UA’s Department of Religious Studies, and Dr. Jerome Copulsky, a consulting scholar at the National Museum of American History’s Center for the Understanding of Religion in American History, are the project’s directors. Dr. Peter Manseau, Director of the Center for Understanding Religion in American History at the National Museum of American History, serves as project advisor. Religious Studies graduate students from the REL 502: Public Humanities and Religious Studies course in the Fall of 2021 provided research and digital expertise to the project. The REL Digital Lab, within the Department of Religious Studies, and eTech, within the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama, provided additional technical resources, consulting, and support.

Uncivil Religion is an exciting new collaboration between the museum and the department and we are hopeful that it can grow. It is a resource that will be of value to teachers, scholars, and anyone interested in better understanding the role of religion in politics.

Got a question? 1-800-REL-HELP is here with an answer.

Sometimes there are tough questions in the academic study of religion. That’s why there’s 1-800-REL-HELP, a hotline for your most difficult religious studies quandaries. Written by participants in the 2020 American Examples working group and produced by recently graduated MA students Jack Bernardi and Jeremee Nute, these videos answer questions about everything from atheism to ritual and cults to charisma.

The videos are posted on the American Examples YouTube channel (Subscribe!) or you can watch them on the playlist below.

 

Announcing the 2021 Day Virtual Lecture: Sporting the Sacred

We invite you to join us on March 10th at 7pm (central) for our annual Day Lecture — which will be a virtual event this year, hosted by Prof. Richard Newton.

Dr. Zachary T. Smith will discuss the academic study of religion and sports, beginning with the question: how can we think beyond the common scholarly (and popular) characterization of sport as some kind of new quasi-religious phenomena of secularized society?

Zach is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Kinesiology, in the School of Behavioral​ Sciences & Education at Penn State University (Harrisburg). He earned his M.A. in Comparative Religion from Western Michigan State University and his Ph.D. in Kinesiology and Sport Studies from the University of Tennessee, writing a dissertation entitled, “For God’s Sake, FIGHT!”: Carnal Ethnography, Christian Mixed Martial Arts, and a Military Definition of Reality. Zach was also a member of the 2020 cohort of REL’s American Examples initiative and, most recently, is the author of the article, “Can Sport be Regarded as ‘Cultural Liturgy’?” in the special issue of Sport in Society (2019) on social scientific perspectives on sports.

Current REL students (minors, majors, and graduate students), alums, and faculty will all receive the Zoom link in your inbox prior to the event.

For off-campus guests who wish to join us, please register at:
https://bit.ly/DayLecture
You will receive the Zoom link via email the day before the event.

Learn more about the annual Day Lecture

 

 

New Titles in REL: Second Virtual Book Event (Zoom)

Join us for another evening of conversation, this time hosted by REL’s own Dr. K. Merinda Simmons and celebrating the recent publication of another new title in REL, Identifying Roots: Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures, by Dr. Richard Newton.

Due to pandemic protocols, our book events for Spring 2021 are virtual and open to guests both on and off campus.

We invite you to join us virtually, via Zoom, on
February 23, 2021, at 7 p.m. (US central time).

Current REL students (minors, majors, and graduate students), alums, and faculty will all receive the Zoom link in your inbox prior to the event.

For off-campus guests who wish to join us, please register at:
https://bit.ly/IdentifyingRoots
You will receive the Zoom link via email
the day before the event.

New Titles in REL: Upcoming Zoom Event

Book cover of Race and New Modernisms

Join us for an evening of conversation hosted by REL’s own Dr. Richard Newton to celebrate the publication of a new title in REL, Race and New Modernisms, co-authored by Dr. K. Merinda Simmons and Dr. James A. Crank (Department of English, University of Alabama) — a book that was a finalist for a 2020 PROSE book award (in the category of Literature).

In past semesters we would have gathered in person at the local bookstore, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers, but pandemic protocols now require a different approach. As a result, our book events for Spring 2021 will be held virtually and are open to guests both on and off campus.

So join us virtually, via Zoom, on January 26, 2021, at 7 p.m. (US central time).

Current REL students (minors, majors, and graduate students), alums, and faculty will all receive the Zoom link in your inbox prior to the event.

For off-campus guests who wish to join us, please register at:
http://bit.ly/RaceAndNewModernisms
You will receive the Zoom link via email
the day before the event.

An Evening with Annette Yoshiko Reed

Poster for Oct 21 Aronov LectureThe Aronov Lecture brings to the University of Alabama renowned scholars of religion whose work can communicate lessons and insights relevant to the broader human sciences. One of our department’s two annual lectures, we are excited to host this year’s speaker, Dr. Annette Yoshiko Reed on the evening of Wednesday, October 21 at 7 pm (central time). Continue reading

American Examples: Adapting to a Fall 2020 and Beyond

American Examples Logo

When we announced the American Examples program, funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, we were super excited about the three workshops we would be offering in 2020. We were able to hold one of them in person in early March. Then the world changed, and, with it, our plans.

Many of the REL faculty pitched in late in the spring and into the early summer to adapt to our new COVID reality by hosting a series of informal Zoom discussions about teaching with our 2020 AE participants (and even a couple 2019 AE folks). The discussions offered everyone a chance to share how they were experimenting with remote teaching and how to better prepare for their fall courses. I think everyone involved found the discussions fruitful.

screenshot of AE zoom conversation

This fall we are adapting again, though with greater preparation. Rather than the planned face to face workshop on public humanities, we have shifted to a new model. Beginning last week, the #AE2020 cohort has been joining myself and another REL faculty for informal conversations about the public humanities and how we think about them here in our department. Last week Prof. Jeri Wieringa joined us to talk about the role of digital platforms and tools in public humanities and the relationship between public humanities and digital humanities. This week, Prof. Richard Newton spent time talking about how scholars can craft a public persona and how to manage things as an online public scholar of religion. Next week, Prof. Nathan Loewen will join us for our final conversation to discuss the REL 502 Public Humanities Foundations course he is teaching and how public humanities relates to both the graduate and undergraduate classroom. The first two conversations have proven useful and fun and we look forward to another great one next week.

screenshot of another AE zoom conversation

Along with these conversations, the 2020 AE participants will be working on producing a series of short accessible videos on key terms in the study of religion. In these videos the participants will take a term that is useful to them in their research (text, canon, law, ritual, etc.) and use an example from their research to explain the term. The idea being that scholars who study things in times and places outside the United States might also use that term and that teachers or interested members of the public might find their explanations useful. We hope these videos will reach a public audience, via a new AE YouTube channel, but we also think they will be useful in introductory religious studies courses. After all, the classroom is probably the public space scholars of religion have the most frequent access too. Our students are the public too.

And on top of all of this, the 2021 AE cohort is just around the corner. Keep your eyes peeled for a 2021 call for participants for a newly designed remote version of AE. That should be out very soon.

REL COVID-19 Update

Graphic from University of Alabama COVID-19 Response Site

It’s been an interesting few weeks in REL, to say the least; given the worldwide spread of COVID-19, the University of Alabama extended Spring break, asked students not to return to campus after it, and released a plan to alter how we finish the semester. Originally we planned to re-open main offices on the Monday after Spring break but the so-called limited business operation (LBO) of campus has been extended until Sunday, March 29 (with only essential employees allowed on campus) — though this is all subject to change, as UA System officials and campus leadership reassess a situation that changes daily. For example, as of March 19 the libraries closed and stop loaning material. But classes are indeed still moving to an online format, effective Monday, March 30, and your professors will be in touch — if not already — with the plan for each course. They’ve been working throughout the Spring break to devise a plan for their large lectures, seminars, independent studies, and graduate courses (just as some have been thinking up activities for their own children, who are themselves home from school). And we’ve all been in touch with each other regularly, to ensure that everyone is in the loop and doing well.

Which we all are.

So far, we’ve been communicating with everyone via email, but it seemed time to put a post up on the blog, to update everyone on a few things. Continue reading