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

Highlighting REL Undergraduate Research

Student presenting a paper at the 2019 undergrad research symppsoium, with students listening

It’s that time again: time to consider presenting your research at REL’s 7th annual Honors Research Symposium. Devoted to the work of our undergrad students, the annual symposium is chaired by REL M.A. students and is again organized by REL faculty member, Emily Crews.

The event this year will again be held in Gorgas Library 205, all morning on Thursday, March 26 — we’ll announce the actual start time closer to the event, once we know how many students will be presenting.

All students enrolled in a REL class — whether or not
you’re a major or minor — are eligible to participate.

So if you have an essay that you wrote for one of your REL classes that you think could be revised and presented orally in approx. 10 minutes, then contact an REL professor to see if they’ll mentor you in the revision process. Or perhaps if they’ll even supervise a new paper that you intend to write for the event. Once you have your mentor in place, they’ll alert Prof. Crews that you’re aiming to participate in the event.

Note: students working on Honors projects in REL are expected to present their research at this annual event.

Light refreshments will be provided.

A Call for Nominations

The four inaugural alum recognotion award winners in 2019Last year we created a new award, given out at Honors Day 2019 for the first time: the Alum Recognition Award. It acknowledges the ongoing contributions to the Department that our graduates continue to make and/or the interesting challenges they tackle and notable accomplishment they make in their chosen professions and lives. All B.A. majors and minors who have graduated from the Department of Religious Studies, as well as those who have completed the REL M.A., are eligible to be considered.

Based on annual nominations the REL faculty determines each year’s recipient(s).

If awardees are able to attend, the awards are given out at Honors Day each year (this year: Friday, April 3, 2020); otherwise, awards will be mailed. (Pictured above: our four inaugural recipients, at Honors Day 2019, all members of our Alum Liaison Committee).

So, this is a call for nominations.

Each nomination letter must be no more than two single-spaced pages in length; letters must note when the nominee graduated from the University of Alabama, their degree, as well as their major(s) and minor(s). The letter will draw our attention to the alum’s professional and/or personal accomplishments since leaving UA, where possible paying special attention to the ways in which their training and time in our Department has been used by them since leaving Manly Hall. Finally, those writing letters should alert the nominee of their nomination.

No self-nominations, please.

Signed letters of nomination should be sent to Dr. Vaia Touna, either in hard copy, c/o The Department of Religious Studies, 212 Manly Hall, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, 35487-0264, or as file attached emails.

Deadline: All nominations must be received by the end of the business day on Friday, February 28, 2020.

Recipients will be notified in early March 2020. And, whether nominated or not, we always welcome alums to join us again for our annual Honors Day reception on the balcony.

We look forward to receiving your nominations.

Dr. Roshan Abraham: Not-So-Secret Scholarly Identities

Roshan Abraham
As someone familiar with the work of our Department. Dr. Roshan Abraham knows that we appreciate the complexities of identification. Join Prof. Newton as he gets to know a bit about our 2019 Day Lecturer in the interview below. See part 1 here.

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Dr. Roshan Abraham: A Day Lecturer’s Origin Story

A picture of Roshan Abraham at a microphone speaking.

Dr. Roshan Abraham is our 2019 Day Lecturer. Prof. Newton was able to chat with him to learn a little bit more about his training and his scholarship.

We’ve heard you’ll be talking about the Bible and comics. Comics often involve origin stories. What’s your scholarly origin story?

I don’t really have a simple story about my academic training; I got to the study of religion through a very circuitous route. I’ll try to keep it brief.

I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas, majoring in English and Classical Languages. When I went on to my PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania, I became interested in the ethnography of India in Greek Literature, which lead my to Apollonius of Tyana, the first century Neopythagorean sage who journeyed to India to study with the Brahmans. At the same time, I developed an interest in ancient magic, and, as luck would have it, a central part of Apollonius’ biography was the accusation of being a magos (a “magician”). At this point, all of my training was as a classicist, but, having grown up as a PK (preacher’s kid), it was hard for me not to notice similarities between Apollonius’ biography and the synoptic gospels.

 

You can learn more about Prof. Abraham’s work on the many lives of
Apollonius on the podcast, Hold That Thought.

The year I started my dissertation was the same year Annette Reed joined the religious studies department at Penn, which was on the other end of the hall from Classical Studies. Annette introduced me to the study of religion and, over the course of writing my dissertation, gave me all of my initial training in religious studies. I’d audit her courses, she’d give me reading lists, and, despite the fact that she wasn’t on my dissertation committee, she would spend countless hours discussing second temple Judaism, early Christianity, and religious studies theory and methodology. I got hooked quickly, but, since all of my religious studies training was essentially “off the books,” the likelihood of being able to continue in the field was very slim.

I was lucky, however, to have been hired at Washington University in St. Louis, jointly appointed in the Department of Classics and the Program in Religious Studies. During my time at WashU, I had so many opportunities to engage with Religious Studies, through teaching, advising, curriculum development, and professional service, and I found my disciplinary home in the academic study of religion.

Honestly, one of the many honors of having been invited to give the Day Lecture is knowing that Annette Reed is going to be your Aronov lecture in the same academic year.
I left WashU in 2016, due to a family decision to move to the DC area, and have since been following a non-traditional route in the academy. After three years of adjuncting at Georgetown, George Mason, and American University, I was hired as an advisor/instructor in American University’s First Year Program. I’m fortunate to have found a full-time position that still grants me opportunities to teach religious studies.

A gif of the A-team discussing how, "I love it when a plan comes together."

And we are fortunate to have you both visiting us here at The University of Alabama. Can you give us a little preview of what you’ll be discussing.
My talk is centered around the question: why does the Noah story have so much saliency right now in comics? The question arose after seeing three different comic book stories adapting or in some way inspired by the Biblical story of the Great Flood: Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe’s Dark Ark, Jason Aaron and r.m. Guera’s The Goddamned, and Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, and Niko Henrichon’s Noah (the graphic novel on which the Russel Crowe movie is based). These works are not merely adaptations, however, since the visual language of comics makes these works into acts of translation. I draw on Walter Benjamin’s theory of translation as an act of creation, belonging to the after-life of a text. I’ll be looking at how the visual language of comics reveal how new layers of meaning and interpretation are added on to the text and how these layers of meaning connect with political and theological agendas. This is equally found in confessional adaptations of the bible, such as in The Action Bible and The Kingstone Bible, works that are explicitly designed for theological education and proselytization.

We look forward to hearing more!

Mark your calendars for the 2019 Day Lecture with Dr. Roshan Abraham. Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at 7:00pm in ten Hoor 30. And tune in Friday to the Study Religion blog to find out more about Dr. Abraham, his research, and his teaching. To keep up on social media, follow along at #Day2019.

 

REL MA Students Present at Culture Studies Conference

Today’s panel with REL MA students was part of the interdisciplinary culture studies graduate student conference, planned by a grad student committee and funded through the Department of American Studies at the University of Alabama. REL was represented on the planning committee by second year MA student Keeley McMurray, and it is taking place at the Bryan Conference Center on campus. Continue reading

American Examples 2020: Call for Participants

American Examples is a collaborative working group for early career scholars who study religion in America, broadly conceived, from a variety of disciplines. The program is generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. American Examples engages the study of religion in America across the three areas of research, teaching, and public scholarship. Drawing on expertise from across the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, American Examples’ training and mentoring produces scholars whose work exceeds the intellectual and geographic boundaries of “American religion” or “American religious history.”

American Examples seeks applications for participants in its newly expanded 2020 program. AE consists of three two-day workshops, each with its own focus: research, public scholarship,  and teaching. The workshops are hosted at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and led by mentors drawn from the faculty of the Department of Religious. Travel, lodging, and meals in Tuscaloosa for participants are paid for by American Examples.

The Workshops

Research- March 5-8, 2020: A collaborative discussion of chapter length works in progress that will lead to the publication of an edited anthology of participants’ chapters.

Public Scholarship- May 7-10 2020: An introduction to a number of digital tools for building public digital projects and presenting research to larger publics through digital platforms.

Teaching- Oct 1-4, 2020: A collaborative and engaging series of discussions and activities that will equip participants with new methods and pedagogy for teaching courses on religion in America.

 For more information on the workshops see http://americanexamples.ua.edu/about.

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