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

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.

Continue reading