New Appointment in REL

Oleg Kyselov

The Department of Religious Studies has announced that Dr. Oleg Kyselov has been hired as a full-time Instructor for the 2022-23 academic year.

A senior researcher at the H. S. Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy in Ukraine, Dr. Kyselov first joined REL in October 2021 as a visiting Fulbright Scholar — having been awarded this prestigious appointment for a 9 month visit. Now, instead of returning to Ukraine in July, he will be working in REL for the coming school year, in such courses as REL 105 Honors Introduction to the Study of Religion and our monthly upper-level evening class, REL Goes to the Movies. Continue reading

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.

Internships and Unexpected Relevance of REL Skills

Sonya Harwood-Johnson

Sonya Harwood-Johnson, originally from Grimes, Iowa, received her B.S. in Anthropology and Religious Studies, with a minor in Environmental Studies, from Iowa State University in 2020. She began work last month as a full-time International Programming Assistant at UA’s International Student and Scholars Services office; she will complete her M.A. in the study of religion at UA, as a part-time student, later in 2022.

When deciding which university I wanted to apply to for my Master’s degree, Alabama’s Religion in Culture program really stuck out to me. Coming from a background in Cultural Anthropology, I always had a difficult time whenever I felt like religion was being studied apart from the people who participate in it. I had no idea which direction I wanted to go with a Master’s in Religion, but UA seemed like the right place to guide me. It was exactly this “Religion in Culture” concept, with the guidance and prompting from UA’s faculty, that led me to internships that really helped me apply the skills I was learning that could be utilized outside of traditional academia. Continue reading

Something New From the “Nones” with the Pew Research Center’s Online Survey Results

The Nones are causing “trouble” again, with sensationalized headlines about the decline of Christianity. These takes can easily reinforce the anxiety among some about changes in society and activate nostalgia for some mythic 1950’s America (which was certainly not experienced as peaceful or comfortable by many marginalized groups in the 1950s, or even today). Based on survey data that the Pew Research Center released this week, those who represent themselves as unaffiliated with religion have grown to almost 30% of the US population. This increase (compared to almost 20% unaffiliated in Pew’s 2012 Nones” on the Rise report) coincides with a significant drop in those who identify as Protestant (which in the survey context includes any Christian not affiliating with Catholic, Orthodox, or Mormon identities). Continue reading

REL News: Jackson Foster Awarded Marshall Scholarship

Jackson Foster, REL Major

Established in the UK by the passage of the Marshall Aid Commemoration Act, the Marshall Scholarship annually finances up to fifty young Americans to study for a degree in any field in the United Kingdom. Chosen for their leadership and ambassadorial potential, as well as their academic ability, Marshall Scholars are a living embodiment of the enduring special relationship between the UK and America.

This year, the British government selected forty-one winners from over one-thousand university-endorsed applicants and REL is extremely proud that REL double major Jackson Foster is among them. Continue reading

American Examples 2022: 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 three areas: research, teaching, and public scholarship. Drawing on expertise from across the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, American Examples produces scholars whose work exceeds the academic and geographic boundaries of “American religion” or “American religious history.”

American Examples seeks applications for participants in its 2022 program. AE consists of three workshops, each with its own focus: research, public scholarship, and teaching. As COVID-19 continues to make planning difficult, we are currently planning to hold the three workshops virtually. The AE Steering Committee is closely monitoring the COVID situation and leaves the possibility of in-person meetings possible should conditions improve nationally and in Alabama.

Participants will be given a $750 stipend for their participation in the program.

Read the full call for participants

Computational Thinking in the Humanities

Woman in 1955 working at an early, large computer

As previously announced, REL has established its own digital lab (RELdl), directed by Prof. Jeri Wieringa. The lab is an outgrowth of REL’s long investment in integrating computing skills into the life of the Department and its degree programs; among our goals is to see the lab inject energy and expertise into a variety of collaborative research projects and curricular initiatives. Continue reading

Careers with Khara — An Annual REL Workshop

Careers workshop in Feb 2018

REL alum, Khara Cole (2013, with a double major in REL and Public Relations), now the Marketing Director at American Exchange (pictured above, left, at our February 2018 workshop) is once again offering a careers workshop for REL students (all majors and minors in the Department as well as grad students) — but it’s virtual this time.

We’ll be talking about preparing a resume and tips on doing a job search & interviewing.

Wednesday, March 24 @ 7:00 p.m.

And we’ll also be talking about the important skills that REL students possess — sure, you know how to study religion but you also know how to work with people who come from different worlds as well as how to describe, compare, explain, and so much more.

All majors, minors, and MA students will
receive the Zoom link via email.

Interested in another REL alum’s take-away when she
participated in one of Khara’s previous workshops?

And what about that time Khara visited the Department back in 2015…?

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.

American Examples: THE BOOK

American Examples

American Examples, the program for early-career scholars of religion in America funded by the Luce Foundation, is proud to announce a new publication relationship with the University of Alabama Press. UAP will be publishing an anthology of research essays from each of the American Examples cohorts beginning with the first AE cohort that met in spring of 2019. The first anthology, titled American Examples: A New Conversation About Religion, will be published in the summer of 2021. We are very excited to partner with UAP and look forward to four more anthologies over the next four years of the program’s funding. Continue reading