How to Make More from More? the Large Conference Loner Challenge

“Less is better” is a dictum that doesn’t just haunt Matt Sheedy. I feel as though that spectral proverb from J.Z. Smith may apply as much to conferences as the classroom. The phrase resonates with my cultural heritage, too.  There’s a cookbook title, famous among certain generations of Mennonites, that encapsulates the bent of that culture: “More-with-Less.”

Conferences come in a variety of sizes. Some are attended in the dozens to hundreds whereas others tip past the thousands. Each conference ranges between more and less in a variety of ways, but it seems to me that Smith’s pedagogy and my cultural heritage converge on the direct correlation between attendance and outcomes. The more the people, the less I appreciate the conference.

What follows is not theorizing that supports the claim, but anecdotal evidence accompanied by some ideas for action. Continue reading

Some Faculty News

The Department of Religious studies is pleased to announce that Emily D. Crews has been hired as an Instructor, to begin work in August 2018.

Emily is a Ph.D. candidate in History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her dissertation project, now nearing completion, traces the relationship between movement and identity formation in the context of Nigerian immigration to the United States, exploring the ways in which Pentecostalism condition, and is conditioned by, the attempts of people to make themselves feel “at home” in a foreign culture. Her teaching interests are broad, but focus mostly on such areas as migration, gender, sexuality, and the body, as well as religions in the African diaspora.

In the Fall semester, Emily will teach sections of REL 105 Honors Introduction to the Study of Religion as well as REL 360, devoted to religion and pop culture.

Summer Plans: Prof. McCutcheon

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Apart from writing the annual report and getting the Department ready for the new semester in the Fall, Professor McCutcheon has a few projects bubbling away, such as the second edition to his intro book, Studying Religion, which he plans to tackle and complete this summer. He’s also working on narrowing down the contents to an anthology that Walter de Gruyter, in Berlin, has contracted, as a follow-up to Jacques Waardenburg’s once well-known volume, Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion (a 1973 collection that was recently reissued, in a new edition, with a preface from McCutcheon). Picking up in the 1960s, about where Waardenburg’s volume ends, he plans to represent the trends and scholars of importance to the field’s last fifty years, adding a substantive introduction to the book (though maybe not quite the 80 pages of the earlier volume’s introductory chapter). He’s also finalizing the manuscripts for a few things that will be published this summer, such as a co-edited collection of interviews with the late Jonathan Z. Smith (in fact, his friend and co-editor, Willi Braun, is now giving the index one last proofing) and a couple new sets of his own essays (the first with Equinox and the other with de Gruyter). So if he can check all that off his list by August he’ll be a happy camper.

Summer Plans: Prof. Touna

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Prof. Touna who is already in Thessaloniki, Greece, on a research leave, will spend the summer there where she will continue reading, writing and doing research for her new book project “Locating the Past.” The research (supported by two research awards: the CARSCAand the RGC) involves interviews, archival research as well as visiting archaeological sites and museums. She will have meetings with professors from Aristotle University for future collaborations and gave a lecture at the Department of History and Archaeology of Aristotle University. She will also be working on her new course “Introduction to Ancient Religions” that she will teach in the Fall of 2018. And last but not least she hopes to put together an edited volume on what else: “the past.”

Study Religion Podcast: Episode 8 Guests

The latest episode of the REL podcast, Study Religion, is now available wherever you get your podcasts. This episode gives a glimpse into the guests we have had visit the department this past spring. Every year our department welcomes guests who come and give lectures or visit with faculty and students. This past semester we had two excellent guests visit the department as part of our lecture series. First, Dr. Elijah Siegler was our Zachary Day Memorial Lecturer and gave an excellent talk on religion in the films of the Coen Brothers. Then, Dr. Linell Cady came as our Aronov Lecturer. Dr. Cady spent time with a group of faculty discussing the current state and future of religious studies in higher education. She also delivered a wonderful lecture on spirituality, science, and secularism in America. This episode is a taste of these visits from our guests.

 

Family Reflections in A River Runs Through It

Jared Stewart is a Religious Studies Major and Creative Writing Minor. The following blog post was written for REL 360: Popular Culture/Humanities.

A River Runs Through It was screened in REL 360, a one credit hour course that one may take up to three semesters. The 1992 film about a family living in early twentieth century Montana portrays the lives of two brothers, Norman and Paul Maclean. Norman, the more educated, older brother, moves from his hometown, while Paul, the younger brother,  just can’t seem to ever leave. The one thing that the two brothers do seem to share a bond over is fly-fishing. This is mainly due to the fact that Norman understands how important fly-fishing is to his younger brother Paul. Continue reading

Summer Plans: Prof. Ramey

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Prof. Steven Ramey has a busy summer ahead tackling a few pieces of a larger overall project considering how we describe and narrate. One project involves experimenting with alternative approaches to ethnographic description using his own fieldwork, and the other is looking at historical narratives and the ways that critical theory should influence our narrative choices. These projects require reviewing a variety of sources, including contested accounts of Indian history, and working through some contrasting approaches. In addition to these projects, he will be preparing, as always, for teaching both undergraduate and M.A. courses in the fall semester.

On the Worlds We Conceive Within Ourselves…

Sierra Lawson is an M.A. student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama; you can visit her website here.

I recently saw an advertisement that featured two lungs, one healthy and another almost unrecognizable as a human organ. This reminded me of a similar comparison at a summer camp I once attended where they showed us a cow’s lung that had supposedly been exposed to a great deal of smoke. While both demonstrations had different end goals, the former to combat second hand smoke and the latter to scare young children into never considering a smoke, they required similar ontological assumptions from their audiences. Chiefly, the assumption that seeing how our actions outside our corpus have effects on inner organs, but also the subsequent assumption that seeing these consequences will galvanize us into healthier habits or, at the very least, aversion to particular substances. Continue reading

Summer Plans: Prof. Altman

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Prof. Altman will be spending the summer doing a lot of reading in primary and secondary sources for two projects. Indeed he has stacks of books piled high in his office. First, he is working on a journal article tentatively titled “Evangelical, Evangelicals, Evangelicalism” that re-describes what so many American religious historians have categorized as “evangelicalism” in America. Second, he is in the very early stages of a large research project that seeks to understand religion in America by putting it into the broader context of European political philosophy after the Reformation. He is wondering if both of these projects might end up being the same project in the end. Prof. Altman is also teaching REL 100 during the summer term and revising his REL 502: Religious Studies and Public Humanities Foundations course and REL 241: American Religious History courses for the coming fall.