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

Welcome Back

Video title card: Are you ready?

Yes, it’s here: the start of another Fall semester. And, yes, we have a new video to mark the occasion, which includes the newest members of the REL faculty.

It also includes an important message for this particular Fall semester: #maskup.

Don’t hesitate to contact your REL professor
if you have questions about your classes.

And…, welcome back!

You Better Believe, I’m Back!

Department mug held up against a background of our building's blueprints

The anticipation is palpable, we know, for this year’s welcome back video — which hits the airwaves tomorrow morning, on the first day of the semester.

But until then, take a deep breath — inhale…, exhale…, repeat — and enjoy last year’s video: a walk around some familiar spots on campus. And make sure to be checking your crimson email account or your classes’ Blackboard sites, for updates from faculty about how your classes will start off the semester.

#TideTogether      #WelcomeBack

Navigating a Diverse World Critically

Gall Peters Projection map of world

The World Religions course is a fabulous opportunity to teach students to think critically about the various representations of the world’s religious traditions. With the critique of the world religions paradigm and its colonial roots (see Masuzawa’s Invention fo World Religions), as well as problematic assumptions contained in any singular description of world religions (see, for example, my Culture on the Edge post The Harm of World Religions), it is vital to challenge singular narratives and to help our students learn to analyze whatever narrative they hear.

Continue reading

Now It’s On

Walking up the stairs when arriving at REL's buildingIf you’re new to REL then you may not know much about any of our traditions — such as our annual welcome back videos.

Started in 2012, with a drive around town and an TV show theme song from the 1970s, they’ve progressed over the years, both as a way signal the start of a new school year and to tip our hat to the new faculty members who have joined us.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic changing the game last Spring, and causing everyone to rethink what it means to go back to school in the Fall, REL is pleased to announce that — of course! — we have a new welcome back video, coming on the first day of the semester. Until then, however, we hope that you enjoy a little trip down memory lane, riding into campus with Prof. Altman.

And yes, their boys are a little taller now.

Remember, it’s not a re-run if its new to you.

Course Prep and Summer Projects

home office desktopIt was indeed an odd summer, for everyone. That we all know.

What you might not know is that the REL faculty, despite being home since mid-March — minimizing trips out of the house, shopping carefully, and, in some cases, spending lots of their time either homeschooling children or packing up and moving houses (whether just across town or across the country to join us here in Alabama) — have been busy working. A fair bit of that work has been focused on revising Fall classes, of course. The rush to take all courses remote, back in the Spring, was followed by a summer of closely watching the infection rates around the country, and not just here in our region (since a large percentage of our students come from all over the US, and beyond) while trying to calculate the likelihood that the virus and measures to address it on campus (e.g., social distancing in classrooms, which reduced classroom occupancy by up to 80%) would require us to make use of remote teaching tools once again.

But class prep and homeschooling weren’t the only things that faculty have been focused on this summer. They’ve been making progress on a variety of projects — likely not the sort of progress they had planned, since the summer is when most faculty members dive into projects that took a backseat to teaching in the Fall and the Spring. But progress has been made all the same. Continue reading

And So You’re About to Start an M.A. at Alabama…

Students having class outside

Keeley McMurray, from Huntsville, AL, earned her BA (2018) and MA (2020) in REL and is now beginning her Ph.D. at Florida State. We asked her to offer incoming students a little advice on what to expect.

Congratulations and welcome to Tuscaloosa! There are a few things you should know as you’re getting acquainted. No fear — we’ve got some insider information that will supplement a graceful transition into the Bama world.

1. ROLL TIDE — Surely you’ve heard this slogan spouted by fans of the university’s football team, or maybe you’ve noticed its ubiquitous presence across the greater state of Alabama. You’ll soon find this shockingly versatile slogan creeping into your subconscious and erupting into your vocabulary, often in unexpected instances, appropriately taking the place of words like “hello,” “goodbye,” and “thank you.” It is the pinnacle of verbal fillers, the apex of sentimental conversation. Continue reading

REL Adds a New Faculty Member

Lauren Horn Griffin

The Department of Religious Studies is very pleased to announce that Dr. Lauren Horn Griffin is joining the faculty, as a full-time renewable Instructor, for the start of the Fall 2020 semester.

Earning her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2016, Lauren has worked full-time at the University of Oklahoma since 2016, as a digital learning designer in their Office of Digital Learning while also being a regular lecturer in their Department of Religious Studies. Her research interests include the study of saints and other authoritative figures in Roman Catholic communities and the role they play in the creation of national, ethnic, and cultural identity. Combining this with an expertise in digital humanities, her current research focuses on Catholic material culture in digital spaces, specifically how Catholic history is constructed on social media.

In the Fall 2020 semester Lauren will be teaching REL 105 Honors Introduction to the Study of Religion in the Fall as well as REL 310 REL Goes to the Movies, our regular one credit evening course (repeatable up to three times).

We’re very pleased to have Lauren join the faculty and excited by how her expertise enhances REL’s strength in the study of identity as well as its initiative in the digital humanities.

Because REL was authorized to make this hire at a rather late date,
Lauren will begin her appointment working remotely and so we
look forward to when she is able to join us in Tuscaloosa.

REL Update: Starting the New Fall Semester

UA graphic listing tips for staying healthy during the Fall semester

In mid-June we posted an update about the upcoming Fall classes but with the semester’s start now just two weeks away, it’s time for another update on some specific changes to REL classes.

So while we certainly leave major details about re-entry to the University to communicate to students, staff, and faculty (with information found at UA’s health info site, concerning such things as the required COVID-19 testing, new conduct rules, and the required health check every three days [which requires your Bama credentials and a cell phone number]), there’s some details about REL that we’ll convey here. Continue reading