American Examples Fellow

Jack Bernardi

We are very pleased to announce that, in consultation with the REL Graduate Committee as well as Prof. Mike Altman, who heads up our American Examples workshop, Jack Bernardi has been named as our next American Examples Graduate Fellow.

Jack earned a B.S. in Pure Mathematics in 2017 and is now nearing the end of his first year in REL’s M.A. program. His research interests are wide, but focused around issues of apocalyptic narratives and climate change. Throughout 2019-20 he held UA’s prestigious Graduate Council Fellowship and served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Department of American Studies in the Fall 2019 semester.

Following Keeley McMurray, our inaugural AE Fellow (who graduates from our M.A. degree this semester, to begin her Ph.D. in the study of religion at Florida State in the Fall), Jack begins in his role in mid-May, assisting Prof. Altman with organizing and hosting three annual workshops.

American Examples, generously funded by a four-year grant from the
Luce Foundation, involves a team of REL faculty who annually
mentor a group of early career scholars in areas of
research, teaching, and public scholarship.

It’s finally here! It’s American Examples week!

American Examples

It’s here. Well, almost. The papers have been read. The mentors have met and brainstormed. The plane tickets and hotels are booked. The restaurant reservations are made. This week 9 new participants in the American Examples program, funded graciously by the Henry Luce Foundation, will arrive in Tuscaloosa for a weekend of discussion and collaboration on innovative new research into things people call religion in places people call America. We have a lot going on this week.

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#AmericanExamples2020 Cohort Announced

American Examples

Some snazzy new American Examples mugs have started appearing on social media.

That’s right. The 2020 American Examples cohort has been assembled. You can find all of the participants and learn more about them at the American Examples site.

American Examples: “An ideal environment for workshopping a research paper.”

American Examples Logo

Samah Choudhury is a PhD candidate at UNC Chapel Hill. Her dissertation focuses on humor and Islam in America, looking specifically how American Muslim comedians utilize humor as a mode of self-constructing and then articulating “Islam” for an American public. Her larger research interests pertain to critical race theory, secularism and the state, and gender/queer theory. She holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan in Political Science and an A.M. from Harvard University in Middle Eastern Studies.

We asked her to explain what she gained from her participation in the first American Examples workshop last year.

Picture of Samah Choudhury

American Examples was an ideal environment for workshopping a research paper. Early circulation of drafts ensured everyone was acquainted with each other’s work, and the full hour dedicated to each paper meant that the ensuing commentary was far from cursory. Discussions cut to the heart of what this program intended: rather than focusing on what was uniquely “American” about American religion, we were asking how our work could better speak to cross-cultural and comparative social formations in and outside of an American context. I feel fortunate that opportunities like this exist in order to bring together those that share an investment in scholarship that is both public-facing and capacious in its application to the study of religion at large.

American Examples is currently accepting applications for 2020.

APPLY HERE

American Examples: “An incubator for the next generation of scholars.”

American Examples

Richard Kent Evans (PhD in North American Religions from Temple University, 2018) has written his first book, titled MOVE: An American Religion, which is a religious history of MOVE. He is currently working on a history of “religious madness” from the late seventeenth century to the present. He currently teaches at The College of New Jersey and is a Research Associate at Haverford College.

We asked him to explain what he gained from his participation in the first American Examples workshop last year.

Picture of Richard Kent Evans. He is wearing a winter coat and scarf.

American Examples was a fantastic experience. I got the chance to meet several emerging scholars in the field of American Religion working in a variety of methodologies. We were allowed to engage with each other’s work on a deep level. Our meetings together were inspiring, unpretentious, and immensely helpful. American Examples feels like a group of friends who went through graduate school together. We’re a cohort now. I’m excited to watch this program become an incubator for the next generation of scholars of American Religion.

 

 

American Examples is currently accepting applications for 2020.

APPLY HERE

American Examples: “An intriguing experimental workshop.”

"AE" American Examples logo

Travis Cooper holds a double PhD in Religious Studies and Anthropology and lectures at Butler University. His dissertation project, “The Digital Evangelicals: Contesting Authority and Authenticity after the New Media Turn,” examined religious boundary maintenance strategies in the era of social media. His current research focuses on the various social architectures that structure everyday American life-worlds, rituals, and traditions—systems ranging from media ideologies and print culture to the ideologies of urban design and the built environment. An ethnographer of the American Midwest, he studies (sub)urban habitudes, residential and religious architecture, and the anthropology of the modern.

We asked him to explain what he gained from his participation in the first American Examples workshop last year.

 

American Examples was, for me, an intriguing experimental workshop. What can come of bringing religious studies scholars, historians, digital media scholars, anthropologists, and ethnographers together to talk about this nebulous thing we call “American religion”? American Examples, for one, blended the thrill of an academic conference with the intimacy and rigor of a graduate seminar. During our inaugural gathering, the event was set up so that by the time we arrived on campus we had already read and thought about each of the group’s respective research projects. I learned about Nigerian Pentecostal immigrants, American Muslim comedians, Indo-Trinidadian Hinduism, digital atheism, and the long and complex social history of the study of madness.

By the time we convened in person, we were able to jump straight into discussion guided by workshop mentors from among the religious studies department’s stellar faculty. The discussions were not only about giving and receiving critically constructive feedback but also making connections between the various projects as well as theorizing, in a meta-sense, the work that we as Americanists do. Finally, the workshop was very much a collaborative event. Having 10 or so people read and contribute in a significant way to the shape of your work is quite the thrilling experience. Because of American Examples, I have a much stronger research project and richer network of colleagues and conversation partners. I found the entire project to be immensely rewarding and highly recommend participating if you have the opportunity.

American Examples is currently accepting applications for 2020.

APPLY HERE

American Examples: What Did You Gain From Being Part of AE?

American Examples

Prea Persaud (B.A. from Rollins College, M.A. from Syracuse University, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Florida) is a Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte where her teaching focuses on Hinduism. In addition to teaching classes on Hinduism and the Hindu diaspora, she also teaches classes on the Caribbean. She is interested in global Hinduism, religion in the Americas (inclusive of the Caribbean), and issues concerning race, identity, and post-colonialism.

 

We asked her to explain what she gained from her participation in the first American Examples workshop last year.

One of the last things Mike Altman told us when we were leaving the first gathering of American Examples was that we were all considered alumni now and would forever be treated as part of the department. A year out, I have found that statement to be a true representation of how the AE organizers feel about the participants. Both Steven Ramey and Emily Crews have reached out to me about additional projects they are working on. Mike Altman passed along a review he thought I might be interested in. And Samah Choudhury and I have stayed in communication about the job market and our dissertations. As a result of the conversations I had with everyone during the workshop, I was able to successfully complete a related dissertation chapter and draft a conference paper I will present at AAR this fall.

AE was exactly what pre-grad school me believed grad school would be like – people reading together, thinking through difficult concepts, collaboratively working on our writing, and building long-lasting and supportive networks. What I appreciated most about the workshop, in addition to its mission to think beyond the category of “American religion,” was its inclusion of non-tenure tracked and contingent faculty. As an ABD grad student and full-time lecturer working on the Caribbean, an area that is often excluded or forgotten about in larger grants, it is difficult to find programs I qualify for that also provide substantial support. By including contingent faculty and having grad students observe the workshop and interact with the participants, AE actively works against persistent hierarchies in the academy. So in both content and structure, I think AE is doing the work needed to push conversations farther in academia and I look forward to continuing to work with both the organizers and future participants.

American Examples is currently accepting applications for 2020.

APPLY HERE

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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REL Receives Four Year, $350,000 Grant from the Luce Foundation

The Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama is very pleased to announce a $350,000 grant from the Henry  Luce Foundation to fund a significantly expanded version of its American Examples Workshop (piloted in 2018-19 with the assistance of UA’s College of Arts & Sciences).

With this new grant, the Department will call for applications and select up to nine early career scholars (ranging from ABD to tenure-track) to be brought to the University of Alabama three times throughout the calendar year for workshops on research, teaching, and public scholarship. Contingent, alt-ac, and other non-tenure track scholars will be especially encouraged to apply. The workshops are an effort to assist early career scholars of America to entertain a shift in focus that has been successfully adopted by members of the Department. As the original American Examples workshop described it:

The study of religion in America, or American religious history, has most often sought to discover what is uniquely “American” about American religion… What if we instead approach America as one site among others, an important and useful but by no means unique example, that might reveal larger cross-cultural insights about religion, social formations, identities, and more? What if we did not take “America” and “religion” for granted? AE, then, is an attempt to do just that: develop research on religion in America that is portable, cross-cultural, comparative, and theoretically driven.

With Prof. Mike Altman as the grant’s PI and the chair of the AE Steering Committee (comprised of Profs. Steven Ramey, Merinda Simmons, and Richard Newton), the ongoing series of workshops will involve many of the faculty in the Department serving as mentors and participating in programming. In addition, the program will benefit from the logistical and digital skills of one of our MA students, who will annually serve as the AE graduate research assistant. The inaugural holder of this Luce-funded GRA position will be Keeley McMurray.

After their first year of workshops, each AE participant will return once in the following year to report on the implementation of their new skills, serve as mentors to the next year’s participants, and participate in a public event involving REL undergraduate and graduate students. The program will also produce publications, digital projects, course syllabi and a number of other resources so stay tuned for more information about this exciting new initiative in the Department.

More news about the call for applications will come later this summer as we select the 2020 cohort this fall and hold the first workshop in Spring 2020.

Spring Semester Coming Attractions

After Spring break there’s plenty happening in REL.

Apart from the American Examples workshop, mentioned in a post yesterday, on the first Monday back, starting at 10 am, we have our annual button event, just in time for the upcoming registration for Fall classes (which opens on Mon, Mar. 25). Once again, Prof. Newton is at the helm and he’d love to see you stop buy, hand out a few buttons and some info on classes. The REL tent will be set up adjacent to Manly Hall, in the usual spot.

On March 27, from 7-9 pm, Grad Tales returns, with REL grad Chris Hurt being interviewed by REL grad Justin Nelson (and member of REL’s Alum Liaison Committee). Chris, a 2008 grad, has a day job, sure, but is also actively pursuing a career in music, out in LA, with the Jamestown Pagans. More info about our event here. Or catch him on lead vocals and keyboard here: Continue reading