“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 →
By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures at Emory University. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.
The other day I was listening to the recent Dept. of Religious Studies podcast about conferences, more specifically about the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (the national conference for our field’s main professional organization) and SECSOR (the Southeastern regional AAR conference). While listening to this podcast, I related to many of the comments and experiences discussed. But before I get ahead of myself…, for those who haven’t heard it yet, here’s a few spoilers: “The Conference” considers the perspectives of Prof. Laura Levitt, an established scholar who was recently the 15th Aronov Lecturer at UA, and REL major Sierra Lawson (soon to be one of REL’s first MA students) and REL major Parker Evans, both burgeoning academics within Religious Studies. So I thought I’d offer my two cents as a person stuck somewhere in the middle of that spectrum (having just completed my M.A. and about to start my own Ph.D. degree at Emory). While I’m certainly still very early career myself, perhaps this can be a helpful guide to those just starting out. Continue reading →
Something happens every weekend before Thanksgiving. No, not the cupcake tune up game before the Iron Bowl. It’s the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the national scholarly society for the academic study of religion. This weekend many of the faculty from REL are headed to San Antonio for the meeting and they have some pretty interesting plans.
Some years ago I met a grad student at the U.S.’s main national scholarly conference in our field — “the big show” is what we’d call it if we were baseball players — who knew some of my friends in the profession and who bumped into me while walking through the book display. Being new to the conference-scene, he asked me a question: