I am NOT bad at parking

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

Most mornings, I arrive on campus in the wee hours so I can get to my office before the day warms up and I, no doubt, become a sweaty mess. This means when I park in the faculty deck, it is usually devoid of other cars and I easily pull into a spot, pack up my things, pop in my headphones and head off on my merry way. Prior to leaving my lovely 1997 Ford Explorer, I usually try to give its surroundings a quick look to make sure it is parked within the lines. Yet when I return to the parking deck in the late afternoon, and the lot is FULL of other cars, my butter-colored vehicle stands out—and not just because of its shade.

You see, in the morning, when there are no other cars around, it is very easy to convince myself that I have done a fine job at parking. Yet, when my parking job is juxtaposed to 40 other parked cars it becomes painfully obvious that, even though my car is in the lines, it is not parked particularly well. But, despite the fact that my bumper often sticks out or my tires are turned, I still maintain that I am NOT bad at parking.

For if being ‘bad at parking’ means you lack the ability to park a car in an outlined spot, then you’d have to agree that I am a great parker! Yet, if we take being a ‘good parker’ to mean that you are able to situate your car in an aesthetically pleasing manner between various other cars, all of which are themselves in their spots in a variety of creative ways, then maybe I don’t quite qualify as a ‘not-bad’ parker.

All this is to say: my parking may be judged poor, but only in relation to the context that someone else later builds around it.

Expat or Immigrant?

7544web (3)

By Mary Rebecca Read-Wahidi
Becky is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology and will graduate just as soon as she finishes writing her dissertation on the Virgin of Guadalupe. She joined the Department of Religious Studies as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Fall of 2012, and was immediately enamored by the charming atmosphere, lofty office space, and pencils with “religion in culture” printed on them.

One thing I have gained from my experience as a GTA in Religious Studies is a more sharply-honed critical eye for labels, categories, and the act of “naming”. Now, as I write the final chapters of my dissertation, I find myself revisiting categories of “immigration”.
Back when I was writing my master’s thesis, I wrestled with the difference between migrants and immigrants. How should I refer to those people central to my study who are of Hispanic origin and are residing in Mississippi and working in the poultry industry? My understanding is that migrants are specifically driven by work, tend to be mobile, and don’t plant their roots, while immigrants come with the intent to stay and establish a new life. Sounds simple enough, but both of these scenarios exist in my research community to varying degrees. In the end, I settled on what seemed like the politically-correct compromise of “im/migrant”, an awkward term that I do not care to use for my dissertation. Continue reading

What Does “Omaha!” Mean?

Photo: Craig Hawkins via Flickr

Peyton Manning loves Omaha. Or at least the Denver Broncos quarterback loves to yell “OMAHA!” just before the start of a play. Omaha is just one of the many words he and other quarterbacks yell just before the ball is snapped. Sometimes these words are audibles, quick changes of the play the team is about to run. Sometimes they are meaningless verbiage meant to confuse the other team. Continue reading