Make It So

Did you catch Titus Hjelm‘s excellent post the other day?

His argument concerned the manner in which otherwise routine claims or actions are represented by specific groups, for specific reasons, as controversial; the apparent controversy of some religions (notably, in his post, Islam — at least to a number of people in so-called Western countries) is thus not an essential trait but one that is acquired in the public marketplace. Continue reading

Religious Studies in the Time of Trumpism

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When I heard Donald Trump’s speech on Monday I realized that Trump’s rhetoric presents the scholar of religion with a crossroads. Scholars of religion have to make a decision about how to engage Trumpism.

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Classification Matters: Mindfulness in the Classroom

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is now completing her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

A course I am TAing for this semester opens each class with a mindfulness exercise for calming and finding one’s center. It starts, “Plant your feet firmly on the floor, adjust your posture,” moving eventually to noticing breathing patterns and trying to adjust them accordingly. As I joined the class a week late, I was unaware that this was part of the routine. Sitting there on my first day, I was a bit astounded that this was actually happening in the classroom. I should note that I was not inherently against it, but rather classifying it with any sort of religious ritual that might take place. At that moment, all I could think about was how this could not only be considered religious by some but also potentially could be making students very uncomfortable (whether there was a statement on day one of voluntary participation, I don’t know). However, having lived in Boulder for a year and a half, I have grown accustomed to Boulder’s affinity for Eastern religious practices or rituals — whatever those may be — and their pervading daily life. Continue reading

“And Yet They Thought That We Had an Organic, Genetic Loyalty to the Emperor…”

japaneseinternmentStill wondering about the relevance of a liberal arts degree, in general, or of taking a course in the academic study of religion in particular — where, among other things, we examine the various ways that people define religion, such as essentialism, which posits a necessary and universal inner identity to all things defined as religious…?

Well, if you are, then take a look at the headlines these days and maybe you’ll see some application of the skills you’ve acquired in our classes — such as being able to identify the problems with (and maybe the interests that drive) generalizing to all a trait shared only by some. For George Takei, who was interned as a child in a camp for Japanese-Americans (who, post-Pearl Harbor, were thought by many in the US to be untrustworthy and disloyal), has something to say about the way current political discourse paints others with rather broad brushes…

Click here if the embedded video fails to play.
The title for this post comes form the 1:40 point of the interview.

Of Prepositions and Conjunctions

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The following is slightly adapted from the REL webpage’s
description of the Department motto.

Although it may seem to some to be a rather minor thing, and therefore something easily overlooked, our department’s motto — Studying Religion in Culture — italicizes the preposition “in” (not something we’re able to note here in the WordPress blog title, though). We’ve written it this way for close to 15 years, to draw attention to the fact that the conjunction in the more common version — Religion and Culture — carries with it a series of often undisclosed and, we think, troublesome assumptions that we hope our students will learn to scrutinize. Continue reading