A Strategic Political Tool

townhallDid you watch the town hall meeting the other night, the second of this season’s Presidential debates?

Because scholars of religion are trained in the study of how rhetorics of privacy are used by social actors, I think we might have more to say about what’s going on than we at first realize. Continue reading

They Were Right to Boo

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Did you see Ted Cruz’s speech last night at the Republican National Convention? Maybe you heard about this morning — if you’re following the US Presidential race, that is.

He had a prime spot and ended his speech with a few words that caused him to get resoundingly booed. Continue reading

Agency, Structure, and the Myth of the Immaculate Perception

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National Public Radio on the weekend played a story (an interview with Neal Gabler, the author of an Atlantic article on the same topic) about how hard many in the US have it economically. Continue reading

“But as a businessman, there are things you do for business…”

Picture 5If you’re interested in how people use rhetoric or how they divide and classify social space in order to make a more persuasive image of the world that’s conducive to their interests, then give a listen to this interview that aired yesterday morning. (Or click here if the player doesn’t load properly.) Continue reading

What It Gives With One Hand….

timeenoughI found this over at the Huffington Post this morning — an announcement for a new HarvardX (part of edX) course on religious literacy.

The course is described as follows: Continue reading

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

A Fine Place to Start

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By Joe Kimbrough

Joe Kimbrough graduated from the Department of Religious Studies in 2008. He went on to pursue graduate study in Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama, while maintaining his interests in the historical divisions between church and academy. You can read some of his other blog postsĀ here.

Recently, I sought a diversion after working some overtime, so I stopped at the local Barnes & Noble. Such a decision was popular that evening since the store overflowed with customers like the University Supply Store on the first day of classes. After an initial scan of the store, I admired the efficiency of the Baristas as they ducked and dodged one another to complete orders as quickly as they were given without spilling a drop. Continue reading

Making the Familiar Strange

campdavidA theme I’ve written on a time or two before is the inability (or unwillingness) of many scholars to entertain that, being themselves members of a particular social group, they tend to draw upon folk concepts popular among their own group and then project them outward (in space and time), as if they are universals that name and describe stable self-evidencies in the world at large. While we probably have no choice but to know the new by means of the old (like the European colonialist arriving on distance shores, speaking slowly and loudly, asking, “What religion are you?”), we can also try to retool the known in light of that meeting, when gaps and contradictions start to become apparent, to eventually come to see it as itself local and situated, and thereby work toward developing a new set of tools capable of answering the different questions that a scholar likely asks.

It’s the old challenge of hearing the familiar as itself a little strange. It’s a question of theory. Continue reading

Big R and Little r

upperandlowercaseI recently wrote a review essay on the current state of scholarship on the category “religion” for the European history of religions journal, Numen (which comes out in 2015, I gather). It was fun to write, since its been 20 years since I first wrote a review essay on the same topic — “just how far have we come?” now becomes the question. Continue reading

Misdirection

Picture 4The blogosphere is lighting up in response to yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that some “closely held” corporations can be considered to have “sincerely held religious beliefs” (i.e., those of their owners, of course, and not those of their employees) worth protecting — and, voila, some corporations can now be exempt from certain aspects of federal law due to religious exemptions. (Read the so-called “Hobby Lobby” decision here.) Continue reading