Podcast Series: Teaching Philosophy of Religion in the 21st Century

image of computer screen with online workshop participants

Can philosophy of religion enter the globalized, 21st-century world? If so, how might the field be taught? Prof. Loewen interviewed participants from a recently-concluded project funded by the Wabash Center, “Teaching Philosophy of Religion Inclusively to Diverse Students”: Jin Y. Park, Kevin Schilbrack, Eric Dickman, Louis Komjathy, and Gereon Kopf. You can listen to the episodes as a series on REL Podcasts or find them on the media page of the Global-Critical Philosophy of Religion website. Continue reading

RELdl’s Tools Facilitate Better Conversations Virtual Guests: Perhaps “OWL” Being See You at REL?

What is this?

Have you tried using a basic computer web camera to capture conversations with a classroom? Prof. Loewen has experimented with dozens of ultimately unsatisfactory methods since 2009. With the arrival of the REL digital lab in 2021, things have changed. Continue reading

Should I “Public Humanities”? A Process for Thinking about Whether to Get Involved

 

The Event

I recently hosted a two-day workshop with Richard Newton as part of the American Examples project. Our aim was to think about “public humanities” with the 12 participants in the 2021 cohort. The first day’s over-arching question was, “should I “PH?” I thought it might be useful to share the process that guided our session, since others may be asking that question, too.

We planned this workshop with the assumption that none of the participants have a clear idea of what  is meant by public humanities. They are a group of early career scholars of religion in America. Our workshop was one among several aspects of the project, which engages the study of religion in America across the three areas of research, teaching, and public scholarship. American Examples trains and mentors early career scholars to work beyond the boundaries of American religion. Continue reading

Our MA Students Have Been Busy

Front page of Erica Bennett's website

Our first year MA students have been busy creating their own websites for their required REL 502 course this semester with Prof. Loewen. So we thought you might like to see what they’re interested in, let alone what they’ve created — here’s just a few: Continue reading

The Ins and Outs of Archival Research

Prof. Nathan Loewen received funding from the University of Alabama, a while back, to conduct archival research on the Derrida Papers in Irvine, California. So REL MA student, Morgan Frick, posed a few questions to him about what all that archival work entails.

Morgan: What was the project and how did you hope to improve your research with this archival work?

Nathan: In 2016-17, I was really fortunate to be funded by the Research Grants Committee at UA. My position at REL had just begun in 2015, and I was really looking forward to completing work on my research monograph. I can definitely say that my previous project, Beyond the Problem of Evil (Lexington, 2018), came together much more quickly due to this support. I used the funding to visit the Derrida (Jacques) Papers in the Special Collections and Archives at the University of California in Irvine twice: once in the summer of 2016 and again in fall 2017. Continue reading

Faculty News

This is the time of year when faculty who applied last Fall for promotions are notified of the decision of the Office of Academic Affairs. We’re therefore quite pleased to announce that Dr. Merinda Simmons and Dr. Nathan Loewen have each been promoted — Dr. Simmons to the rank of Professor (sometimes called Full Professor) and Dr. Loewen to the rank of Associate Professor. In addition, Dr. Loewen was awarded tenure.

Merinda Simmons

Professor Simmons, who earned her Ph.D. in English at the University of Alabama (in 2009), has been our inaugural Graduate Director, having helped lead the Department in the planning stages for our M.A. degree (now entering its 4th year). She works across a wide variety of areas, both in her undergraduate and graduate teaching and in her research: from gender studies, queer theory, southern studies, and method and theory in the study of religion, to postcolonial studies, Afro-Caribbean and African American literature and theory, as well as studies in migration and diaspora. She has authored and/or edited four books and is currently working on the manuscript to a new monograph, Sourcing Slave Religion: Theorizing Experience in the Archive. With this promotion she has attained the highest rank faculty obtain.

Framed document present to Dr. Simmons

To mark the occasion, Dr. Simmons received a framed original of the cartoon version of herself that was featured on the Department’s blog back in 2014-15 — making a point that she’s often made in classes concerning how rhetorics of antiquity (even on our own campus) function.

Nathan Loewen

Associate Professor Loewen earned his Ph.D. at McGill University (in 2009) and taught at McGill  (2005-2009) and then at Vanier College (2009-14), both in Canada, before coming to UA in 2015. His work in the philosophy of religion originally focused on the problem of evil (the topic of his first book, Beyond the Problem of Evil: Derrida and Anglophone Philosophy of Religion) but has now moved more broadly to be concerned with ways to globalize the philosophy of religion. His appointment also entails a significant amount of time dedicated to his role as the College of Arts & Sciences’ Faculty Technology Liaison, assisting the College to promote everything from better teaching in general to the development of better online courses. With this promotion he has also been awarded tenure.

Framed document presented to Dr. Loewen

To mark this milestone in his career, Dr. Loewen was also presented with a framed original from the 2014-15 web series which features himself; of note is that, in hindsight, we can now see how his cartoon was basically a prototype for the trading cards that the Department eventually made just last year.

Congratulations to both Merinda and Nathan — these are well-deserved
awards to two hard-working and valuable colleagues.

 

 

Symposium Recap

Last week, the Department of Religious Studies hosted its annual Undergraduate Research Symposium at Gorgas Library. Students from Religious Studies courses collaborated with advisors on written projects before presenting their work at the event. The unique topics, challenging question-answer portion, and free coffee made for a refreshing Friday morning. Professors, alumni, MA students, and undergraduates used social media to keep up with the event.

Continue reading

The Book Event – As Told in Pictures

Last Thursday, the Religious Studies Department hosted its second annual book event at Ernest & Hadley Booksellers in downtown Tuscaloosa. The refreshments and cozy ambiance created the perfect atmosphere for any book lover to mingle and browse the store. Professors, students, and even Tuscaloosa locals joined us to discuss Prof. Ramey‘s and Prof. Loewen‘s recently published books.

Continue reading

How to Make More from More? the Large Conference Loner Challenge

“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