What’s Screamo? How the Same Term Can Mean Different Things

Tanner (far left) and Kyle (far right) with Nick and Joe of Knuckle Puck. Taken July 1, 2018.

Kyle Ashley is a junior from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Majoring in Religious Studies, his main interests include loitering in libraries, copious amounts of coffee, and
keeping it emo in 2019.

“Knuckle Puck is awesome, but they can be a little screamo,” my stepbrother Tanner states, responding to my recommendation for which band he should play next.

“Ya… I guess.” I respond. We were fresh off attending the “Last cross-country Warped Tour” (Vans Warped Tour, for those who may not know, is a punk-centric music festival) and had a wealth of bands we wanted to push on others. Knuckle Puck, a band out of Chicago, was amongst our favorites.

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Grad Student Interns with Alabama Heritage Magazine

As part of the MA in Religion in Culture at UA, students attend a monthly colloquium designed to introduce them to community members seeking graduates with strong critical thinking skills. During these meetings, the Department of Religious Studies brings in individuals from within and outside of the University to share their experiences in the job market. Their presentations often focus on the ways that the tools each MA student is cultivating in their humanities courses can be useful outside of traditional academia.

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Argument Analysis: Legion v. American Humanist Association

Monica L. Waller, arguing for respondent in American Legion v. American Humanist Assoc., 2-27-19Jackson Foster is a freshman at UA, majoring in Religious Studies and History and minoring in the Blount Undergraduate Initiative and Randall Research Scholars Program. He is currently studying the intersections between law, politics, and religion in Dr. Altman’s REL130 course. This piece was originally published in High School SCOTUS, a national Supreme Court blog comprised of young students like Jackson.

The Supreme Court heard arguments last month in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, a case involving a 40-foot Peace Cross situated in a Maryland public park. Before (and since) the argument, American Legion has received special attention from the constitutional scholar and layman alike. It has been enveloped in media scrutiny (see Nina Totenberg’s Cross Clash Could Change Rules For Separation Of Church And State); it is one of the first Establishment Clause cases in the Kavanaugh era, and it may spell the end of the Lemon test.

While constitutional considerations carry great weight, they miss the heart of this case. American Legion does not so much implicate the Establishment Clause or the Lemon test as it implicates American civil religion. The questions argued in the case, therefore, can be nicely distilled to one: Is the cross civil or sectarian? Continue reading

A Religious Studies Guide to WrestleMania

On the first page of Imagining Religion, historian of religion Jonathan Z. Smith writes:

For the self-conscious student of religion, no datum possess intrinsic interest. It is of value only insofar as it can serve as exempli gratis of some fundamental issue in the imagination of religion.

For Smith, and I agree with him, scholars should choose particular examples as data that suit particular questions that they want to answer. In this way, the scholar of religion is not bound by “the boundaries of canon nor of community” in their pursuits. Thus, the data for religious studies is not limited to things that seem “religious” in the common use of the term. Furthermore, it is not the “religious” data that directs our research, but the larger theoretical questions that we seek to answer through the data we select.

This brings me to WrestleMania. Today WWE will put on their 35th annual WrestleMania show and I think there are three aspects of the show that could be of interest to a scholar of religion in the Smithian vein. To be clear, I don’t think a religious studies approach to WrestleMania should go find the things that seem obviously religious happening at the event, nor am I arguing that pro wrestling is also a religion. Rather, I am pointing out a few places where a scholar asking certain questions might find some data to theorize with.

So, I present a Religious Studies Guide WrestleMania 35.

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Using Sports to Understand Social Perspectives

Ally Manel is a sophomore from Holbrook, New York. She is a dual degree
candidate in Biology and Religious Studies, as well as a member of
the University of Alabama Equestrian Team.

With the Final Four just around the corner, millions of people will tune in to watch their favorite college teams compete for the title of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Thousands will pack into the stadium to watch the games, and there are bound to be many angry fans each time the referee makes a close call. Now, being a sports fan, I am no stranger to the frustration felt when a referee seems to be favoring the opponent. After all, I am certain where my loyalties lie, and when the ref makes a call that seems unfair, it certainly feels like they lose the objectivity expected of them, as if they have allegiances with the adversary. Now, no one is perfect, and when the tables are turned and the referee seems to favor my team, I suddenly see the calls as fair. The contradictions in my critique of the referee can be translated into responses to traditions such as Hinduism. Sometimes, outsiders see certain viewpoints of Hindu myths as contradictory to Hindu ideals, just as close calls by referees can be seen as both fair and unfair to outsiders.

In Hinduism, Hanuman is a significant deity and is given the honorable title of “destroyer of evil.” In one particular Hindu comic, “Hanuman to the Rescue: Hanuman brings the Sanjeevani,” by Anant Pai, Hanuman is given the task of delivering a plant to Lakshmana, another influential deity, in order to save his life. While bringing the plant, Hanuman has to kill hundreds of his enemies to get back to his home and Lakshmana. To Hindus, the story is thought to represent the truest form of loyalty and sincerity, and the violence against the enemies is seen as necessary. To some outsiders of the religion, the violence used to kill the enemies in order to save Lakshmana is seen as contradictory to the ideals of the religion. For instance, take the Hindu idea of ahimsa, meaning nonviolence. Many Hindus attempt to live by this principle, and for the comic to portray violence so openly, some see it as contradictory to ahimsa. Whether the comic is contradictory to the religion, though, is not what I am here to decide. Instead, it’s important to note how an individual’s own biases, experiences, and background shape the opinion they form. Maybe Hindus are more willing to overlook Hanuman’s violence because his intentions are to destroy evil, and without taking a violent approach, evil will persist. If one looks from a different perspective, though, the violence might be viewed as wrong and unnecessary.

Taking this back to March Madness referees, a referee may make a certain call because of something they learned in training, or a similar play that went down, just in the same way that a Hindu might overlook Hanuman’s violence because of an experience they’ve had, while another person might see the act as a bit problematic. These differing opinions are simply inevitable, and it is important for us to take into account the different sides of every story. These different experiences can change an entire ideology, as seen with the story of Hanuman retrieving the plant. The biases of authors and readers lead to different versions of stories, and in order to fully understand a story, often the reader must consider their own biases as well as the writer’s experiences.

 

Image credit: via MaxPixel (CC0 1.0)

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.

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Alabama-Greece Initiative Lecture Coming Up

On Wednesday, March 6th, the Department of Religious Studies will be hosting Prof. Ioannis Xydopoulos from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. His visit is part of the Alabama-Greece Initiative, a program that promotes relationships between American and Greek scholars. Beginning in 2010 and sponsored by the University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences, the initiative encourages the exchange of students and faculty for study abroad, research, and guest lectures.

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Culture on the Edge: An Origin Story

Last week, Professors Steven Ramey and Vaia Touna sat down to discuss their involvement with the Culture on the Edge research group and blog, along with their two book series. Though the discussion was intended to focus on Prof. Touna’s recent addition to the published series, it naturally led to a conversation on the implications of fabricating origins and identity.

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Prof. Crews — Outside the Classroom

Prof. Emily Crews, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School, recently joined us as an instructor in the Department of Religious Studies.  After serving two years as a volunteer in Namibia, she carried out fieldwork in Chicago Pentecostal churches. Currently, she teaches REL 105 Honors Introduction to the Study of Religion and REL 360 Religion in Pop Culture while she finishes her Ph.D. dissertation.

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A Visit to Montgomery Museums

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL commemorates all documented cases of lynching in America. Each metal pillar is engraved with the victims’ names and the county where the crime took place.

Several weeks ago, along with Prof. Ramey, Caity Bell, Savanah Finver, and Keely McMurray (all first-year MA students in the study of religion) took the two hour drive to Montgomery, AL, to explore a variety of historical representations in museums and memorials. They began their tour at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice before visiting the Legacy Museum and finishing at the Alabama State Archives Museum. Continue reading