What’s New about New Modernisms?

The discourse of modernism has conventionally been dominated by a limiting attention to aesthetics, form, experimentation, and canon, often treated as standalone objects that capture the essence of modernist art — but what if we focus instead on social politics as a driving force behind the modernist movement?  What new perspective might be gained if we unite the typically separated categories of aesthetics and politics?  In their forthcoming book, Race and New Modernisms, REL Prof. Merinda Simmons and English Prof. Andy Crank confront these questions by offering a unique reevaluation of modernism, one that considers the racial ideology, colonial history, and regional complexity at work behind modernist form and aesthetic. Continue reading

Publication News

We just got word that a paper co-written by Sierra Lawson (entering the second year of her M.A. in our Department) and Prof. Steven Ramey has been accepted to be published in the coming year in UK peer review journal Culture & Religion.

What’s it on?

Sourcing Stereotypes: Constructing and Challenging Simplified Knowledge

Abstract

The social media uproar in Fall 2017 over a nursing textbook chart that presented generalized characterizations of minority groups generated an assumption that medical training needs more Religious Studies expertise. Analyzing the sources that the chart cited, we trace the authors’ assertions to studies of varying quality and identify several specific processes involved in simplifying knowledge for dissemination, as the authors disregarded the limits of each specific study and ignored counter-evidence or otherwise evaded critical scrutiny. Comparing this example to examples from world religions discourse illustrates both differences and similarities in the process of constructing simplified presentations. While both presumably developed out of good intentions, they generate significant problems in their effort to shape material to support larger arguments. Thus, scholars across disciplines should critique and complicate their own processes for generating simplified knowledge.

 

Summer Plans: Prof. McCutcheon

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Apart from writing the annual report and getting the Department ready for the new semester in the Fall, Professor McCutcheon has a few projects bubbling away, such as the second edition to his intro book, Studying Religion, which he plans to tackle and complete this summer. He’s also working on narrowing down the contents to an anthology that Walter de Gruyter, in Berlin, has contracted, as a follow-up to Jacques Waardenburg’s once well-known volume, Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion (a 1973 collection that was recently reissued, in a new edition, with a preface from McCutcheon). Picking up in the 1960s, about where Waardenburg’s volume ends, he plans to represent the trends and scholars of importance to the field’s last fifty years, adding a substantive introduction to the book (though maybe not quite the 80 pages of the earlier volume’s introductory chapter). He’s also finalizing the manuscripts for a few things that will be published this summer, such as a co-edited collection of interviews with the late Jonathan Z. Smith (in fact, his friend and co-editor, Willi Braun, is now giving the index one last proofing) and a couple new sets of his own essays (the first with Equinox and the other with de Gruyter). So if he can check all that off his list by August he’ll be a happy camper.

Summer Plans: Prof. Touna

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Prof. Touna who is already in Thessaloniki, Greece, on a research leave, will spend the summer there where she will continue reading, writing and doing research for her new book project “Locating the Past.” The research (supported by two research awards: the CARSCAand the RGC) involves interviews, archival research as well as visiting archaeological sites and museums. She will have meetings with professors from Aristotle University for future collaborations and gave a lecture at the Department of History and Archaeology of Aristotle University. She will also be working on her new course “Introduction to Ancient Religions” that she will teach in the Fall of 2018. And last but not least she hopes to put together an edited volume on what else: “the past.”

Summer Plans: Prof. Ramey

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Prof. Steven Ramey has a busy summer ahead tackling a few pieces of a larger overall project considering how we describe and narrate. One project involves experimenting with alternative approaches to ethnographic description using his own fieldwork, and the other is looking at historical narratives and the ways that critical theory should influence our narrative choices. These projects require reviewing a variety of sources, including contested accounts of Indian history, and working through some contrasting approaches. In addition to these projects, he will be preparing, as always, for teaching both undergraduate and M.A. courses in the fall semester.

Summer Plans: Prof. Altman

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Prof. Altman will be spending the summer doing a lot of reading in primary and secondary sources for two projects. Indeed he has stacks of books piled high in his office. First, he is working on a journal article tentatively titled “Evangelical, Evangelicals, Evangelicalism” that re-describes what so many American religious historians have categorized as “evangelicalism” in America. Second, he is in the very early stages of a large research project that seeks to understand religion in America by putting it into the broader context of European political philosophy after the Reformation. He is wondering if both of these projects might end up being the same project in the end. Prof. Altman is also teaching REL 100 during the summer term and revising his REL 502: Religious Studies and Public Humanities Foundations course and REL 241: American Religious History courses for the coming fall.

Summer Plans: Prof. Simmons

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Prof. Simmons was recently selected by UA’s College of Arts and Sciences for a funded residency at the National Humanities Center during the month of June. The center provides office space and library support to assist scholars in their research and writing. While there, she will spend her time working on two book projects. The first is Race and New Modernism (co-authored with James A. Crank), the manuscript of which will be submitted to Bloomsbury Academic in August. The volume will be included in the press’s New Modernisms series. She will also be continuing work on her second monograph, tentatively entitled Sourcing Slave Religion: Theorizing Experience in the American South. This summer will also see some revisions to the Graduate Handbook as Prof. Simmons prepares to greet the incoming and returning MA students in her role as Graduate Director.

Summer Plans: Prof. Newton

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

This summer Prof. Newton — who will be joining us here ay UA in the Fall — will be wrapping up the last of his teaching commitments at Elizabethtown College. In addition, he’ll be working on the final edits for his first book, Identifying Roots: Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures (Equinox 2019) as well as working on an essay for NAASR on religion, race, and ethnicity. He’ll also be getting his ducks in a row to to launch some new research (i.e., his second book, based around talks he’s given to the department) and teaching projects (i.e. his Islam class in the Fall) once he gets to Tuscaloosa.