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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Public Service Announcement

The day I meet postmodernists whose relativism does not disappear the minute they start talking about salaries and workloads is the day I will take relativism seriously.

That’s a quotation I saw posted on social media yesterday, from Steve Bruce‘s new book Researching Religion: Why We Need Social Science.

My comment on the site?

I find positions one disagrees with are easiest critiqued when one parodies them.

Fending off parodies of postmodernism’s influence in our field is a full-time job these days, whether they come from the theologians looking for evidence of God’s truth, the humanists in search of Meaning and the Enduring Human Spirit (the uppercase is intended), or, yes, the social scientists who equally need religion to be some real, tangible thing but in order to explain it in some fashion. But despite the obvious differences among these three broad approaches, I see representatives of each routinely drawing upon the same parodies of critical or postmodern stances.

So, as a public service, let me comment here that to take a self-interested and apparently absolutist stand concerning a salary or a workload RELATIVE TO one’s practical and changeable interests is not some sort contradictory “Aha!” moment that exposes the weakness at the heart of a social constructionist or so-called relativist approach. Instead, it is actually a pretty good argument for why we should take such an approach, as Bruce phrases it, seriously.

Social actors, after all, aren’t the most consistent players and I see no reason why scholars are somehow different from the rest of their peers. So an approach that they adopt in the study of others which they apparently suspend when advancing their own interests strikes me as a good example of how social life actually works, providing a pretty compelling case for why we ought to be doing anything but dismissing that approach in our study of human behavior and organization.

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

If You Believe…

Picture 6Irving Rosenfeld: I got a knife, alright? This is for the mayor.
[he shows the knife to Paco]
Irving Rosenfeld: You gotta present it to the mayor.
[Paco goes to take the knife but Irving pulls it back]
Irving Rosenfeld: Just look at me, alright? Look me in the eye. This means a lot to you. Right? That knife.
Paco Hernandez: Oh.
Irving Rosenfeld: Play it. You present it, alright? Friendship for life. Alright? You gotta feel it.
Paco Hernandez: Right.
Irving Rosenfeld: It’s sacred. Can you do it?
Paco Hernandez: Sacred.
Irving Rosenfeld: You gotta sell it.
Paco Hernandez: Sacred.
Irving Rosenfeld: You gotta sell it.
Richie DiMaso: Sell it.
Irving Rosenfeld: If you believe it’s sacred, it’s sacred.

Scene from “American Hustle” (2013)

Scene from “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin (1960)

George teaching Jerry to lie — and get away with it.

 

Identifying for the Jokes

rel seinfeld logo

By Jared Powell
Jared Powell is a junior from Canton, Mississippi majoring in English and Religious Studies. He enjoys watching Seinfeld, his favorite TV show, and is always disappointed when somebody does not understand a reference to the famed sitcom. He one day hopes to become an architect, or maybe an importer-exporter of latex products.

What are the various identities, religious or nonreligious, that an individual can assume? Why do individuals choose to identify with certain categories? How do individuals exhibit or prove their identity to members of the group, or nonmembers? These key questions constantly come up in my classes with the department. During one class, another student mentioned an episode of Seinfeld (Season 8 Episode 19, “The Yada Yada”) that could be related to these questions of identity. In order to defend my self-proclaimed Seinfeld aficionado status, I took it upon myself to rewatch the episode and see what connections I could make. Continue reading

“It’s Andie, with an ‘ie'”

anzie

By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She currently works as a staff member in the Department as a Student Liaison and filmmaker, and will begin working on her M.A. this fall 2014 at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

I go by “Andie.” I say “go by” not to distinguish my name from my legal name “Amanda” but to draw attention to the identification practices wrapped up in naming. Let me preface this a little… Growing up, I was determined to be called “Amanda.” I’m not really sure why, to be honest, but I decided that was “my” name. (Let’s just skip over the year when I was insistent on being called Ariel — yes, like the Little Mermaid…) However, around the age of 12 or so, I decided I quite liked the name Andie and wanted nothing more to do with Amanda. I despised being called Amanda and was adamant about my name being Andie. I can only retrospectively assume that this change was due my 12-13 year old self trying to feel out who “I” was. I suppose I clung to that, and I would become very frustrated with people who misspelled my name. Continue reading