Baby Steps

honorsday2012If you’re reading this blog then you may know that we’re a small undergraduate degree-granting Department that has a number of things going on — from a couple of longstanding lecture series to a newly invented annual undergrad research symposium, from an active student association and Facebook page, to some faculty who actively collaborate with one another on their own research. We bring grads back to talk about their post-B.A. lives and careers, we have this blog with posts from faculty, students, and alumni, and we try to take what leadership we can on campus-wide initiatives. We teach our share of students each semester, of course (in some large lectures and also in small seminars), but, as a group, we also understand that running a thing called a Department is about more than teaching students or just having offices next door to each other, where we each pursue our individual scholarly interests.

In this day of calls for the Humanities to justify themselves, increasing emphases on university degrees as preparation for practical careers, and parents and students shopping carefully for degrees and majors, I can’t imagine how a faculty member mindful of the precarious position of any institution — including the university or their own department — would approach it any differently.

But many do, of course. To their own detriment, I think. Continue reading

Your Authentic is Illusory, of Course

nprchurchListening to a radio story this morning, on a church in Denver that prides itself on being diverse and on the social/political edge — one that, predictably, aims to “create an authentic Christian experience without the pretension that can come with church” — it occurred to me just how deeply reductionist, materialist theories of religion have seeped into daily life. For, despite how dangerous these theories are seen to be by some (when they’re applied to their own lives, that is), they’re surprisingly easy for people to draw upon when accounting for other people’s behaviors and institutions. Continue reading