The 19th Annual Aronov Lecture

Poster for March 23rd Aronov Lecture

Join us for the 2022 Aronov Lecture with Prof. Andrea Jain,
hosted by Prof. Steven Ramey.

March 23, 2022 at 7pm (Central Time)

The Aronov lecture will be virtual again this year as we transition back to normal operations and look forward to next year’s in-person event.

Andrea R. Jain, Ph.D. is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis, editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and author of Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture (Oxford 2014) and Peace Love Yoga: The Politics of Global Spirituality (Oxford, 2020). She will join Prof. Ramey in a virtual conversation about the state of the field that will open a Q&A with those attending.

Jain’s works in progress, including the documentary film “Predation,” call for humanities scholars to center questions about the current pandemic and planetary crisis. The purpose of humanities scholarship, Jain argues, should include the following: to remind scientists and health experts that equity must be at the center of their response to pandemic and planetary crisis; to uncover and analyze the needs for repair in the relationships between human societies and environmental bodies and non-human animals; and to diagnose capitalism’s death-dealing structures and the causes of ecological death in the hope that activists, in turn, can build on that scholarship to imagine radically different futures.

Current and past REL students will soon receive the Zoom link for the Aronov lecture by email in the coming days.

Guests from off-campus are invited to register at
https://bit.ly/2022AronovLecture

Learn more about REL’s annual Aronov lecture.

Our thanks to Prof. Jeri Wieringa for her work behind-the-scenes to make these virtual events possible last year and again this year.

Prof. Ramey Interviews Mitsutoshi Horii, Co-editor of Method and Theory in the Study of Religion

Mitsutoshi HoriiMitsutoshi Horii joined the editorial team for Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (a peer reviewed, quarterly journal of the North American Association for the Study of Religion, published by Brill) a few months ago, working with Steven Ramey (professor and graduate director in our program) and Aaron Hughes (professor at University of Rochester).* Dr. Horii is Professor at Shumei University, Japan, and currently serves as Principal at Shumei’s overseas campus in the UK, Chaucer College. Beyond his current faculty position, we wanted to get to know more about his research and interests in relation to method and theory, and he graciously agreed to answer our questions. Continue reading

Something New From the “Nones” with the Pew Research Center’s Online Survey Results

The Nones are causing “trouble” again, with sensationalized headlines about the decline of Christianity. These takes can easily reinforce the anxiety among some about changes in society and activate nostalgia for some mythic 1950’s America (which was certainly not experienced as peaceful or comfortable by many marginalized groups in the 1950s, or even today). Based on survey data that the Pew Research Center released this week, those who represent themselves as unaffiliated with religion have grown to almost 30% of the US population. This increase (compared to almost 20% unaffiliated in Pew’s 2012 Nones” on the Rise report) coincides with a significant drop in those who identify as Protestant (which in the survey context includes any Christian not affiliating with Catholic, Orthodox, or Mormon identities). Continue reading

Should Your Name Be On Our Mail Boxes?

Main Office Mail Boxes

It’s the time of year when students are considering applying to graduate school, and we hope that those thinking about earning an M.A. in the study of religion consider the University of Alabama.

Our graduate program began four years ago and we’ve so far graduated seven students and they’re all putting their degrees to good use — from doing archival and museum work to studying architecture or earning a Ph.D. in the study of religion elsewhere in the U.S. And, with 9 incoming M.A. students who began their degree this past August, we’ve expanded the main office’s mail boxes, so there’s plenty of room for your name to be added. Continue reading

Recognizing Alum Accomplishments

Award plaque

At Honors Day 2019 the Department first awarded a new annual prize, to recognize the accomplishments of our graduates — the majority of whom go on to succeed in a wide variety of fields, making evident to our current students, we hope, the wide applicability of the skills gained in our classes. Then, this past Spring, it was renamed in honor of the commitment to our student shown by our longtime Administrative Secretary, Betty Dickey, who retired on April 1, 2020, after 32 years in the Department. But with universities across the country moving to limited business operations back in mid-March (due to COVID-19), there was too much happening to properly alert the successful nominees, let alone announce it at Honors Day 2020, as we had hoped.

But now is time to make-up for all of that. So, having written to our two recipients, it’s time to let you know who the faculty have selected from this past year’s nominations: we’re very pleased to announce that the 2019-20 recipients of the Dickey Alum Award are Susanna Payton Dunlap and Criag Nutt. Continue reading

Navigating a Diverse World Critically

Gall Peters Projection map of world

The World Religions course is a fabulous opportunity to teach students to think critically about the various representations of the world’s religious traditions. With the critique of the world religions paradigm and its colonial roots (see Masuzawa’s Invention fo World Religions), as well as problematic assumptions contained in any singular description of world religions (see, for example, my Culture on the Edge post The Harm of World Religions), it is vital to challenge singular narratives and to help our students learn to analyze whatever narrative they hear.

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Always Look at Who’s Talking

A textbook chart that unironically presents how "Arabs/Muslims," 'Asians," "Blacks," "Jews," "Hispanics," and "Native Americans" respond to pain. It is titled "Focus on Diversity and Culture: Cultural Differences in Response to Pain"

Textbook chart from Nursing: A Concept Based Approach to Learning, published (then withdrawn) by Pearson

As the AAR presents its newly drafted Religious Literacy Guidelines, Sierra Lawson (BA ’17, MA ’19) and Prof. Steven Ramey return to their research on the implications of classification to raise important questions about the politics and consequences of such a framing.

Religious literacy, which typically refers to knowledge about religions, differences between religions, and diversity within each religion, can reinforce problematic claims about social groups (as evident in the chart reproduced above). Useful knowledge can easily become harmful, especially when it tends towards selective generalizations and ignores the issue of who is doing the talking.

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Coming Soon: American Examples

Just after Spring Break, the first American Examples Workshop will be hosted at the University of Alabama, funded jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Religious Studies. Held here in Tuscaloosa and organized by Prof. Michael Altman, the goal of the workshop is to rethink the way religion in America is studied and taught.

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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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REL Contributes to Wabash Early Career Workshop

Last weekend, Prof. Steven Ramey braved the cold to meet five other scholars of religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, IN, an hour west of Indianapolis. The group bunkered down at the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion while they planned a workshop series for professors who teach undergraduates.

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