Posts Tagged ‘academia’

March 5th, 2014

Are academics cloistered?

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Recently, The New York Times published an article by Nicholas Kristof that lamented how academics, cloistered like medieval monks, have retreated from the public policy arena. Kristof cites a few institutional reasons for this phenomenon, including the decline in humanities funding, but also critiques academics for marginalizing themselves. The column has, unsurprisingly, triggered a debate among academics, policy-makers, and journalists about the merits of Kristof’s arguments, as well as potential causes and solutions.

September 20th, 2013

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship opening at Williams College

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Williams College has posted an opportunity in the Department of Religion. The college seeks a two-year Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Islam in Context, a position that begins in the fall of 2014.

August 14th, 2013

On the passing of Jean Bethke Elshtain

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Well-known ethicist and scholar Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago recently passed away on August 11, 2013.

August 9th, 2013

CFP: The Book of Mormon: Americanist Approaches

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Professors Jared Hickman and Elizabeth Fenton have put out a call for papers on The Book of Mormon for potential future publication.

July 23rd, 2013

CFP: Why Study Religion?

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Illinois State University Philosophy and Religious Studies Department has announced a call for papers for the upcoming conference on religion in higher education, Why Study Religion?, which will be held October 25-26, 2013.

July 11th, 2013

CFP: Gender & Society

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The Committee for the Study of Religion at the CUNY Graduate Center has announced a call for papers for its Special Issue of Gender & Society.

July 10th, 2013

CFP: The Religious Turn: Secular and Sacred Engagements in Literature and Theory

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The Western Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature will host its annual conference on The Religious Turn: Secular and Sacred Engagement in Literature and Theory at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA from May 15-17, 2014.

June 25th, 2013

Ways of Knowing: Graduate Conference on Religion

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Harvard Divinity School is hosting its annual Ways of Knowing conference for graduate students and young scholars who are studying religion in all different programs and disciplines. The conference will be held at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, MA on October 25-26, 2013 (more details here). The deadline to submit papers is July 1, 2013.

May 8th, 2013

Digital publishing and the academic study of religion

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Over at The Huffington Post, Norris J. Chumley writes on the growing influence of online forums and journals in the academic world of religion.

March 19th, 2013

Conference: Religion and the Idea of a University

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Religion and the Idea of a Research University, an interdisciplinary project of the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme at the University of Cambridge, will be hosting an international and interdisciplinary conference (April 3-5) exploring the question of: What place does religion have in the Western research university?

December 7th, 2012

CFP: Religion in modern democracies

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From June 3rd to June 7th, 2013, the Forum Scientiarum of Tübingen University, will host an interdisciplinary summer school on the work of Charles Taylor.

December 5th, 2012

Funding for atheists

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Recently, the University of Wisconsin-Madison gave the student organization, Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics (AHA) $69,000, the largest amount of grant money ever given to a non-theistic, student-led organization by a college or university.

November 10th, 2012

Religion on the Edge

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A new book, Religion on the Edge: De-centering and Re-centering the Sociology of Religion, edited by TIF contributors Courtney BenderWendy CadgePeggy Levitt and David Smilde, has been published.

October 10th, 2012

What does spirituality mean in America today?

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But why, first of all, is this subject a significant one? And why does it appear especially pertinent at precisely the present moment? To begin with, growing numbers of “religious nones,” that is, people who have limited or no religious affiliation yet still claim to believe in some kind of divinity, signal an unprecedented shift in the American religious landscape, and many scholars who have sought to understand this phenomenon have indicated that something like “spirituality” might capture an important aspect of their outlook, if not their “identity.” We, for our part, certainly agree that this is a socially significant shift. Yet we also note that much of the interpretation and ensuing discussion about the “religious nones” draws upon and continues to assert uninvestigated understandings of religion and spirituality, where we would argue that the shifts underway should elicit some reconsideration of the terms that are deployed to analyze and interpret this allegedly “new” phenomenon.

May 17th, 2012

Marilynne Robinson on religion, secularism, and literature

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Joe Fassler interviews writer Marilynne Robinson after the publication of her latest collection of essays.

May 8th, 2012

West’s witness

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For New York Magazine, Lisa Miller profiles Cornel West, surveying the course of his academic career, personal life, and variety of public spats with figures like Larry Summers and Barack Obama.

April 20th, 2012

In defense of the sociology of religion

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In a recent contribution to ASA Footnotes, Christian Smith explains why it is crucial  for sociologists to take religion seriously, arguing that it is imperative for sociologists to overcome ignorance and bias when it comes to religion.

April 17th, 2012

Why religious studies?

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On April 18th, Columbia University’s Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life will host Nathan Schneider for a talk on “Why the World Needs Religious Studies (and Why Religious Studies Needs the World).”

March 16th, 2012

Postdoc fellowship: New Circles of Learning for Engaged Scholars Studying Congregations

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The Boston University School of Theology is seeking a Research Fellow in Congregational Studies for a three-year period, beginning June 1, 2012.

March 9th, 2012

Back to his roots

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When writing about other people, we all should follow Pierre Bourdieu’s advice to not be too fascinated by our human subjects. This is necessary in order to escape the “biographical fallacy,” the temptation to narrate lives as if they were historically continuous and logically consistent wholes. Bourdieu is right. Our lives are a mess of disparate events, novelties and routines, strategic decisions and lapses of reason, chances and regrets, with little, if any, overall meaning. At the same time, as Robert N. Bellah writes at the beginning of his magisterial tour de force, we are narrative animals. We cannot avoid telling stories, and every story has to have a hero, a quest, and a finale. In this brief essay I recount a couple of stories about Religion in Human Evolution, reading through the lines of this fascinating work to find and highlight some of the many threads which connect it to its author’s past.

February 16th, 2012

New resource for religion and new media

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The Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture has recently launched a new resource website featuring an extensive bibliography,  “scholar’s index,” blog, and newsfeed: The Network is designed for scholars, students and those interested in exploring topics and questions emerging at the intersections of religion, the internet and new, social and mobile media. The […]

December 12th, 2011

2012 Lake Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

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The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at the Center on Philanthropy, Indiana University, is currently fielding applications for the 2012 Lake Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

November 9th, 2011

Weber for the 21st century

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For almost one hundred years, all sociologists of religion have taken Max Weber’s great work on comparative religions as a primary point of departure. Whole libraries of scholarship have been produced to explicate Weber, expand on Weber, disagree with Weber, revise Weber. In the next hundred years, I think, the point of departure will be Robert Bellah rather than Weber. Bellah’s new masterpiece, Religion in Human Evolution is comparable in scope, breadth of scholarship, and depth of erudition to Weber’s study of world religions, but it is grounded in all of the advances of historical, linguistic, and archeological scholarship that have taken place since Weber, as well as theoretical advances in evolutionary biology and cognitive science.

November 2nd, 2011

Where did religion come from?

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When an interviewer for the Atlantic Monthly blog asked me “What prompted you to write this book?” I apparently replied, “Deep desire to know everything: what the universe is and where we are in it.” I don’t deny that I said it—it’s just that I would have thought I would have given a more pedestrian reply, because I am a sociologist, with a Ph.D. in my discipline and some 40 years experience as a professor at Harvard and Berkeley. And I am quite aware that early in the last century Max Weber, in a famous 1918 talk called “Science as a Vocation,” warned that “science has entered a phase of specialization previously unknown and this will forever remain the case.”

October 11th, 2011

RFP: New Directions in the Study of Prayer

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The Social Science Research Council recently announced the launch of a new project and grants program entitled “New Directions in the Study of Prayer.”

September 20th, 2011

New directions in the study of prayer

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The Social Science Research Council has just announced the launch of a major new project and grants program entitled “New Directions in the Study of Prayer.”

September 2nd, 2011

A suspension of (dis)belief

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Most academic discussions in political science and international relations presuppose a fixed definition of the secular and the religious and proceed from there. Most realist, liberal, English school, feminist, and historical-materialist approaches treat religion as either private by prior assumption or a cultural relic to be handled by anthropologists. Even constructivists, known for their attention to historical contingency and social identity, have paid scant attention to the politics of secularism and religion, focusing instead on the interaction of preexisting state units to explain how international norms influence state interests and identity or looking at the social construction of states and the state system with religion left out of the picture.

August 20th, 2011

The Help, ethnography, and ickiness

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This is a post about the politics of representation, postcolonial theory, and the Hollywood movie, The Help. And it begins with my Mom.

August 18th, 2011

Normative demands of Islamic studies scholarship

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As a lawyer, I appreciate the critical importance of historical inquiry to contemporary legal challenges; as a historian, I resist attempts to demand normative outcomes from historical research. Balancing these disparate commitments is no easy feat and the endeavor warrants restraint.

August 4th, 2011

Transmitting “secular” oral traditions

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Why does our academic culture operate under the assumption that “secular” education is fundamentally distinct from or superior to non-“secular” education? The stereotypical notion is that “religious” knowledge is communicated through a ritualized process that emphasizes a teacher-student relationship, whereas “secular” knowledge is conveyed through critical, open discussions and less hierarchical relationships. But how different is the Western academy, really?

August 4th, 2011

Why I don’t read non-fiction from Barnes and Noble, and why that’s a problem for public scholarship; or, what I learned in third grade about epistemology and essentialization

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I have not been interested in the Barnes and Noble non-fiction section for a long time. There might be a few history books that catch my eye, or a few recent works of book-length journalism that show me how to do what I claim to do—which is ethnography—with an eye for detail, insight, and refreshingly clear prose. Yet most of the stuff that’s there—particularly in the social sciences section—is pretty basic, often uninteresting, and available for free (to me) in more rigorous form on JSTOR.

July 26th, 2011

New journal: Secularism and Nonreligion

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Secularism and Nonreligion, the “world’s first journal dedicated to the study of the nonreligious and the secular,” recently announced its launch and is now accepting submissions.

July 7th, 2011

The politics of inaccuracy and a case for “Islamic law”

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Since the process of understanding divine law is not a uniform or singular one, there are multiple interpretations of what divine law is, and, consequently, there are many schools of Islamic legal thought. The sharīʿah-fiqh distinction is one that is clearly recognized in Islamic jurisprudential texts and beyond. While I am still in the process of undertaking a thorough historical study, I suspect that the conflation of the terms sharīʿah and fiqh became normative among Muslims in the modern era—particularly in the context of Islamist-based resistance to imperialism. Regardless of the precise genealogy, the use of the term sharīʿah rather than fiqh in contemporary Muslim discourses has political motivations and ramifications; in other words, it is essentially about power.

June 30th, 2011

New fellowship opportunities for African faculty

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The Social Science Research Council has announced three new fellowship opportunities for African faculty researching topics related to peace, security, and development. The Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa program “responds to a shortage of well-trained faculty now reaching crisis proportions in African higher education.”

May 12th, 2011

Crafting the secular studies syllabus

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Pitzer College having announced that it will offer a major in “secular studies,” the Harvard University Press Blog compiles a list of titles essential to the subject.

May 9th, 2011

Explaining Islam to the public

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Perhaps no group of scholars has had as much at stake in the public understanding of religion of late as Islamic studies specialists. The attacks of 9/11 indirectly created opportunities for career advancement for Islam specialists. . . . The pressures to become the academic voice of Islam both on campus and in the media frequently led scholars to abandon caution. We reached for our copies of the Encyclopedia of Islam and sent out queries, sometimes quite urgently, to the AAR Study of Islam listserv. “What does Islam say about x?” was the way questions were often framed. We were not allowed to answer, “It depends.” What was generally desired, it seems, was a fatwa, an authoritative ruling on what the Qur’an, the Sunna, and the ulama say about “x,” not a lecture on how the historical practices of real people refuse easy generalization.

January 5th, 2011

Words, war, and worldviews

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In the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Mark Juergensmeyer, former president of the AAR, weaves together a brief history of the organization and an account of the transformation of religious studies over the past hundred years.

January 3rd, 2011

Studying Evangelicals

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In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Timothy Beal reflects on the historic inattention of academic research to popular evangelical trends and highlights some of the most important work performed in this area since the late ’80s.

December 22nd, 2010

Soul-making and careless steps

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For once, practice actually lags behind theory. In their very interesting post on “Reconceiving the secular and the practice of the liberal arts,” Kahn, MacDonald, Oliver, and Speers find that the concerted academic revaluation of secularization and secularism has not trickled down to relatively elite private liberal arts colleges. In their account, these institutions remain committed, both explicitly and implicitly, to some version of a distinction between the secular and the religious: religious belief is fine, but it has no place in the classroom. This distinction, of course, is designed to protect the kinds of things that academic institutions hold dear: critical thought, intellectual freedom, tolerance, diversity. But, the authors wonder, might “uncritical assumptions about the secular” actually make these things harder, by “stripping some students and faculty of fundamental aspects of their identities—in particular, their religious identities”?

December 15th, 2010

Nothing human is foreign to me

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The problem as I see it is not that students in the liberal arts are somehow forbidden to argue their religious views but that, whether they are religious or secular, they do not get sufficient exposure to religious texts. These texts contain many strange and interesting things—often surprising to religious and unreligious students alike. They uncover possibilities of being human. But in order for these possibilities to emerge, they need to be approached in a secular spirit. That is, their specifically theological language needs to be translated into a conceptual language through which people can imagine a given possibility without a prior or subsequent adherence to it as the absolute truth.

November 29th, 2010

NEH seminar on the study of religion

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A professional seminar on the study of religion, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be held next summer at the University of Virginia. Directed by Charles Mathewes and Kurtis Schaeffer, the seminar is intended to introduce participants “to the enormously productive re-thinking of the idea of “religion” that has happened in recent years, in order to assist those interested in developing a richer and more nuanced understanding of the strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and pitfalls, that come with using the category of “religion” to understand highly diverse manifestations of human practice and belief within the United States and around the world today.”

November 24th, 2010

Reconceiving the secular and the practice of the liberal arts

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Between 2006-2009, with the support of the Teagle Foundation, four self-identifying secular liberal arts campuses—Bucknell University and Macalester, Vassar, and Williams Colleges—engaged in a project, “Secularity and the Liberal Arts,” that tried to get at the purpose and nature of liberal arts education by asking what it means for a liberal arts campus to unabashedly call its practices “secular.” Is there a way, we wondered, that by spending some time thinking critically and honestly about this crucial term—one that ostensibly governs our practices—we might get a better handle on the nature of liberal arts education?

September 17th, 2010

Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

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The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation is currently fielding applications for the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

August 3rd, 2010

Reflections on Mormon feminism

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The editors of Scholaristas—a new blog on women’s religious history—have launched, as their inaugural forum, a discussion of the 1971 “Pink Issue” of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Now approaching its fortieth anniversary, the publication of that issue “marked the beginning of a resurgence of Mormon feminism and an increased interest in women’s history.

July 15th, 2010

Teaching Catholicism and sexual morality

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The dismissal of Kenneth Howell, a University of Illinois adjunct professor of Catholic history and thought, has generated much discussion and commentary in the last week, most of it focusing upon the appropriateness, tone, and argumentative validity of an email that he sent to students prior to their Spring semester exam.

July 14th, 2010

Secularism . . . a really interesting problematic: A conversation with Joan Wallach Scott

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At a March 2010 conference, “Gendering the Divide: Conflicts at the Border of Religion and the Secular” (sponsored by Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict), I had the great fortune to speak on a panel with groundbreaking cultural historian and gender theorist Joan Wallach Scott, the Harold F. Linder Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. The conference was the fourth and final meeting of ASU’s Ford Foundation-funded project on “Public Religion, the Secular, and Democracy.” In 2010-2011, Scott will lead the year-long seminar “Secularism” at the Institute for Advanced Study’s School of Social Science. Scott is the author of numerous influential essays and books, including, most recently, the timely and highly praised The Politics of the Veil. At the conclusion of the ASU conference, Scott and I met for the following wide-ranging conversation . . .

July 9th, 2010

When strong is weak

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It is a testament to the power of the “strong program” image that most commentators on our working paper read Matt May and me to be optimistically praising its emergence in the sociology of religion, despite our statements to the contrary. Of course, a writer criticizing readers is bad form, and truth be told, we deeply appreciate the commentators’ willingness to discuss a working paper whose positions and prose are not yet entirely solidified. Our original title had “a critical engagement” as its subtitle; leaving it out probably didn’t help communicate our intent. If we add to this the positive connotations of the term “emerging,” we can certainly understand how commentators saw us as identifying a wave we were preparing to surf.

June 23rd, 2010

Notes from the field

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Over the course of the next three months, a small group of SSRC graduate student fellows associated with “After Secularization”—a summer research fellowship on new approaches to the study of religion and modernity—will be blogging regularly for The Immanent Frame. Read all of the latest contributions to “Notes from the field.”

June 21st, 2010

Religion, science, and the humanities: An interview with Barbara Herrnstein Smith

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Barbara Herrnstein Smith is a distinguished literary scholar at both Brown and Duke, who, since her undergraduate days, has had a special interest in the uses and misuses of scientific psychology. Her latest book, which stems from her 2006 Terry Lectures at Yale University, is Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion (Yale, 2010). It explores the ways in which contemporary cognitive science and evolutionary psychology are being called upon to, once and for all, explain religion. Also, don’t miss her contributions to The Immanent Frame’s discussion “A cognitive revolution?
June 4th, 2010

God, science and philanthropy

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Nathan Schneider profiles John Templeton and the Foundation he built, in The Nation.