October 23 2018

Hello Again

Sarah Levine, Editor, Religious Studies News

Welcome back, y'all

Welcome back to Religious Studies News.

Today, the AAR launched a completely redesigned Religious Studies News. While the new look of RSN is the most immediate change that longtime readers will notice, the design of the site is in service of even larger shifts in editorial direction and publication schedule. What you can expect from RSN now is even deeper focus and reflection on the everyday work of (and the issues faced by) scholars and students in religious studies and theology, and you can expect these reflections to be more timely and relevant.

My goal for this new iteration of RSN is to create for the AAR a more distinct, original, and community-driven presence. It’s been RSN’s member-generated sections that have piqued the most interest and discussion among AAR members, and I want to expand that engagement across the site, across the AAR’s diverse membership, and throughout the year.

Why do this now? The adaptation is long overdue. I took over as editor of RSN when I was brought on to the AAR staff in August of 2013, following the imitable Stephanie Gray. At the time, the fate of RSN—whether it would continue as the publication of record for the AAR or become an abandoned relic of the past—was in question. In my opinion, its transition to an online format in 2010 left much to be desired, and what financial costs the transition saved the AAR were perhaps equally matched by what the publication lost: a connection to members facilitated by its physical presence. Older online issues of RSN lacked dynamism and could feel disconnected from much of the everyday work and discussion of AAR members. At the same time, RSN was publishing a lot of information already available through monthly e-bulletins and on the main AAR site. The status of “publication of record” had already unintentionally moved  to AAR’s website; the justification for a stand-alone RSN dwindled, and rightly so.

Still, though, RSN had the privilege of publishing pieces of outstanding quality. Through its columns and issues of Spotlight on Teaching and Spotlight on Theological Education, RSN maintained a connection to its readers. The committees, authors, and editors that produced those features were and continue to be the source of RSN’s value. The goal now is to extend that value even farther. RSN wants writers from across the AAR spectrum—students, faculty of all seniority levels, members in para- and alt-ac careers.

So with the relaunch comes an invitation to participate: RSN wants to publish your articles explaining your research, analyzing a current event or scholarly debate, and sorting through the issues in the field that are especially relevant to you. Are you a graduate student considering your post-grad options? What are some quirks of the field that any process of professionalization must address? Is your department’s approach to hiring instructive? What challenges have you faced head-on? Here at RSN we want to better catalogue and share the range of experiences—professional, personal, and where the two intersect—of AAR members. Toward that end, we’ll be publishing more frequently—with new content every couple weeks to start—to better record the various pulses, conversations, and controversies in the field.

Despite the changes described here, RSN will be returning to tradition in some ways. In the issues of the RSN of yesteryear, articles covered a range of topics: justifications of executive-level association practices, explainers from our expert members on topics relevant to current events, and explorations of emerging trends and tensions in the field. If you think you might be interested in writing for RSN, take a closer look at our submission guidelines. There are suggestions for a range of article types there, but I am open to publishing all kinds of original, well-conceived, and well-executed pieces. You’ll see some fantastic examples in the coming weeks and months covering a range of topics from working as contractual laborer in higher education to the role of web-based scholarly production in an increasingly competitive and connected field to a research briefing of one of the AAR’s grant recipients.

For readers looking for continuity, all the best of RSN will still be published here. In fact, right now you'll be able to find an article by Gail Hamner writing for Not for Women Only on work-life balance and a brand new issue of Spotlight on Teaching (now available as a full-text download) focusing on teaching new religious movements. In the coming weeks we'll have an article appearing in the In the Public Interest column, and Spotlight on Theological Education is scheduled for publication in April. These "legacy" columns, as I've dubbed them, are currently accessible from the main menu as well as the bottom half of the homepage. The site is populated with content from 2013 and 2014, and I'll import earlier articles as time allows. As RSN publishes more content, the site will change and we'll be able to generate categories to make articles easier to group and find. For now, however, everything published to RSN can be located by navigating to the Articles tab in the menu or through the search function at the top right of every page, and most content will have a run on the homepage in the days following publication.

None of this would be possible without the commitment of RSN’s truly amazing advisory board. Their guidance, input, and direction has led to what you see and what you will see at RSN. Donna Bowman, Martin Kavka, Kristian Petersen, and I have been working together since September of last year to make RSN a publication worthy of their colleagues’ and students’ writing. Their collective wisdom, collegiality, and creativity are remarkable. Each has done so much behind the scenes, and I owe them many thanks in gratitude.

I would be remiss not to mention as a quick, final note that RSN will go through some growing pains, and we'll make changes as necessary. If we've glaringly overlooked something or you want to make a comment about the site, please feel free to contact me. I welcome feedback of any kind and will do my best to incorporate your suggestions and critiques as RSN grows.

The gist of it? RSN's back, and we've got a lot in store.

Sarah Levine is the editor of Religious Studies News.

Welcome by Rameshng, on Flickr
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