March 03 2024

By Russell T. McCutcheon, University of Alabama

Desktop computer screen showing the webpage for AAR's Academic Relations Committee, blue text on a white screen

In October 2023, I hosted a webinar for the American Academy of Religion’s Academic Relations Committee (ARC), which I currently chair, devoted to the topic of department mergers (a topic well known to many in our field). My guest was Steve Berkwitz of Missouri State, former chair of their Department of Religious Studies and now head of the newly formed (and considerably larger) unit, the Department of Languages, Cultures, and Religions. It combines what many campuses would call their Department of Modern Languages with Religious Studies.

Rebecca Alpert, Rita Nakashima Brock, and Mary E. Hunt

In March 2024, Judith Plaskow will be the first feminist scholar of religion and AAR member to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Claudia Schippert, Whitney Bauman, and Ann Gleig, AAR Program Committee

students entering a school in Pasco County, FL

AAR Program Committee members Claudia Schippert, Whitney Bauman, and Ann Gleig reside in Florida. They share some context about the current situation in the state and resources for updates and action.

Interview with Niloofar Haeri

Kristian Peterson interviews Niloofar Haeri, AAR Book Award winner

Niloofar Haeri joins Kristian Petersen to discuss her award-winning bookSay What Your Longing Heart Desires: Women, Prayer, and Poetry in Iran (Stanford University Press). Through the book, Haeri examines the everyday prayer practices of Iranian women as the basis for reflecting on the relationship between prayer and poetry and on how ideas about religiosity debated in classical Persian poetry inform the world of prayer.

Rebecca Alpert, Temple University

Providing students with skills they will use throughout their lives as writers should be part of graduate education, no matter what career paths they choose.

Rebecca Alpert, Temple University

woman in hat browsing bookshelves

Rebecca Alpert explores what we should be teaching graduate students in the humanities today—such as how to navigate writing a book-length work.

Interview with Sam Gill

Sam Gill joins Kristian Petersen to discuss his award-winning 2021 book, The Proper Study of Religion: Building on Jonathan Z. Smith (OUP, 2020). Through the book, Gill invites the reader to build on Smith’s work by considering the significance of Smith’s tendency towards jest and play, the centrality of incongruity to Smith’s theories of religion, and how to academically evaluate the category of “experience.”

Gill's book won AAR's 2021 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the analytical-descriptive studies category. He is a professor emeritus of religion studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Molly Bassett, Georgia State University

students with notebooks open on laps

The essays in this issue of Spotlight on Teaching highlight faculty perspectives on equity-focused pedagogies from a variety of institutional and career perspectives. Our intention is to contribute to ongoing conversations about how faculty address issues of equity and create more equitable classrooms in ways that readers will find provocative, productive, and adaptable in their own contexts. The idea for collecting essays around equity-focused pedagogies came from my own encounter with Asao Inoue’s scholarship in a Writing Across the Curriculum workshop at my home institution. You’ll find Inoue’s work alongside many other recommended readings linked in this issue.

Interview with Yuhang Li

Yuhang Li joins Kristian Petersen to discuss her award-winning book, Becoming Guanyin: Artistic Devotion of Buddhist Women in Late Imperial China (Columbia University Press, 2021). Li's book provides anglophone readers with an unparalleled and badly needed authoritative study on one of the most important figures in Chinese myth and religious practice, particularly with respect to women's experience in late imperial China. 

Interview with Maria E. Doerfler

Kristian Peterson interviews Maria E. Doerfler, AAR Book Award winner

Maria E. Doerfler joins Kristian Petersen to discuss her award-winning book, Jephthah’s Daughter, Sarah’s Son: The Death of Children in Late Antiquity (University of California Press, 2020). Through the book, Doerfler plumbs the fragmentary historical record for evidence of how members of Christian communities in Late Antiquity responded to the deaths of children.

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