December 06 2023

Zip bag filled with yellow pins that read "hire humanities"

Ask Academic Abby about what's bugging you right now. Several women in the profession have volunteered to answer your questions about professional concerns. Contact them!

Early this month, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced the awarding of $79 million in grants for over 300 humanities projects, many of which support religious studies research.

A total of over $2 million dollars in grants was awarded to projects focusing on religious studies. Many of the grantees are active members of the AAR. We extend warm congratulations to our following members:

David Albertson (University of Southern California)

Project Title: The Tegernsee Debate on Love and Reason: Mystical Letters and Treatises in Late Medieval Germany

Project Description: Preparation of a one-volume English translation of fifteenth-century Latin documents written at Tegernsee Monastery, Germany, debating the value of Christian piety and reason in identifying common ground with Judaism and Islam.

by Amy Elizabeth Jacober, PhD

Even as I write this, I am watching my children play in the backyard. I woke early had a cup of tea, finished one article to hit today’s deadline before making breakfast. Today was a banner day. There are plenty of days that I wake early with the best of intentions only to find a small child wanting—no, needing—to be held for the precious twenty minutes before we really hit the ground running. I have to make choices. My students, quite frankly, rarely care if they have to wait an extra day or two for feedback. There will always be one more comment to make, one more reference letter to write, and one more chapter to edit. I am a Type-A personality by nature, and in previous years I really could accomplish a ridiculous amount. That is still the picture of who I am in my head but reality is that there are just not enough hours in the day.

by Kimberly Carfore, California Institute of Integral Studies

Every morning is the same—my day begins with a trip to the coffeepot. On the way to the kitchen I pass a printout of my thirty-week marathon training schedule posted on the wall next to the refrigerator. With a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I glance to see what my body should prepare for later in the day—two miles, eight miles, 12 miles? I say “what my body should prepare for” and not “what I should prepare my body for.” This subtle distinction embodies the way I balance my work and life as a doctoral student.

by Kate Blanchard, Alma College

blurred image person taking a photo of a mirror

When it comes to the time-related aspects of achieving work/life balance, I’ve been luckier than basically every working woman—certainly every working mom—I know. My graduate program in Christian ethics was necessarily supportive of its procreating students, so my “good years” were not “eaten up” by grad school. I got a job at a family-friendly college, highly understanding about parental duties (even to the chagrin of some of my child-free colleagues). My family has inherited enough money to enable us to live well in this rural town on my modest salary, such that my introverted spouse has happily been a stay-at-home dad for years.

Michelle Voss Roberts interviewed by Kristian Petersen

What can study of the beliefs and practices of one tradition bring to bear on another? Michelle Voss Roberts, associate professor of theology at Wake Forest University's divinity school, discusses how ethnographic study of Indian and South Asian Hindu rituals and aesthetics can bring new theological space to explore Christian practice. Using the Indian framework of "rasa," loosely defined as emotion or taste, Roberts suggests that Christian scholars, theologians, and practitioners can reexamine and experience the Divine through mood and affect. Robert's 2014 book, Tastes of the Divine: Hindu and Christian Theologies of Emotion (Fordham University Press), won the American Academy of Religion's 2015 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion for constructive-reflective studies.

by Stephen Kidd, National Humanities Alliance

Several years ago, the National Humanities Alliance invited Folger Shakespeare Library Director Mike Witmore to testify on Capitol Hill in support of federal funding for the humanities. In his finely-crafted remarks, Witmore drew on his experience teaching Shakespeare to engineering students at Carnegie Mellon University to make the claim that “a lot of what makes us tick cannot be stated as an equation.” At the end of his remarks, he posed a question to the committee: “What would happen if you subtracted Shakespeare from our world, from our schools, and from our culture?” He then answered, “… America would not have produced a Lincoln, a Frederick Douglass, or an Emily Dickinson, all of whom were steeped in the plays of this writer.”

When Witmore concluded, the Republican chair of the subcommittee—whom I paraphrase here—said: “I think I can speak for the whole committee in saying that we get it. We care about this. But, our constituents don’t ask for the humanities. So my challenge to the advocates in this room is: get our constituents to ask for the humanities.”

by Mary L. Keller, University of Wyoming

Airplane taking off, distorted by heat

As an applied historian of religions, I am working with Rod Morrison, MBA, a local Wyoming organic farmer, to consider “Ecology as the Arbiter of Value in the 21st Century.” In a paper we developed for a 2014 Critical Finance Studies conference at the University of Amsterdam, and drawing from Wes Jackson’s work in Consulting the Genius of the Place (Counterpoint 2011) and Emmanuel Pastereich’s promotion of an international eco-currency, Rod and I proposed a currency based on the calorie, what we call the FCV—food calorie value. What does the FCV have to do with Laurie Zoloth’s 2014 presidential address to the AAR in which she proposed an Annual Meeting sabbatical every seven years?

by Lisa Nichols Hickman, Duquesne University

"Parable of the Good Samaritan." Oil on canvas. Jan Wijnants, 1670.

When a nurse is exhausted by the ills on his hospital floor, we might diagnose the problem as compassion fatigue: A form of traumatic stress disorder affecting overwhelmed caregivers, compassion fatigue takes a physical, financial, vocational, emotional and spiritual toll.

Diagnosed among nurses and journalists, Nicholas Kristof has argued that compassion fatigue has become widespread because of pervasive news media coverage of crises around the world. I wonder what compassion fatigue looks like in academia?

In the medical field, compassion fatigue is exhaustion from caring. Perhaps a new, related diagnosis is needed for life in the twenty-first century: How do you describe someone who is exhausted, not from caring, but simply from living?

by Fred Glennon, Le Moyne College

Interest in understanding and working with and for the marginalized is a growing concern within the academy. The president-elect of the American Academy of Religion, Eddie Glaude, has declared that his focus during his presidential year will be on vulnerable populations. A yearly review of the AAR Annual Meeting program will find panels drawing from research with and teaching of various vulnerable populations. As all of the authors in this issue will attest, there is no group more vulnerable than those incarcerated in the various levels of our prison system: city, county, state, and federal.