Second ARSP Advisory Board Meeting

On September 14-16, 2017, we were delighted to host our second ARSP advisory board meeting in Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio State and Michigan State leadership teams met together with five members of our advisory board: Vicki Brennan, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Vermont; Pamela Klassen, Professor of Religion, University of Toronto; Laura Kwerel, Senior Producer, Interfaith Voices; Ely Lyonblum, ethnomusicologist and Research Grants Officer, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto; and Kristen Mapes, Digital Humanities Coordinator, Michigan State University. Over a day and a half of productive conversation, we received constructive feedback on mockups of the ARSP website, discussed the ARSP’s broader intellectual objectives, wrestled with some of its key ethical challenges, and plotted next steps for further development and expansion. We also enjoyed good food, good drink, and good company!

The meeting left us energized and motivated to get back to work with a renewed sense of mission and purpose. We are grateful to all of our advisory board members for their time, energy, and insight. We are also grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation, OSU’s Center for the Study of Religion, and OSU’s Research Commons for providing funding and material support to make this meeting possible. We look forward to sharing publicly some of the products of our conversation when the ARSP website launches in spring 2018!

The ATL Maps Project and the ARSP

ARSP Advisory Board member and project co-originator, Kathryn McClymond, has a wonderful blog post up about her work with the ATL Maps project, in which she reflects on the value of sound mapping for studying and teaching about Atlanta’s religious diversity. We are excited about bringing our projects together in the near future. Stay tuned!

Lauren Pond wins First Book Prize!

Congratulations to ARSP multimedia content producer Lauren Pond, who won the 2016 Duke University Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography for her color series, Test of Faith. Her photography project, in progress since 2011, documents a family of Pentecostal serpent handlers in West Virginia. In fall 2017, Lauren’s photographs and narrative essay will be published in a book by CDS and Duke University Press.

To read more about Lauren’s project, read an interview with her here or check out her professional website.

Lauren’s book illustrates her sensitive eye–and ear–for the complex dynamics of religious pluralism in the U.S., which also informs her work for the ARSP. We are delighted that she has received this recognition and are looking forward to seeing the finished product. Congratulations, Lauren!

Sounds of the Holiday Season

Recordings by J. Caroline Toy, Isaac Weiner, and Lauren Pond
Audio editing by Lauren Pond
Photographs by Lauren Pond and Isaac Weiner

Religion is often portrayed as a discrete entity – as something that’s confined within the four walls of a church, mosque, temple, synagogue, or the like. Our current work on the American Religious Sounds Project begins to challenge these assumptions. Through our field recordings and essays, we have started to explore how religious sound can seep out of its traditional confines and interact with the surrounding sonic environment – sometimes in a confrontational manner, and sometimes in a more symbiotic one. We’re examining how sound can serve as a point of contact between different faiths, between religious and secular spheres, and among religious followers themselves.

It has been particularly intriguing to listen for overlapping sounds during the holiday season, when many faith communities celebrate in the public sphere. The following audio clips and collages illustrate some of the sonic diversity and overlap of the holiday season in Columbus, Ohio.

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Weiner offers public lecture on ARSP

On Wednesday, December 7, ARSP co-director Isaac Weiner gave a talk on “Listening for Religion in Central Ohio,” as part of the OSU Center for the Study of Religion’s community lecture series. Isaac discussed some of the ARSP’s goals and objectives, presented the pilot site designed by MSU students during the summer of 2016, and described some of our short-term and long-term plans moving forward. He also played some audio clips, of course! We listened to the overlapping sounds of church bells and a #NoDAPL protest, music at the local Sikh gurdwara, a Serbian Orthodox church fish fry, Tibetan Buddhist chanting, Eckankar “HU” song, and a Krampus parade. Great conversation followed, about similarities and differences among these varied recordings, what if anything makes them “religious,” and how listening for religion might change the way we think about American pluralism.

Prof. Weiner discusses the ARSP with audience members

We were especially delighted that some of the community members featured in these clips were with us in person to discuss their experience participating in the project! We look forward to more opportunities to present our work publicly. If you’re interested in an ARSP team member visiting your community, please let us know!