ARSP at the AAR

The ARSP team recently traveled to Denver, Colorado, for the American Academy of Religion (AAR) Annual Meeting, held this year at the Colorado Convention Center. Each November, the AAR conference brings together thousands of scholars, journalists, artists, publishers, and others from across the nation for several days of panel discussions, exhibits, and events.

ARSP co-PIs Amy DeRogatis and Isaac Weiner presented in a Wildcard Session on “Teaching Local Religion with Digital Humanities: Objects, Methods, Pedagogies.” Reflecting on their experience integrating the ARSP into the classroom, they discussed how participating in the project has introduced undergraduate students to key practical, theoretical, and ethical questions in the study of religion. Their presentation drew on insights they elaborate further in a recently published article, “Turning students into scholars: Using digital methods to teach the critical study of religion.” ARSP pilot site coordinators Christopher Cantwell and Rachel M. Lindsey also participated on the panel.

ARSP Graduate Project Manager Caroline Toy, whose dissertation research focuses on fan cultures and religion, participated in a panel titled “Fictional Religion and Fan Fiction in Science Fiction and Fantasy.” Her paper was titled ” ‘Faith in the Legend, Even If It’s Fiction’: Emergences of Religiosity in Doctor Who Fan Commentary.” She also attended a variety of panels on religion and popular culture and American religion, as well as presentations by her colleagues.

As part of the AAR Arts Series, throughout the conference, ARSP multimedia producer Lauren Pond exhibited prints from her recent photography book, Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation, which won the prestigious 2016 Duke Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. Test of Faith provides a deeply nuanced portrayal of Pentecostal serpent handlers – specifically, the life, death, and legacy of Pastor Mack Wolford, and Lauren’s relationship with his family. At the conclusion of the exhibit, Lauren gave a talk about the project, how it has transformed her as a photographer, and how it has inspired her current work in audio. She also enjoyed attending panel sessions about religion and visual culture, as well as meeting other scholars who share her interests.

ARSP Presentation at Art Institute of Chicago

In September, ARSP co-directors Isaac Weiner and Amy DeRogatis participated in a public conversation with artist James Webb at the opening of his sound exhibit “Prayer” at the Art Institute of Chicago. Weiner and DeRogatis co-presented a brief introduction to ARSP’s goals and research activities and provided questions to guide the following conversation. Nenette Louarca-Shoaf, Director of Adult Learning and Associate Curator of Interpretation at the Art Institute of Chicago, moderated the lively conversation among the presenters, audience, and James Webb. Here is a link to a video recording of the program.


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!