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NAASR Note: New Executive Officer

NA subcommittee of NAASR’s executive council nominated Brad Stoddard as the person to follow Craig Martin as NAASR’s next Executive Secretary/Treasurer, as Craig’s 5-year term ends this summer. Although originally appointed to the nominating committee himself (inasmuch as he is a member of the executive), Brad excused himself when conversations turned to his possible candidacy. And the executive has now voted by email and agrees with their nomination. So we’re happy to announce that Brad—a tenure-track professor at McDaniel College (where, by the way, he works with former NAASR President, Greg Alles) and grad of Florida State, who studies, among other things, the role of religion in the US’s prison system—will assume this role when Craig’s term ends.

You may have seen Brad on a variety of NAASR panels or participating in some of our workshops, over the past few years. He’s also involved in The Religious Studies Project—so he’s already an active member of the field and has the energy and organizational skills to follow Craig and to keep Craig’s innovations moving in the right direction.

Seats Still Available for the NAASR Job Workshop

NAASR’s 2015 workshop, “…But What Do You Study?”: A Workshop on Theory and Method in the Job Market, still has some seats available. Contact Mike Graziano if you’re interested—details below.


This session, to be held as a part of the NAASR program this November in Atlanta, proposes to explore the employment challenges facing early career scholars who are interested in issues of theory & method in the study of religion, through both a discussion and workshop. This session addresses issues important to junior NAASR members (notably, but not exclusively, ABDs now entering/about to enter the job market) by demonstrating how a professional organization can provide a practical and strategic forum for job-market advice.

The following activities will take place in this 90 min. workshop:

1. Open Discussion

The first half of the session will be devoted to an open discussion, led by Martha G. Newman (University of Texas at Austin) and Merinda Simmons(University of Alabama). Each will begin by providing brief introductory remarks (approx. 5 minutes each) on what they each see as constructive and strategic advice for early career scholars who are navigating the academic job market, aimed initially at how applicants can be strategic not only in trying to ascertain a Department’s needs but also in negotiating potential theoretical and political landmines in the field. A discussion (35 min.) will follow in which participants can discuss these issues in an informal atmosphere and share information. This guided discussion will therefore focus on four central questions, namely, how might early career scholars interested in theory and method:

  • represent themselves strategically on the job market?
  • apply to calls for general positions, fitting themselves to broad departmental needs?
  • shape their cover letters and CVs to appeal to a wide range of departments?
  • respond to critiques that they have no “specialty,” “content,” or “area of study”?

The discussion is designed to reflect different opinions regarding the place of theory & method in the job market, as well as in the study of religion more generally.

2. Workshop

In the second half, participants will break into small groups, each led by a more senior NAASR member. Building on the previous discussion, participants will work within their groups to workshop how they might best represent themselves, their work, and their scholarly interests on the job market. The smaller setting will allow for more “hands on” advice, taking as examples the CV and cover letters participants can bring with them to the session. Simply focusing on what one says in a cover letter’s opening paragraph, for example, or how one orders a C.V., will provide the way into larger questions of representation in these small group discussions. Participants in this section will have an opportunity to work with John E. Llewellyn(Missouri State), Russell McCutcheon (University of Alabama), Martha G. Newman (University of Texas at Austin), Steven Ramey (University of Alabama), and Merinda Simmons (University of Alabama).

Scholars of all concentrations within the field of Religious Studies are welcome to join the workshop—whether a NAASR member or not—though preference will be given to early career scholars, particularly those at the senior ABD stage (i.e., those already on or going onto the job market). Shortly before the workshop, but once the participants have been identified, each participant will be invited to share with the other members, via email or a closed social media group, their academic focus/dissertation topic, level of teaching experience, their level of experience with the job market as well as their own current position (e.g., PhD Student, Postdoc, Instructor, etc.) in order to ensure all participants come to the meeting somewhat familiar with the diversity of experience in the workshop. In addition, each participant will be invited to bring one sample cover letter and one sample CV which may be used in the small group activities. More details will follow after the participant list has been finalized.

Space is limited to 25 participants in this NAASR workshop. To register, please e-mail the organizer, Michael Graziano (mgraziano@fsu.edu). In this request to register please include your current degree or professional career stage.

In Support of BASR and the Study of Religion at Stirling

Below is the text sent on 4 September 2015 to the University of Stirling on behalf of NAASR’s Executive Council.

On behalf of the Executive Council of the North American Association for the Study of Religion, a member of the International Association for the History of Religions, we are writing you to offer our strong support of the September 3rd statement issued by the British Association for the Study of Religion. We agree that “Colleagues and students from Stirling have been at the forefront of critical study and debate about religion,” and that the academic and nondenominational study of religion “has a key role within higher education institutions.” Consequently, we echo their call for you to  “reconsider the closure of an independent department that is greatly valued nationally and internationally.”

Sincerely,.

Russell McCutcheon
University of Alabama
NAASR President
.
Aaron Hughes
University of Rochester
NAASR Vice President
.
Craig Martin
St. Thomas Aquinas College
NAASR Executive Secretary/Treasurer

NAASR Note: Religious Studies, Liberal Arts, and the Public University

***Deadline extended to 31 January 2015***

The following CFP might be of interest to NAASR members:

Religious Studies, Liberal Arts, and the Public University

The conference will examine religious studies methods, curriculum, pedagogy, and ethos in terms of the field’s relationship to two key social locations, the liberal arts and the public university. Proposals are invited for papers and presentations on this theme. The organizers are particularly interested in the following topics: the intersection or disjunction of religious studies methods with the fields of humanities and social sciences; what religious studies contributes to liberal education; disciplinary ethos in the context of public universities bound by the First Amendment; the public university as fertile context for religious studies as an analytical discipline; history of religious studies at public universities; curricular and pedagogical challenges of religious studies in both liberal arts and public university contexts; the departmental model and its alternatives, especially the presence of religious studies as part of multidisciplinary departments; the articulation of the value of religious studies in an age of austerity; and particular challenges for religious studies in online or hybrid pedagogy. Proposals falling under the conference title but not specifically listed here will also be considered. Please send proposals (250 word maximum) by email attachment to Professor Rebecca Raphael at rr23 at txstate dot edu by January 31, 2015. The conference will be held April 10-11 at Texas State University, San Marcos, TX. Sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, the Department of Philosophy, and the NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor in Humanities.

NAASR Note: When Is the Big Tent Too Big?

NAASR and the “Metacriticism of Biblical Studies” Program Unit of the Society of Biblical Literature are calling for proposals for a joint session at the 2015 annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia; the call focuses on the generally inclusive nature of religious studies as a whole:

When Is the Big Tent Too Big? We seek papers that critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the “big tent” philosophy that governs professional organizations, publishing, and departments in religious studies and biblical studies. This “big tent” mixes etic and methodological naturalist perspectives with emic, confessional, and theological approaches to religion along with opportunities for interfaith dialogue. Contributors to this session identify the impact the Big Tent has on the secular study of religion and sacred texts and its status within the large world of secular disciplines of the humanities and social sciences.

For more information or to submit a proposal, please see the SBL webiste.

2015 Call for Proposals: Theory in a Time of Excess

Although the terms “method and theory” can now be found in course titles, curricula/degree requirements, area/comprehensive exams, and listed as competencies on the CVs of scholars from across a wide array of subfields, and while a variety of groups at annual scholarly conferences itemize theorizing among the topics that they routinely examine, it seems that few of the many examples of doing theory today involve either met-reflection on the practical conditions of the field or rigorously explanatory studies of religion’s cause(s) or function(s). So, despite the appearances of tremendous advances in the field since NAASR’s founding as the lone place for carrying out theory in the study of religion—when “theory” was indeed a rare word and was often replaced with the more neutral “approach”—it can be argued that little has changed.

The upcoming 2015 meeting in Atlanta marks the organization’s 30th anniversary and so the NAASR program will be divided into two related parts: (i) an invited Presidential Panel on the history of NAASR and the changing (or not) circumstances of its present and possible future and (ii) four separate panels (all leading up to the Presidential Panel), two hours in length each, all exploring a variety of views on how one carries out theorizing in the academic study of religion today—when almost everyone claims to be a theorist but few seem to do theory.

Each of the four panels will focus on one substantive statement on what theory is (or is not) and what can (or cannot) be accomplished by adopting a particular understanding of the requirements of theorizing in the human sciences. This call for proposals is therefore devoted to having NAASR members submit approx. 250 word abstracts from which the Program Committee will select four papers, each of which presses members to consider different issues involved with defining and doing theory in the academic study of religion. The abstract must make clear the submitters understanding of what constitutes theory while also summarizing the direction of his/her argument and any examples/data domains with which the presenter will work.

Note: Proposals selected will need to result in substantive and original essays, of approx. 4,000-5,000 words in length, that will be submitted to NAASR in PDF form by no later than October 1, 2015, for pre-distribution to all members. Also, these papers will not be read in Atlanta but, due to the pre-distribution, presenters will have 15 minutes to orally summarize their arguments. Respondents will then be invited by the Program Committee to work with each paper, applying and testing its argument.

Our goal is to publish the collection in MTSR or another appropriate venue.

Submit all proposals, by no later than February 15, 2015, as PDF file attachments to:

Prof. Aaron Hughes

NAASR Vice President and Chair of the Program Committee

University of Rochester

aaron.hughes at rochester dot edu

(You can download a printable flyer here.)

Announcement: New Officers

At the annual NAASR business meeting in San Diego last weekend we voted in new officers. Naomi Goldenberg and K. Merinda Simmons were elected to serve as councilors on the executive council; Russell T. McCutcheon was elected as president, and Aaron Hughes as vice president.

Many thanks to those who are rolling off of the executive council—Chris Lehrich, Tim Lubin, and Matt Sheedy—for all your service to the institution these last few years.