BASR 2019: The State of the Discipline

Vivian Asimos and Theodora Wildcroft took the opportunity to ask the delegates of BASR 2019 what inspired them about the conference theme, their opinion about major trends in the discipline, and how they were personally feeling about REF 2021.
2019
BASR
Conferences
REF
visualising cultures

When Archive Meets A.I. – Computational Humanities Research on a Danish Secular Saint

In this week’s podcast, Katrine Frøkjaer Baunvig discusses preliminary results from the research project “Waking the Dead”. This project aims to build an a.i. bot of Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872), a Danish “secular saint” considered to be the father of modern Denmark, who contributed immensely into generating a national consciousness through his writings, both in a political and religious way.
artificial intelligence
computational humanities
Denmark
Grundtvig
machine learning
word embedding

How Religious Freedom Makes Religion

Tisa Wenger tells David Robertson how local, national, and international regimes of religious freedom have produced and reproduced the category 'religion' and its others in the modern world.
American religion
critical
Law
native Americans
Religious freedom
tisa wenger
USA

Natural Selection In the Evolution of Religion

In this week's podcast, professor Armin Geertz outlines an answer elaborating on the arguments presented in his co-authored book The Emergence and Evolution of Religion by Means of Natural Selection. He argues that there are multilevel selection processes that happen within different sociocultural formations, and these are key to understanding how religion has evolved throughout history.
cognitive science of religion
evolution of religion
natural selection
sociocultural evolution

When Islam Is Not a Religion

Asma Uddin is the author of When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America's Fight for Religious Freedom. In this book, Uddin examines an alarming trend to redefine Islam as a political ideology, not a religion. In our conversation, we track the history of this movement to redefine Islam and its implications for the rights of Muslims. We discuss the widespread presumption among American progressives that courts tend to protect religious freedom for Christians, but not for Muslims, and we examine particular stories that support and problematize that narrative. In particular, Uddin provides vivid examples of how American courts have reacted to arguments that Islam is not a religion.
Definition
Islam
Islamophobia
Law
Religious freedom

Discourse, Australia Edition

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David Robertson
Breann Fallon, Carole Cusack and Ray Radford approach the Australian news from a Religious Studies perspective. We cover the appeal of Cardinal George Pell, the drama around Israel Folau, and the impact of Christianity on the recent Australian federal election results.
Australia
christianity
Discourse
News
Politics

Spatial Contestations and Conversions

Listeners to the Religious Studies Project, particularly in a European context, might be quite familiar with the sight of a former church building that has now turned derelict, or is being used for a purposes that perhaps it wasn’t intended for, or is being rejuvenated by another ‘religious’ community, another Christian community, or put to some other use. Chris is joined today by Daan Beekers to discuss spatial contestations and conversions, particularly looking at (former) church buildings in the Dutch context.
Churches
Contestation
conversion
Discourse
heritage
Mosques
Place
Space
The Netherlands
Urban Space

Philology and the Comparative Study of Myths

In this week’s podcasts, Dr. Paola Corrente gives us insights in how the use of the philological approach can be beneficial for, not only providing a common and solid framework for comparative research but also, for providing more suitable ways of classification according to linguistic criteria. Her work on the “dying gods” –i.e. gods that die but come back to life– of Ancient Greece and Mesopotamia, which draws on the concept formulated by James George Frazer, provides a case for this exercise.
comparative approach
linguistics
mediterranean
philology
source languages

Science Fiction, Video Games, and Religion

Science fiction and video games have come to the forefront of a new global resurgence, with the popularity reaching record numbers in regards to cinema, and video games. From classic science fiction, to sandbox video games that require hundreds of hours to complete fully, religiosity can be utilised and attached to certain actions, places, characters, and stories.This podcast explores what feature religion plays within an attachment to science fiction and video games, how seekers attach meaning, and seek belief in things that are 'out of this world,' as a means of both escapism, and hope of the future.
futurism.
religion
Science Fiction
Video Games

Religion, Food Waste, and Food Consumption

Anna Salonen explains how ethics is being involved in her studies of food waste and consumption by both religious and non-religious populations that live in affluent societies, such as Finland and Canada.
food charity
food consumption
food waste

Buddhism in the critical classroom

How do we deal with different cultural languages when teaching an Introduction to Buddhism course? Is cultural familiarity something to be broken immediately and displaced by new concepts and perspectives? Is it to be leveraged as devices for easy onboarding to other, more unfamiliar terms and ideas? Are they to be outright ignored? David Robertson is joined by Matthew Hayes
Buddhism
critical
non-western
pedagogy
teaching

Critical Approaches to Pre-Islamic Arabia and Early Islam

Given the way in which many introductory courses present the history of early Islam and pre-Islamic Arabia, we may be tempted to think that the historical facts were well established and the narrative uncontested. However, this is far from the case. What evidence do we actually have from this period, and how may it challenge the conventional narratives that have become canonised in sacred and academic histories? What misconceptions might be challenged by modern epigraphic work, or the application of Social Identity theories to ancient texts? And why might this matter for contemporary Islam, contemporary Islamic Studies, and the critical study of religion more broadly? Joining Chris to discuss these questions, is Dr Ilkka Lindstedt of the University of Helsinki.
Arabia
Archaeology
Epigraphy
History
Inscriptions
Islam
Qur'an
Social Identity Theory
Sources

Demystifying the Study of Religion

In this podcast we have a group discussion about Russell McCutcheon's new book, Religion in Theory and Practice: Demystifying the Field for Burgeoning Academics. Joining us on the podcast is not only the author himself, but two young scholars who also contributed to the book, Matt Sheedy and Tara Baldrick-Marone.
academics
adjuncts
graduate students
Jobs
McCutcheon
pedagogy
Practice
religion
Religious Studies
tenure
theory

Nonreligion, Religion, and Public Health

The link between religion/spirituality (RS) and health is a recurring theme in the empirical literature within the psychology and sociology of religion, medical studies, and other disciplines. Although this research is usually limited to correlational studies, RS is often interpreted to be an important causal factor in positive health outcomes. This has led some academics, NGO's, and governments to argue that the putative health benefits of RS might be harnessed for public health and public policy more broadly. For example, the United States Army has recently launched a “spiritual health” program, and in the United Kingdom there is an ongoing debate about whether mindfulness meditation should be taught in schools. Government initiatives aside, what if the nonreligious are equally as healthy? In this podcast, Thomas J. Coleman III interviews Dr. David Speed on how research using nonreligious and nonbelieving samples problematizes some of the underlying assumptions of the relationship between RS and public health.
Health
Nonreligion
policy
Psychology of Religion
Public health
religion
Spirituality

What is Mindfulness? A Critical Religious Studies Approach

Any casual user of social media can’t have missed the increasing number of adverts for dozens of ‘mindfulness’ apps. Perhaps you have encountered the term in the workplace or in a healthcare setting? It seems that, in the contemporary West, mindfulness is everywhere. But what is it? How popular is it? What is its connection to particular forms of Buddhism? Can it ever be considered wholly secular or is it necessarily religious? And why does this matter, and for whom? Today, Chris is joined by Ville Husgafvel of the University of Helsinki to discuss these important questions surrounding an increasingly pervasive phenomenon that has received little engagement from the critical religious studies community.
alternative spirituality
Buddhism
critical religion
meditation
Mindfulness
Secularity
Spirituality
world religions