Podcasts

Straight White American Jesus, the podcast

In this week’s podcast, Skidmore College Professor Bradley Onishi speaks about Straight White American Jesus, a podcast he co-hosts with Dan Miller that blends insider religious experience with academic expertise about American Evangelicalism. “The goal is never reduction,” Onishi argues about the mix of insider/outsider frames. Instead, he shares how the podcast tries to provide better access to complex religious worlds and how careful historical framing and rigorous critical analysis can humanize rather than demonize evangelicals. Looking honestly at religion, warts and all, is worth the effort since it leads us to increased religious literacy outcomes designed to understand the “human condition writ large.”

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Straight White American Jesus, the Podcast

Podcast with Bradley Onishi (25 November 2019).

Interviewed by David McConeghy

Transcribed by Helen Bradstock.

Audio and transcript available at:

https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/straight-white-american-jesus-the-podcast/

PDF at https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Onishi_-_Straight_White_American_Jesus-_the_Podcast_1.1.pdf

David McConeghy (DMcC): Welcome. My name is David McConeghy. And today I’m joined by Dr Bradley Onishi, Associate Professor of Religion at Skidmore College in New York. He’s the co-author of Christian Mysticism: An Introduction to Contemporary Theoretical Approaches; the author of The Sacrality of the Secular, a major work about the philosophy of religion. Today he’s here as the co-host, with Dan Miller, of the really excellent podcast, Straight White American Jesus. Brad, thanks so much for joining us today.

Bradley Onishi (BO): Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

DMcC: So I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while now, and I know you share it with everyone. But for those that haven’t come across this yet, where did you get the idea for this podcast?

BO: So in the kind-of aftermath of Trump’s election Dan and I got together and talked about wanting to share our stories, and also wanting to share kind-of our scholarship on evangelicalism and American religion. For those who haven’t listened, my story is basically that I converted to evangelicalism when I was fourteen. And by the time I was twenty I was a full-time minister, I was married, and I was really on my way toward a kind-of life in ministry and in the evangelical world. All of that changed, of course. And I’m still in the religion game – as I like to say – but just from a much different perspective. And so, for Dan and I, we wanted to help folks have an insider perspective and understanding of white evangelicalism in this country. We also wanted to provide a kind-of historical and social scientific lens on white evangelicalism. Our major goal is basically this: we want to explain, basically, why Donald Trump appears more like Jesus than any other politician white evangelicals have ever encountered. And so we do that through both the telling of our stories and a kind-of tracing the history of evangelicalism in this country.

DMcC: I found that mix of personal experience blending in to academic rigour, blending into full-on interviews with really important scholar like R. Marie Griffith and Randall Balmer. It’s really compelling. Did you know from the beginning that you had that kind-of really effective dialogue between those two halves? That you and Dan both share, right, share a background?

BO: Yes, you know it all comes so naturally. Because evangelicalism was my world. I mean I was. . . . It’s hard to explain how zealous I was, when I converted. I was that sixteen year-old kid who went from sneaking around the back of movie theatres to do teenage stuff, to standing out in front of the movie theatre, trying to convert people. And so when evangelicalism is that much a part of your life reflecting on it is sometimes painful, but it comes very naturally. So Dan and I knew we could do that. We also knew we had a passion for enabling . . . or creating a platform for scholars to help a wider audience understand, like: how is that more white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump than for George W Bush, or Mitt Romney? How does that happen? Well, we knew there were people out there who could help us understand that. And so we wanted to just provide space for those analytical, historical, critical, sociological perspectives.

DMcC: What I take from the moment that we’re in right now, is that we really have a great opportunity, right, as scholars, as outsiders, to kind-of present some of the research that’s been done, especially into those theoretical perspectives that the public often doesn’t see. Because they’re framed in language or framed in books that are hard to market to public audiences. But the insider approach really gives you that colloquial, fundamental access to an authenticity, when you speak about it, that makes it – when you switch, then, to the academic narrative – so much more alive. When you say it’s hard to convince audiences of how zealous you were, there was the moment when you were describing in the podcast, how you would go, in the high school lunch room, up to students that were your high school peers and evangelise to them at lunch. Because you were convinced that their mortal souls were at risk, and if you did not do everything you could do at that moment that you were going to leave them behind.

BO: Yes. And you know one of the goals is not to soften, or make more palatable the politics and culture of evangelicals in the Trump era. We are not here to sort-of “make nice” in any case. But what I do want to do, by telling stories like the one you just mentioned, I want people to be able to think themselves into the places of the evangelicals, not so that they can agree, not so that they can accept it, but so they can see the human element in it. It’s so easy to reduce those we disagree with – especially those who seem to be harming our public sphere – to just reduce them to something demented, something that’s not right. And just sort-of push them away as hopeless and helpless and whatever. My hope is by sharing my story, and Dan’s too, that we can show folks that this is a very human culture. It’s a very human set of events. It’s a very human community. And if you can get a window into that, maybe it can help you when you’re at a school board meeting, or you’re at your election for the city council, or when you’re dealing with parents on your kids’ soccer team, or having a Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe it can give you a better approach to how to discuss these things with your neighbours, with your fellow citizens, with your colleagues – whoever that may be. And so all that is to say, for me, that the personal element is really, really important. It adds something, I think, that makes it easier for a general audience to identify with. And it also makes it easier for those who are ex-evangelicals, like I am, to feel that they have a way in to understand more of the sort-of academic discourse surrounding the culture that they’re arguing from.

DMcC: Right. And for those perhaps outside of the US, it’s been a very kind-of English language discussion and very much on Twitter with folks like Chris Stroop, and others who #Exevangelical, are talking about their de-conversion experiences. There really is that kind-of two sides to what’s going on, in the sense that there are some folks that worry that perhaps the level of honesty that you’re approaching this topic with is unfair to evangelicals. And I think, all of the folks that I’ve heard from have been really forceful advocates for: “We’re not going to dismiss what’s wrong here, and we’re going to call out things that we see are wrong, and we feel like we have a space to do that.” But on the other hand it is about explaining experience and opening dialogue and trying to find the allies that are there for you. On the other hand, though, do you think . . . ? (Laughs) I’m guessing that maybe there’s been some push-back as well? Can you talk about the kinds of different responses that you’ve received from those that have been very supportive, as ex-evangelical community members, to those that are remaining evangelical, and may have some less than kind words for the work that you’re doing.

BO: Yes, I mean just to go to the beginning of your question there: my goal is not to. . . . I’m a scholar. And even when I’m talking about my own experiences, I want to be able to have an analytical lens. And so on our podcasts and with the work we’re doing, the goal is never reduction; the goal is never demonisation. The goal is always to say: “We want to examine these issues as best as we can.” And that includes returning to sources. That includes returning to documents and facts and histories that have been covered over that people don’t know about. We did this in one of our very first episodes with the abortion myth. Randall Balmer came on and . . . . Let me outline the history for you regarding the formation of the religious right. It was not about abortion. And the idea that it was is revisionist history in service of an evangelical propaganda or mission. In fact it was race. And my response to those who would have a pop at that, I would say “We’re doing historical work here. If you feel like our historical analysis is off in some way, we can talk about that. But just to say that somehow pointing these things out is unfair or not warranted, I just don’t buy that.”

DMcC: That’s such a good response. Because, you know, it allows you the space to say let’s take Darren Dochuk who would place oil, and empire, and commercialism, maybe even above race, at the start of the kind-of consolidation of the religious right. And it gives you that space to say, “Even scholars have disagreements about this. But we can all narrate the problems that we’re seeing at the same time.”

BO: I think that’s exactly right. And it leads to who has kind-of responded to the podcast. I can say that we’ve had two groups respond very positively. One are ex-evangelicals who’ve said “ You’re able to speak my language. You speak the language of evangelicalism that I came out of. And yet what you’re doing is giving me a road into understanding the history and all of the cultural and political factors that shaped that religious community that I’m now emerging from. What it’s doing is helping me kind-of put my world back together, after sort-of coming out of a very strict religious community that most of the time made no sense to me.” We’ve also had many people say, “I’m a secular person in Portland” or “I’m a Reformed Jew in New York City. I have no idea how to understand why white evangelicals are so in love with Donald Trump and why they vote, and act, and think the way they do, so you’re helping me gain a window into a culture that for me is completely alien. It seems so far from my understanding of the world that I just didn’t know where to start in order to understand all of this.” And so those two communities have really reached out over Twitter, and everything else, to say that they’ve really appreciated what we’re doing. There’s been a little bit of pushback, but not much. One of the things that I like to tell students and tell folks I discuss things with is, I am totally open as a scholar to argument, and debate, and dialogue. Those are the things I love. But you’re not going to out evangelical me! I’m like “level expert” at evangelical. So when it comes to theology, and language, and jargon, and colloquialisms, and clichés – I’m fluent in that. And so when you want to discuss those things with me, just know that I’m going to be speaking your language better than you. And so you’re not going to get the upper hand on me! And the last thing is, I’m not going to assume – and I think this is part of the ex-evangelical community online, the work they’re doing is – we need to stop assuming that if you call yourself a Christian that that means you are a good person. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not calling Christians bad people! Do not come at me on Twitter for that! What I’m saying is there is a privilege in this country that if you’re a straight, white Christian – especially a straight, white Christian male – you’re given a kind-of cover as “Oh, you must be a true, good, old-fashioned patriot.” We just sort-of have this assumption. And part of the work we’re doing – along with many other people – is just saying we need to stop giving that benefit of the doubt, just because someone claims those identities. And we need to just be willing to look very critically, and with an unflinching gaze, on what’s actually happening in those communities. That could be everything from church, too, and sexual misconduct and abuse. That can be authoritarian structures that can be supporting candidates who are authoritarian and abusive – whatever it may be. And so anyway, all of that is part of the work I feel like we’re doing, and will continue to do, and are very proud to do.

DMcC: I’m tempted to ask whether you think you would ever run out of topics. But . . .

BO: (Laughs)

DMcC: since you describe your access to evangelicals as both fluency in a language, but also access to a world that is very closed off, and inaccessible to those that at are not fully immersed in it, it feels like you can just take any aspect of an evangelicals life: how they think about the economy, how they think about death, how they think about marriage, how they think about the value of life. And every issue, right, has to be encapsulated in some way by that worldview. It has to be addressed with fluency by that language. Do you feel that way? That there’s really never . . . this is an eternal wellspring for you?

BO: Well I don’t know about eternal, but what I will say is when you’re in something long enough you have the muscle memory to either know how to do it, or to find the person who does. And so I don’t want to make out that the evangelical community in this country, including the white evangelical community in this country is homogeneous. There’s a lot of difference between small house churches in West Texas and Liberty Baptists with the Falwell Family, there’s a lot of difference between the Vineyards in South California and what’s happening in rural Georgia. With all that said – at least in the Trump era – there is no shortage of need to discuss things related to evangelical culture. And so at least for the moment, it’s not hard to find things that are not only relevant but seem very pressing for our public sphere.

DMcC: It reminds me of the way that people have spoken about Trump’s election as a net gain for the media, even amid its attacks that the constant stream of scandals – or things that sound like scandals to some people – generates that kind-of a gravity of its own. And that we’re lucky, as religion scholars who happen to work on things that are so central to understanding what’s going on in American politics right now. It makes me feel very fortunate. But also it seems to carry a lot of responsibility. Do you feel that weight, as well?

BO: I do. And I know there’ll be people out there in the religious studies world who will say, “You know, Dan and Brad, you are blurring the lines between insider and outsider. You’re blurring the lines between scholar and data.” And I understand that perspective. I don’t necessarily agree with it. So when Dan and I go into any episode we do, we want to make sure that as we tell anecdotes from our past, as we recount what it was like to come home and have your family not be there, and have your first thought be “Maybe the rapture happened?” Where everyone got taken away and I didn’t. As we tell those stories we always want to balance that with very rigorous scholarship. And we want to do our homework. We want to go to the primary sources, we want to go to the data, we want to make sure we have that right, so that we can make sure, as scholars and as people that have a platform, that we are owning up and responding to that responsibility.

DMcC: Right. It also strikes me that it’s kind-of like you have an ethnographic project that you were living. And then you decided that the project was over. And then you realised that you could actually . . . that you had collected all this data that was really valuable. So, from one perspective, you know, is it blurring the line between insider and outsider? Well, it might be. But on the other hand, you were living in the same way that an ethnographer might live, as if they were doing full-immersion field work. And now you’ve pulled back from being within that perspective. And now that you’re not in that perspective you can clearly demarcate your outsider-ness – right? – in relation to your previous insider-ness

BO: And I think that’s right in ways that I think ethnographers experience. You begin . . . if you’re an ethnographer you form relationships within the community. And even when you might find the politics or practices of that community detestable, at that turning point, the relationships you form affect you. And believe me, I still have friends and many family members who are still part of the evangelical world. They are people for whom I have great affection. I love them. And so for me to do this project, again, means I want to avoid reduction and demonisation. But I also want to have the courage and the audacity to point as critical and as unflinching an eye as we can on what’s happening.

DMcC: Right. So, do you think – and feel free to share specific episodes that you’d like to direct people to if they come to mind – are there things that really resonate best with the community where the clarity of that kind-of-like worldview switch that you’ve had, that you’re revealing to everyone, really appears best? Your gold star podcast episodes?

BO: Well the thing we’ve been focussing on this season has been Beyond Belief. And what we want to do is explain not only what evangelicals believe, but what their culture and beliefs do for them. And so let me give you an example. We’ve spoken several times on our podcast about abortion and “cultures of life” – quote unquote – And one of the things we’ve tried really hard to explain is that, yes, there is a focus on abortion. Because many rank and file evangelicals go to bed at night believing that any form of abortion is equivalent to murder. Ok. However there’s whole nother package of goods that come with that belief. I know personally, from my own experience, that every time that I explained to my church elders that I wanted to vote for a Democrat because their emphasis on equality, or social justice, seemed more in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ, they would sort-of say to me “Look, you can do that if you want. But what you’re condoning is the murder of millions of children.” Why do I bring that up? Because that one belief in abortion meant that I could turn off my brain completely when it came to all other issues. So when I went into a voting booth I did not have to consider whether or not all the things related to healthcare reform, education initiatives, tax hikes, immigration, what all of those things meant for who I should vote for. What I was going to vote for was who was “pro-life”, quote unquote: who was against abortion. And so I got to turn off a whole set of moral and ethical decisions. I got to disengage politically, and go to bed at night knowing that I had done the right thing: that I was a good person, because I stood against murder. And that happens all over the place in evangelical culture. I could give you similar examples when it comes to apocalypticism. I could give you similar examples when it comes to God and guns, or gender. And so, what our audience has been really reacting to is unpacking what beliefs do for you more than just simply explaining theological frameworks or evangelical doctrines.

DMcC: And I’m so thrilled to hear you present it in that way. We’ve been having kind-of a religious literacy discussion on Twitter, some of us going around, and that really strikes me as one of the operational moves that religious studies really can take advantage of: that it’s not simply the content that we can present – it’s the critical appraisal of the work that religion does, in particular instances, for particular people. So on abortion, the work that it does is potentially make hard political decisions a lot easier, right? It clarifies what the expectations are for them. And, as an element of religious literacy, presenting religion in that way to the public is a really powerful way to think about it. It’s very different than thinking about religion as simply a collection of beliefs that we hold and then not really much beyond that, right?

BO: It is. And you know that in every Intro to Religion class, most scholars and teachers are not going to ask, you know, “Let’s ask their students to make a list of what Hindus and Muslims and Christians and everyone else believes.” They’re going to ask, “Let’s try to define religion.” and then they’re going to say, “What does religion do for people?” Well I know the question I ask my students on the first day, is “Why do people do religion?” and when I say why do people do religion, they immediately get away from belief and they start raising their hands. And it’s like “Community” “tradition”, “family”, “belonging”, “identity”. And as soon as we start talking about why people do religion instead of what do religious people believe, all of the dimensions of religious studies opens up. And what you see is that when we study religion we’re also studying race, we’re also studying embodiment, we’re also studying gender, and we’re also studying group formation. I always tell kids who want to major in religion, I’m like: “Look, when you sign up with us, you get to study it all. You don’t have to compartmentalise what you’re doing into one domain. Studying religion means studying the human condition writ large.” One of the things I like to say is that, when you study religion you get a window into human conditions. That means communities and worlds that at one time probably seemed indecipherable. And you also get a window into the human condition in a way that I think is really unique. In the humanities, yes, but in religious studies even more so.

DMcC: I’m so pleased to hear you say that. It’s really been quite a pleasure to speak with you today about this. Thank you so much for joining us. And where can people find your podcast online?

BO: Yes, so you can find Straight White American Jesus on Apple Podcast, on Stitcher, on Google, on most places that people find podcasts. You can find me on Twitter @BradleyOnishi. And we still do have a Straight White American Jesus Facebook page as well.

DMcC: Perfect. Thank you so much for joining us.

BO: Thanks for having me.

 

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What is the point of of academic conferences?: A roundtable discussion

At the European Association for the Study of Religions’ Annual Conference in Bern (June 2018), five members of the RSP team – Sammy Bishop, Chris Cotter, Moritz Klenk, Angela Puca and Tom White – gathered together on the final day of the conference to discuss academic conferences in general – the good, the bad and the ugly. Why attend conferences? What is the point? What else could we do instead that might be a better use of our time? And how did we find having a fully-functional podcast studio set up at this conference? These are just a few of the issues that crop up in this lively roundtable discussion, facilitated by the inestimable Moritz Klenk.

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A transcription of this interview is also available, and has been pasted below.


EASR Roundtable 2018: What is the Point of Academic Conferences?

Podcast with Chris Cotter, Sammy Bishop, Moritz Klenk, Angela Puca and Tom White (24 September 2018).

Transcribed by Helen Bradstock.

 

Audio and transcript available at: EASR_Roundtable_2018_1.1

Christopher Cotter (CC): Welcome to the podcast studio in Bern, Switzerland, on the final day of the European Association for the Study of Religions Conference on Multiple Religious Identities. I’m Chris Cotter, and I’m joined here for an impromptu roundtable with some of my esteemed colleagues. I’m going to say, let’s go round to my right. So I’m Chris, and you should all know me, Listeners, and if you don’t, then: what are you doing? I don’t know. Who have we got here?

Sammy Bishop (SB): I’m Sammy Bishop. I am a PhD student, based in Edinburgh, and also I’m involved with the Religious Studies Project, sometimes interviewing, sometimes helping out in other respects. And it is great to be here.

Angela Puca (AP): I’m Angela Puca and I’m also a PhD student, but at Leeds Trinity University. And I don’t know why I’m here, (laughter) but I’m happy to . . .

CC: We’ll find out, later. And there’s a man behind the sound desk there with a beard that is more impressive than mine!

Moritz Klenk (MK): You’re so kind! My name is Moritz Klenk and I’m also a PhD student, here – from Bern. I’m doing a PhD somewhere between Sociology of Religion, epistemology and the academic Study of Religion – or whatever the most recent name of this discipline might be. And also I’m a podcaster. And this is why I have built this studio for this conference. And I’m very happy to see it in such good use.

CC: And Listeners will really be appreciating the sexy sound quality of everything that has been coming out of this conference! Who’s the last individual?

Tom White (TW): And lastly . . .

CC: And least . . .

TW: And least – last and least – Tom White. I’m also a PhD candidate, from the University of Otago – where it is very wintry, in the South Island of New Zealand – mostly looking at religion, law and climate change in Fiji.

CC: So Moritz, you’ve got us all together here, so I’m going to pass over to you to stir the pot, as it were.

MK: Cheers. So the idea I had in mind, when thinking about making this a reality to come together for a last roundtable at this conference, was actually just . . . I would be interested in some reflections and possible criticism of the conference and what is happening here. Because every one of us, I assume, is getting used to travelling to conferences like these, telling others about his or her research. And so we are . . . . This is what we are doing. This is one part of our business. And so we, I think, can take the time to reflect a bit on what we are actually doing here. If it is the discourse we are all looking for, are we so interested in it? Or if not this, then what else do we do here? And to have a conversation. Because, at least – I’m already telling you what I was experiencing – but I think it is the most important thing you can experience, in these kinds of conferences and events, is that you get into conversations sometimes, and they are very fascinating. Sometimes you want to find your way out of them (Laughter).

CC: Claw your own eyes out sometimes . . .

MK: Yes, also that. (Laughter). But a conversation seemed to be the fitting end of that kind of event. So yes, I’m very glad that you all joined me for this and I’d be interested in your opinion about this conference. I’m a bit biased because I’m a local. So, this happens in Bern, so I shouldn’t start I guess. But maybe some of you have impressions, ideas?

CC: Well, my immediate reaction is that I have spent so much time podcasting! And I decided that this conference would be a chance for me to film various little bits of video and whatnot – which has been a useful experience. I think it’s really ramped up the engagement from folk who hadn’t been able to be here. But my actual impression of this particular conference has been somewhat limited, because I’ve been running around so much. I have seen something like, I don’t know, ten to fifteen papers. (5:00) But that’s not quite . . . you should normally be expecting to see maybe at least double that. So, perhaps someone who . . . . Well, Angela has been probably been the most participatory because the rest of us have been running around doing podcasts.

AP: I’ve been running around from one paper to another, or from a panel to another – so still running! Yes, this was my first EASR Conference and I really enjoyed it. Maybe the only criticism I have is that all the panels on the same topic were at the same time. So it was really difficult. There were, for example, some time slots where I really wished I had the gift of ubiquity and other timeslots there was really nothing relevant to my research – of course, still interesting panels, but not quite relevant to my research. So I would have liked to attend more panels on my research, which were actually there, but at the same time as others.

MK: But maybe this was also the intention, in a way, to bring together scholars from different research areas and to give them, by this kind of overlap . . . . I don’t know if that was the intention. I chose to interpret it in that very friendly way. But I think, to give them a chance to look beyond their own work they’re doing; to see the broader field of the European Studies of Religion, what people are doing. This is also I think the only chance you will get, because normally you’re . . .

CC: That’s a fair point, actually, I would say. Because you come to conferences and at the start of this conference I thought, “Oh. Damn. There’s about five or six different panels on the ‘nones’, the ‘secular’ and all this kind of stuff. I’m going to have to go to those.” But, equally, I’ve kind-of heard all I need to hear, perhaps . . . not all I need to hear. But if I want to approach these scholars, I can approach them; we can have dialogue anyway. But I sort-of felt I was going to have to attend them, because they were there, because I didn’t want to miss out on that key snippet. At the end of the day I actually didn’t go to that many, because of my podcasting schedule and whatnot. But I sometimes do find at a conference that it’s the panels that you go to just because it “sounds vaguely interesting, but isn’t quite connected to your research”, that you can suddenly find, actually, there’s a really good connection. And it opens up a whole new vista, in a way that you aren’t ever going to just pick up a journal article that’s just not on your topic and read it – much as we would all like to. There’s only so many hours in the day! So a conference can do that, that way. Has anyone had that sort of revelation at this one, that we a saw a paper that we didn’t really . . . that we went along to because it was in a panel with something else, or because there was nothing else in the schedule?

TW: I’ve ended up going to a lot of education, or the kind-of “role of religion in schools”, “schools as ideological production sites” whereby people are being trained in citizenship, or where schools are “sites of contested religious identities”: the crucifix; the burka. And, without any intention, I’ve ended up having quite an education in religion-focussed conference – which isn’t really my discipline or my key area, but has been quite nice to move into that and become more familiar with that subject area. But, yes, I think there is a point in picking a theme and trying to go deep, rather than doing a random pick-and-mix of entire breadth of the discipline. Because it loses a certain coherency. And that coherency with the education panels, I’ve really enjoyed.

SB: Just on the topic of themes as well: I was thinking about conference themes, and how this one was “multiple religious identities”. And I don’t know how many papers actually speak to that, that I’ve been to. And then, I was just kind-of wondering . . . sometimes, what the point of having a theme of the conference is. Because everyone knows that, at the EASR, you’ll go if you want to present a paper. And sometimes you can mould it to the conference theme, just for the sake of it. Sometimes there just seems like a bit of a facade, I think.

CC: My one bit of input on that . . . well I’m sure I’ll end up having a bit more . . . ! So, I’ve been doing a history project, on the British Association of the Study of Religions. For a number of years, now, we’ve ended up having a conference theme. But when I went back through the record, the conferences didn’t used to have themes. (10:00) Back in the day, it was just like sort-of ten old white men gathering in effectively a living room and having a chat. There would be one paper, and that was the conference. It then expanded to two papers, one in the evening and then one the following morning. And that’s what the Association was for decades. And then, as things grew and grew, it got bigger. And then they started to have an annual lecture. But there still wasn’t a conference theme. And then what seems to have happened at some point in the mid-‘90s a couple of years after the annual lecture was established, the annual lecture then became the conference theme. It was like, “We’re going to have a keynote. They’ll speak on this.” Then it seems to be people try and get everyone to speak around that topic. And I suppose the justification is that it’s away for having a relatively coherent conversation – but that never really happens! Conferences might produce a conference volume of key papers. But I think most conferences I go to now would even struggle to find enough coherency for that volume. And it’s been proposed at the BASR, recently, that perhaps we just abandon the theme and say that it’s a conference for scholars working in, or on, religion in Britain – and just leave it at that. And tell them what the keynotes are. And the keynotes might produce a certain sort of discourse just by their power position as being the keynote speeches. But, yes. It’s unclear, now, what the utility is. Any thoughts from the others?

TW: Well I think it also relates to . . . you know, you can only go to so many conferences each year. I mean, I’m in New Zealand so, you know, unless the conference is in New Zealand it’s a very expensive exercise going to conferences. So how do you select which ones to go to?

AP: That’s a good question.

CC: And maybe that is where the theme comes into play? Because, yes, there’ll be a core constituency who’d go to every European Association Conference, right? But for others who don’t have that luxury, then having a theme provides a justification.

AP: I don’t know whether the theme actually helps you with that, to be honest. (Laughs).

SB: I think if you want to present your research then you’ll present your research – never mind the theme.

AP: I guess, once you go to a conference, you will find scholars sort-of in your field that can give you feed-back, that you can network with. So it’s not something that a theme will help you with, I feel.

TW: I mean, what are the criteria with which you choose a conference? The exotic location? The location of your family on the travel route? Networking opportunities? Who else is going to be there, and what kind of feedback you might get on your paper? You know, and it’s a juggle between all of these different issues, isn’t it? Some more honourable and some more profane.

AP: Not always purely professional.

CC: And that’s ok, isn’t it? It’s one of the, I’d say, many perks of an academic life. We can all bitch and moan about all the various stresses and strains. But all the travelling to conferences is one of the perks.

SB: Definitely.

CC: Sometimes it’s funded. Sometimes one decides, “Well, I need a holiday, anyway. And that might be a good environment to go to . . .” Mostly I do it based on the sort-of network of scholars. I go to BASR, now, every single year. And it will continue, because that’s become my sort of family. It’s a much smaller conference. This is my first European one since 2013 – again because of the financial commitment is quite heavy. But I would have come regardless of what the theme was. But then, there are other conferences. Like, there’s the Non-religion and Secularity Research one in a few weeks, and I’ll go to that because of the topic. Yes. But that’s more to do with network. I don’t think I’ve ever actually gone to a conference because of a specific theme. It’s more I’ve gone . . . I want to go to that organisation’s conference, rather than . . .

SB: Although even though I’ve just been saying that themes are pointless: this years’ BASR, I only put in a paper because it did directly relate to my research, and I felt like I probably should!

MK: (15:00) Well, I think the theme of conferences, although not the only criteria, at least invite people to talk about something different or just look at it from a different angle than they are normally doing. And they’re normally telling people about their research. And so . . . for applying to get a paper in, you have to, at least . . . I don’t know . . . tentatively, put in some reference to the conference theme. And I think it’s a good way. It would be better – or sometimes I think it could be better – if people are directly invited to talk about this: “I know this person, I know him or her. He or she might be an expert on this or that. I would like to hear her talk about this, although it might not be the current research project she’s working on. But inviting her to say something about that would help to . . . I don’t know, stimulate another kind of conversation than just repeating myself.”

CC: Three points: I said I was going to . . . (Laughs). I think we’re maybe having two conversations. We shouldn’t allow the behaviour of scholars who tend to just go, “Well, I’ll fire in whatever paper anyway, and just put a vague allusion to the theme in.” That’s what we default to doing. But the ideal, where everyone actually engages with the theme, that’s maybe still the ideal to aim for. We shouldn’t be conflating behaviours with ideals. Another point is that some of us . . . I’ve certainly had experience of being at very small conferences that you might more describe as workshops. I’ve been at one on atheist identities, one on religious indifference, where there’s maybe fifteen to twenty-five scholars and it’s very intense, very focussed discussion. And those conferences have always produced, for me, the best outputs. So maybe there’s a scale thing? The final point is, I’ve got a friend who is in Business Studies, in marketing. And she was telling me, she was applying for her first conference. And the selection criteria are very different. You have to write your entire paper ahead, submit it, and then they accept it or reject it. And then you come and present a shortened version of your paper. So we’re used to presenting a very short vague abstract, and conferences tend to be eager for people to come. Whereas, if the conference was having thousands more people than they could actually take applying then the selection criteria would be quite different, and the coherence of the conference would probably be much higher than it is in our discipline.

MK: I’m not sure if you could actually call that kind of workshop experience you had a conference. Because I think that would just mix up terms, and put it in a better light than conferences deserve, I guess!

CC: (Laughs).

MK: Because at least in my experience – and I go to different conferences in Religious Studies, but also in Sociology – I never find the discourse there. I just find repetition. Never actually something really new or interesting – or just a few papers presented. And this is in kind of a contradiction to the bare fact that there are more and more conferences that you could go to and you should attend – or you’re supposed to, if you want to . . . I don’t know, work on your career, or something like that. So I find it really challenging to think about what to do at conferences. What is it we are doing, when we are doing conferencing? And I think, more and more, it turns out to be just some occasion you meet each other and talk to each other, yet the papers and the panels are so full of papers and panels in such a short time, that . . .

CC: But is that ok? In the sense that . . . because I’ve often said that sometimes the papers are the excuse. They’re the excuse for the funding, they’re the excuse that you give, to justify to yourself for going. And sometimes I’ve found them . . . . You know, I will use a conference paper as a way to force myself to write something that I’d been meaning to write for ages. But then, the valuable things are the things like we’re doing right now, or in the coffee breaks, or at an excellent night out dancing to “The Thriller” with Steve Sutcliffe and Giovanni Casadio the other night! (20:00) (Laughter). Those are the things that stay with you, and sort-of humanise the scholarship. But then, also, all the conversations that happen around a conference . . .

SB: In which case, do you think more time should be dedicated to social interactions? Like, you could have . . . take one panel out and just say: “People who want to gather in a room and talk about this topic . . .” – have a round table?

CC: But they wouldn’t . . .

MK: If it’s too much time between the panels they would not – they would just leave. They would split up in very small groups. Friends who haven’t seen each other for a long time, and then they leave the venue. And then they are all scattered all round the city. And I think some of the conversations that you have between the panellists – this was something I was thinking about the other day: some of the conversations you have between the panellists are actually gaining from the fact that you have to run off just in a few minutes. So you get to your point very quickly – and hope you find some laughs – and then go on your daily routine, at these conferences! So I think if you’re there too long, with a break between, this might not happen.

SB: But if it wasn’t a break. If it was, like, “This room can be dedicated to this subject,” then have a conversation about it when you got there.

CC: Would you?

SB: I think I would like to. (Laughs). Don’t sound so sceptical!

MK: (Laughs). Well, maybe you shouldn’t call it “a room that you go to to have the conversations”, but maybe you can call it a podcasting studio and also have the ability to record!

SB: Yes. If conversation’s valuable thing it would be good to facilitate that, you know?

CC: And my facetious thing there is that maybe there are ways that are slightly more innovative than, “Here’s a room, go and talk.”

SB: Well that is a basic presentation of it! (Laughs).

CC: But the spirit of it, I think, is probably quite good. More . . . like more barbeques, for example! I’m not saying they all need to be filled with free alcohol and things. But if there was a barbecue every night and all these conversations . . . . Well, then, maybe not as many people would come every night. But those are the places where the exciting things happen.

TW: What do we think about the stratification of people at various levels in their academic careers? You know, having a junior scholars’ meeting tends to be something a lot of conferences are doing these days. Workshops for post-graduates. There hasn’t really been that here. It’s generally been far less hierarchically organised. But to some degree, what do you miss out from not having those . . . not having kind-of a post-graduate talking shop, or being a bit more aware of facilitating meetings through the hierarchy – which is still a very kind-of important aspect of university institutions. So should we be doing it by topics? Or should we perhaps be doing it by kind of you know career experience? Any thoughts on that?

SB: I think I prefer it by topic. I don’t know if that’s because in Edinburgh I feel like I have a good post-graduate community, where we can share post-graduate experiences in that way. And obviously it would be good to come across other post-grads from other places but I feel like I would benefit more from meeting people at all levels, within my subject area. And it would be great if some of them were also post-grads at the same level as me. But also people who have more experience and more range, I think.

AP: Yes. I usually prefer people with more experience just because they can teach me something about how to improve my research, and how to do stuff, basically. But of course, even a conversation on a topic with a post-grad can be beneficial as well.

CC: Yes, the more democratising things are the better, as far as I’m concerned. I do like it when you get to rub alongside people right at the top end of the field, and at the bottom end, and where titles don’t really matter. I mean, like, last night we were just casually sitting with Veikko Antonnen and just having a beer, talking. There was no pretence of, you know, “He’s really important. We should be deferring here.”

SB: I mean sometimes you don’t realise who they are until afterwards, anyway.

CC: Which is even better as well. There was one thing I remember: Peggy Morgan organised the BASR’s 40th Anniversary Conference. She said she insisted on not having name labels, because it means that you go around the conference and you spent the whole time peering at everyone’s chests – maybe somewhat inappropriately – trying to see what their name is (25:00). And everyone’s looking around for a better person to talk to. They’re waiting to catch that name. And apparently the objection was, “But you could be talking to someone really important, and not realise it!” And her justification was, “Well maybe that’s the point. If you want to introduce yourself, you introduce yourself. If you want to know someone’s name, you ask them their name.” A lot of the name badges thing can actually be a way of kind-of spoiling those conversations a little bit, I know.

TW: It does save you from the forgetting of names once you’ve already been introduced.

AP: And also, especially when you have so many people from different countries. It’s really hard to catch the name properly, unless you have a tag.

MK: Yes, and also I think it is also kind of a misconception of how networks and networking works. I mean, in a network your value is defined by being a knot and the ties you have. So the name is some kind of a label of this knot. So talking to someone who has a name, or might have a name, also means you get the connections you might be looking for. So if it is for just coming together and talk about research questions, or something you’re really interested in topic-wise or something, then this might be a good idea to get rid of badges. But if not, if it is for networking, then it’s really helpful . . . I mean, like helping to find people.

CC: Yes. I have seen instances where you spot a name badge, and you don’t know what the person looks like, but you do know their research. And then you spot the name badge and it’s like: “Yes! Hello! I should speak to you!” Exactly. But that was just feeding into . . . going right back to what Tom was saying: do we want to be coming to this sort of conference and having sitting down just with early career people? Well that’s what we’re doing right now, isn’t it?

MK: Yes it is. And it’s not surprising, I think. Because all the others are busy doing business as usual. So podcasting is not something that is not quite usual yet, maybe. Maybe we could also talk about this institution of podcasting studio at conferences, as an opportunity to get together and record some conversations . . . to be proving the real thing we are looking for at these kind of events? But coming back to the question, I think it’s sometimes might be the only way to get the input you need. Because from established professors you normally tend to get just the usual thing you find in their books and papers.

TW: I think the point I was driving at – and I’m not sure if there’s a difference between, say a European conference and an American conference. My suspicion – completely ungrounded – is that an American conference might have more stratified forums where, as early career researchers, you could meet up. But that’s not for sociability. This is the professionalisation of the trade. And there’s a lot more to this than simply knowing your topic very well. And perhaps doing workshops where you are kind-of professionalised to a degree, would provide that additional aspect to attending a conference – particularly for early career researchers – than just simply attending topic-based panels would provide. So I think that was kind of where I as ruminating around. But of course there’s drawbacks to that as well. Because you are missing out on the more interesting stuff and just learning the CV-building skills. And so on and so forth.

MK: Just reminding of Paul (audio unclear) analysis of “anything goes”, and the critique of the method, and stuff. He showed that the innovative research is not coming from the old established ones, but from those who haven’t read the “important books” you should have read at that time, or didn’t understand it. And then you innovate the hell out this . . . endeavour we call academia. So that might be the place of being here.

CC: Exactly! Well, we’ve always seen the Religious Studies Project as a way of . . . you know . . . . There are all these existing academic structures there: there’s hierarchies, there’s conferences, there’s journals and everything. (30:00) And we never saw the RSP as a way of supplanting that, but as a way of kind-of democratising things a bit; as a way of humanising scholarship and having conversations, alongside what’s going on, and in an alternative fashion; providing ways of accessing research and ideas that are maybe a little bit more irreverent, a little more accessible. And still acknowledging that the other structures are there. But, you know – do we want to be professionalised? Well, to an extent, yes! We have to be . . .

TW: We want to be employed!

CC: We want to be employed, but equally there’s a lot going on in the existing structures that is there just because of habit and tradition and authority. And these little ways, these little things that we’re doing, will hopefully be ways of challenging that or just forcing it to justify itself. I’m speaking in huge generalities here, but . . . . Things shouldn’t be done the way that they are done, just because . . . . And so, having little things that come in and go: “Mmm?”

MK: Well I don’t think that this is actually speaking in huge generalities. I think this is the concrete reality you could experience in these kind of conferences: these connections and power struggles within academia. You can really experience it here. And so I would agree that there might be a reason why we’re not professionalising in a way that, I don’t know, businesses have to . . . . Or get together just for networking purposes only. Because if we are no longer interested in our research topics, then we are no longer researchers!

CC: Exactly. Tom, you may not want to talk about this, but you’re just about to go to Honk Kong to a quite different conference. And you were describing, I guess maybe, the perceived differences. And that might be a useful thing to bring in . . . ?

TW: Yes. Well I think the first thing to say is that I haven’t been there yet. So these are all kind-of anticipations which could be completely grounded in my misunderstandings. But it’s a big public law conference in Hong Kong. And something like 39 concurrent panels, so I’m not sure how many delegates that adds up to – but pretty huge. But I was at the Law and Society Conference in Otago last year and because you’ve got a lot of lawyers going to these conferences, it’s not just academics. It’s a far more kind-of mixing of people who apply the trade, and people who research. And there was a slickness to them: everyone was smartly dressed; and PowerPoints ran to time; and often they would be synchronised with the rehearsed script. And it is impressive when people provide a far more slick presentation. I’m not sure if the ideas rea any better! [Laughter]. But there was a sense that, you know, corporatisation isn’t all bad. And if it’s a more efficient and more crisp delivery, and if the PowerPoints aren’t failing, and people are IT savvy, and they’ve been told to reduce their paper to three or four points – because that’s what people are able to remember, and you want you papers to be efficacious and to walk away with the key concepts – that aspect of the professionalization, I think, is worthwhile learning from and replicating. Whether the horse will take to water, or whether we’ll continue to try and preserve some of the more romantic off-the-cuff presentations that do take place in more Humanities-based subjects, is something . . . I don’t know how things will turn out. It will be very interesting to see how the Hong Kong conference differs from this one.

CC: I must say that there’s a spectrum of conference presentation, right? You’ve got the sort-of very slick end and then you’ve got this off-the-cuff end. And then, somewhere in the middle, you’ve got the reading of a pre-prepared thing – which I tend to probably do far too often. But the ones that I enjoy are either the ones that are very slick, or the ones that are almost entirely off-the-cuff. You know, they’ve got an idea and they just turn up (35:00). And they’ve got a couple of points and they speak around it. And they don’t really know where it’s going to go before it happens. But it can be great.

SB: You do need a certain amount of confidence in yourself as an academic to be able to do that, I think.

TW: Again I think that comes back to the point of professionalisation. Because it gives you those structures with which to be confident through. I don’t think people just emerge confident individuals. They’re given the training. And that kind of aspect, I think, is perhaps undervalued, or not explored enough, or not given enough assistance to people in their early careers.

MK: Well, I would be interested in what you think about the formats that actually prepare one to go to these conferences: what other teaching that may be required, to be prepared presenting in front of an academic professional crowd. Or is there anything you learn during studies and various programmes and universities? Is there something that is reflected in the courses or the structure of the programmes? And is it also reflected in what is worth doing career-wise. Because I have the impression that, at the end, it counts what you have written. And the papers you published in possibly well-known and established peer-reviewed journals. And the books you published. And among us there are only a few people who already published books. But yes, I think this is what counts. And it does not count to be able to get a straight sentence out in front of a crowd listening to you. And in a way I think, this just is reflected . . .

AP: Somehow it does, because it allows you to network in an academic sense. And that will lead to publications in some cases.

MK: Ok. But this also, just already prepares you for another written publication.

AP: Yes. But I think that with your presentation you will catch the attention on yourself as a researcher and on your research topic. So other people who are interested can contact you even afterwards,

CC: And it’s not necessarily just connected to feeding into publications. I suppose, what are academic outputs? They’re publications, they’re large research projects and everything. But you’ve got no idea . . . . And I’ve seen some presentations here that I’ve immediately thought, “I need to contact that person for this other project, down the line.” Or sometimes it will be someone else tells you about a paper that they heard, that you weren’t at, and that personal recommendation can be enough that you will then look at the conference programme, find out who that person was and then seek them out in some sort of other way.

MK: Well my questions were just related to the idea that we might need a professionalisation of conferences. And this sleek point of presenting, 5 points only . . .

TW: I’m saying it through gritted teeth.

MK: I hope so, yes. Because the reason that we don’t have that kind of well, established, elaborate presentation style is because we’re not teaching at universities, and it doesn’t count that much as writing papers properly. And then to read, to hold a paper, literally, and to read a paper you wrote, that is the thing you do. We have nothing else! I mean, podcast has just started to get a standing in the discipline.

CC: Yes. And the podcasts I recorded yesterday evening, for example, with Carmen Becker, went really well in the sense that she had a narrative worked out for her paper. So she had a twenty-minute narrative, which provided an excellent structure for what ended up being a thirty-five-minute podcast. But we did the same content in a much more – I hope, and Listeners can let me know – conversational and accessible way. We got through it all, but the act of it being a conversation was an alternative presentation format, that will hopefully have complemented the presentation (40:00). But maybe, just to put the spotlight on Angela: you’re relatively new to the conference circuit in a sense, so you might be . . . . What preparation did you get before you stepped up to the podium to deliver your first few papers?

AP: Well, actually, I found it quite easy to present in front of people. Because I’ve been teaching for a few years. And I also do some lecturing. So, yes. And also, well my degrees were in Italy, so at the University of Naples. And there, you have to do a lot of exams – there are presentations but without a PowerPoint. You have to orally answer quite a few questions in a well-structured way. So I think that helped me to organise how I elaborate on my thought and on my research. But yes, maybe the only thing would be to . . . . Yes, I spoke to my supervisor, of course, about what would be the main point that I had to address. So it’s like a sort of introduction.

CC: That is what I was thinking. From my outside observation you seem to have a very supportive supervisor in Suzanne Owen. I know that I’ve had very supportive supervisors and now being mentored by Kim Knott and Steve Sutcliffe, who have sort-of walked me through a lot of these things that might seem quite daunting in an academic career. And I think that, for me, like the first few conferences I went to and everything, having a couple of more established advocates guiding me around, introducing me to people – that really helped.

AP: Sometimes it can also help when you have interests beside academia. For example, in my case, I think that since I’ve been a singer for quite a few years, I think that helped me. Because when I ‘m up there it’s like being on a stage and you have to perform. So I think that doing . . . even other kinds of activities – besides academia – that can help you be more relaxed in front of people, can also help.

TW: Yes, by comparison, my hobby is long distance running. (Laughter). I don’t think that’s comparable to the kind of sociability aspect . . .

AP: I guess the other, for example, might be another . . .

CC: Well the long distance running will help you deal with the long keynote lecture in the warm rooms . . . !

MK: Both are different ways to deal with stage fright. The one can run off easily, the other can perform!

CC: Exactly. But you wanted to say something . . . ?

SB: Yes. Just a couple of things. Because the first EASR was the one in Helsinki two years ago, I think, and I didn’t present at that one. And I purposefully went just so I could go to a European conference, suss out the level of things that were happening there. And yes, I had people like Steve Sutcliffe and the whole . . . I think they were referred to as the Edinburgh Mafia at the time, because there was so many of us! And it was really nice just having those people there to introduce me, and not having the pressure to present, but be able to just suss out the situation. And then also, back in Edinburgh, I think in the first year of my PhD, we did a smaller . . . we called it a Post-Grad Colloquium. And that was one where people from all over the Divinity School would present. I can’t remember whether it was a five or ten-minute paper. But they tried to organise it in a very professional way. And I think the day before there’d been a different conference at New College, and Marian Bowman was in Edinburgh and so she came to the Colloquium. So it was quite nice to have a certain level of professionalism there, only have to present for ten minutes. And it was a really good trial run for future presentations.

MK: But isn’t it strange that we already fulfil all the requirements of a conference and presenting professionally, even if we’re just doing post grad or that kind of meeting and workshops just for us, for our sakes, for our research, just to get into conversation and find other people talking about interesting topics. We could do this in many different ways. We could also just meet for podcasting, for example .Just to bring it up once more! (Laughter). Because I think the format is so different. And this kind of professionalisation . . . of the peer pressure you then feel at these big conferences like EASR, or other conferences. (45:00) It’s strange, I think, that we already assume all that professionalism is, in that way that we experience it later. And there is no change. There is no real . . . I don’t know. There is no real development in presentation style.

CC: Yes. We could probably come up with a lot of optimistic things that . . . and think, “Well, surely we could be doing this networking without endless collaboration, without having to have the big carbon footprint and come to this place and sit through lots of papers?” I don’t know how much we would all . . . actually. The existence of the structure acts as gravitational pull, and people make time for it. But, just another anecdote: I think it’s maybe over 5 years ago now, that Russell McCutcheon added me as a Friend on Facebook. And I remember it happening and being “Wow! He’s added me as a Friend on Facebook!” And I’ve still never met him face to face. And, I don’t know . . . I think he was aware of the Religious Studies Project and was just purposefully setting out to network and create the network

MK: Yes. We think of Russell T. McCutcheon as the kind of RSP Twitter-bot. Because he reads everything you guys Tweet!

CC: Yes. And he engages. But I’ve now collaborated with him on a number of publications; I’ve been to conferences that he has helped organise, even though he didn’t end up going there; we’ll bounce around Facebook messages and Twitter conversations and I’m now part of his Culture On The Edge thing. And all of this has happened without ever needing to go to a conference. And there’s been a lot of productive collaboration there. And I’m not saying that we all need to start Facebook stalking and adding people that we’ve never met before. Because that is just weird, and there are issues with that. (Laughter). But there are other ways perhaps than necessarily coming to a physical space and productive scholarly collaboration can happen. We just maybe need to ignore or think outside the large powerful pull that these things have.

SB: And you do need certain ways of making you and your research visible. Because, obviously, you have the platform that Russell was then able to find you on. So it’s just ways of making that work, as well.

MK: And the reason I brought this up again is because I think that, with podcasting, we have the kind of medium that gets out conversations in a proper way. And make it possible to quote podcasts, as well. And I think that only a few of those established scholars in the discipline already know how many downloads those podcasts get. If they knew, I think they would realise that their papers in their established and beloved journals never ever will find so many readers than those podcasts find downloads.

CC: We have already, in this conversation, had more impact than probably every other scholar . . . !

MK: And more listeners than any dissertation ever written!

SB: Yes. And we briefly touched on it earlier. And you were saying that you go to a conference to present only to then write a paper afterwards. Whereas podcasting occupies that in-between space where you can be quoted on it, you don’t have to produce this written piece afterwards.

CC: Exactly. We’re coming up to 12 O’clock, which is going to be our time for getting out. I’m using my “radio host” thing which Moritz has been railing against the whole time. Moritz, I think, would have us talking for another three hours.

MK: Yes. Definitely. There’s no time limit. There’s always space in the Internet.

CC: There is always space in the Internet. And this is a point to remember. So hopefully, Listeners, you’ve enjoyed this conversation. And it’s, maybe, given you some food for thought about conferencing and maybe alternative ways that you can augment that. And one way would be to participate in the conversation surrounding this podcast. You could record your own podcast and respond in that way; YouTube – there’s all the social media options and website options for writing written responses. Don’t be afraid. Just get out there and say it. A lot of people seem to not really like typing written comments on the website.

MK: But then you should definitely establish a way to get audio comments as well. So it’s very easy to record them with WhatsApp or voice memo apps on smart phones (50:00). So you could send it easily and in a very nice format. And you could include them in the podcasts.

CC: That would be a brilliant idea, Moritz! Thank you for that!

MK: You’re welcome.

CC: So, Listeners, thanks for listening. We should all say that I suppose. So, from all five of us here in Switzerland:

All: Thanks for listening!


Citation Info: Cotter, Christopher, Sammy Bishop, Moritz Klenk, Angela Puca, Tom White. 2018. “What is the Point of Academic Conferences?”, The Religious Studies Project (Podcast Transcript). 24 September 2018. Transcribed by Helen Bradstock. Version 1.1, 19 September 2018. Available at: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/easr-roundtable-2108-what-is-the-point-of-academic-conferences/

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