So, some big news (that I’ve already announced on Facebook and Twitter and that you might already know about). I have accepted a tenure track job as Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. I’m incredibly happy and excited about this position. As Russell McCutcheon wrote at the department blog:
Although he will certainly augment our current strengths in Asia and America, Prof. Altman will primarily be offering courses that fulfill the Religion in Conflict aspect of our curriculum, focusing on such topics as colonialism and cultural contact.
Please congratulate Dr. Altman when you see him and consider enrolling in his class this Fall
REL 370.002 “From Columbus to 9/11: Empire and the Construction of Religion”
The academic study of religion emerged during the age of European empire, instituted itself in the United States during the Vietnam era, and took on a new role in the wake of 9/11. This course will explore the role of colonial contact and the encounter between Europe and its others in the construction of religion as a category in the West. As a famous scholar once put it, “religion” is not a native category. So, whence religion? We will attempt an answer through a study of colonialism in America, Africa, and Asia.
I’ll be here in Tuscaloosa for the future, but next week I get to revisit the past. I’ll be giving a talk at my alma mater, the College of Charleston on April 8. It will be a great chance to catch up with the faculty that got me interested in the study of religion to begin with. Besides the public lecture, I’ll also get to talk with the students in the senior Capstone Colloquium taught by Zeff Bjerken. Prof. Bjerken taught the senior seminar course that really got me excited about going to grad school when I was at C of C. It was in that class that I first read the work of my now colleague and department chair, Russell McCutcheon, and it was the first course that got me started thinking about religion and conflict. Things have come full circle now in a very weird way and I can see how that course in that department paved the way to this job in this department. I’ll also get to hang out with Elijah Siegler’s Asian religions in America class. It should be a full trip but a really fun one. I can’t wait.
A friend of mine, photojournalist, and fellow product of the College of Charleston religious studies department, Priscilla Thomas, has produced a really interesting multimedia look at one Mormon family, the Crawfords, in the town of Athens, Ohio. “Raising Faith” is one story in the larger Swing State project produced by the Soul of Athens at Ohio University. Swing State attempts to give Ohio voters a voice on four major sets of issues: land, liberties, health, and the economy.
“Raising Faith” falls under the liberties category of the project and consists of an article about the Crawfords and the larger place of Mormonism in American culture and two brief videos that try to take an intimate look at the small community of Mormons in Athens. For those looking for a quick way to address the “Mormon Moment” and/or the election, this story and the site as whole can be a great resource. Below is a taste of the article and the accompanying video.
I encourage you to check out the entire project. It’s a fascinating look at the diversity of a swing state and a model for creative multimedia journalism. Ohio is more than a blank outline on electoral college maps.
Recent transplants to Athens, Ohio, Cory and Rebecca Crawford previously
lived in larger urban communities in Massachusetts and Utah. Their
transition to small town life has come with some surprises. After moving
into their home, the Crawfords began extensive renovations to the
property. Understanding of their situation, church members offered to
open their homes to the family until major repairs were completed.
“We would come home covered in dust and dirt from working and this neat,
wonderful lady would say ‘Eat dinner with my family,’” Rebecca recalls.
“She’d treat us like we were one of the family. And feed us dinner. And
they loved our kids and they spoiled them like they were grandparents.”