Podcasts have become increasingly popular in academia, probably due to the increasing availability of technology across many Universities in the U.S. as well as abroad. For example, I’ve recently been listing to Invisibilia on NPR as well as a variety of podcasts produced by the Religious Studies Project. In my own graduate cohort we are currently in the process of creating our own episode of the department’s podcast Studying Religion. Under the guidance of Dr. Mike Altman, in one of our two foundations courses this Fall, we have begun learning the standard methods for creating a podcast, also benefiting from the advice of a digital expert at the University of Alabama.
Being the only one in our group to have produced podcasts in the past, I had a few pro tips for the others, such as how to save time (and, if you’re not affiliated with a university and lack resources, how to save money too!) in the production of a podcast. Most notably, I mentioned to my colleagues that a closet full of clothes, with the door closed, could function perfectly well as a recording studio, to which the expert at UA replied that while a closet could certainly fulfill that function the recording studio is ideal.
Naturally, the social theorist in me began to wonder what interests go into identifying something as a ‘recording studio’. Could it be the structure of the room itself? I think not, for both my closet and the ‘studio’ are ostensibly identical in structure in that they are rooms with four walls, no windows and a single door. So, could it be the content perhaps? Maybe, although beyond whatever high tech recording equipment it might have, the studio has noise-suppressing padding that is pretty much identical to my clothes, in that they are just objects that to fulfill the same purpose (i.e., suppressing sound). So instead of seeing them as all that different, I would like to suggest that the recording studio is only a recording studio, and my closet is only my closet, because we arbitrarily label them as such.
Early Monday morning my advisor, Russell McCutcheon, and I traveled down the road and across the state line to visit Mississippi State University. Since my acceptance into the Religious Studies department at the University of Alabama’s new M.A. program a few months ago, Russell and I have been discussing the possibility of having Dr. Mary Rebecca Read-Wahidi serve on my advisory committee. Dr. Read-Wahidi attended the University of Alabama for her Ph.D. in Anthropology and was advised under Dr. Bill Dressler who developed the Cultural Consonance Model (and she also TA’ed in Religious Studies and, in fact, still teaches online for the department). She also continues to work closely with the Graduate Director for the Anthropology department, Dr. Jason DeCaro (You can read a brief response to their most recent journal article from Russell and I here.)
Dr. Read-Wahidi is currently working on multiple research projects at the Social Sciences Research Center at MSU, but her work on the Catholic veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe was what initially suggested that she would be a great fit for my interest in studying migration and identity formation in Spanish-speaking communities in the US. Specifically, in her dissertation, Dr. Read-Wahidi studied how religious devotion can buffer the negative physiological effects induced by stress related to migration.
The following exchange between Prof. Russell McCutcheon and Sierra Lawson, a graduate student in our MA program, reflects on the recent meeting of REL’s monthly journal reading group, part of our Religion in Culture MA.
Russell: Sierra, in your undergrad here at UA you did a double major in Anthropology and Religious Studies, and I know that you have an interest in medical anthropology. So presumably that helped direct your choice of this article for our journal group (written by our UA colleague, Jason DeCaro, a faculty member here in the Department of Anthropology) and one of their recent doctoral grads, Becky Read-Wahidi)?
Sierra: Yes! I attended the University of Alabama, starting in the Fall of 2014, under the assumption that I would study biological/physical anthropology. While this has morphed a great deal, leading to my current interests, the issue of health and wel-lbeing has consistently been of interest to me. So this article seemed to be a good fit for the reading group because it dealt with religious behavior — but not from a traditional Religious Studies point of view. This is what I thought made it an accessible example for our Department to wrestle with broader issues regarding how something called ‘religion’ is conceived and studied by other departments in their research.
RM: During the discussion I recall a few times when disciplinary issues were on the table, such as people asking you some questions about how Anthropology might understand this or that topic or use this or that method — so, are there points of overlap between the two fields that you now see, or maybe points of divergence that catch your attention?