REL 502 Public Humanities & Religious Studies: Foundations

M/W 12:30-1:45 pm
Prof. Michael J. Altman
Office: Manly 205
Office hours by appointment

Course Description

This graduate seminar introduces students to public humanities and digital humanities approaches to the study of religion. Students learn methods and tools for conducting digital research and explore ways to communicate theoretical and religious studies research to public audiences through digital media. Students are introduced to a number of digital tools for research, scholarly communication, and public engagement and will work to apply those tools to their individual research interests and goals.

To learn and develop skills using these digital tools, we will focus our class around one object of study for the whole semester: The American Academy of Religion. By turning our digital methods, theories, and tools to understanding the AAR, the course will also further introduce students to the larger field of religious studies and the history of the academic study of religion.

The course hashtag is #REL502. You are not required to use a Twitter account in the class, but the hashtag is there for you to use if choose. I will keep an eye out for it. We will mostly communicate through the REL 502 channel of the Religion in Culture Slack.

Course Objectives

  • The course will provide an introduction to the public and digital humanities in religious studies.
  • The course will introduce digital tools and platforms for research, scholarly communication, and public engagement.
  • The course will discuss the current state of digital humanities and public humanities in the field of religious studies.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Students conduct qualitative and/or quantitative data analysis using digital research platforms.
  • Students design and build an effective website for their research.
  • Students use content management systems to build a digital collection.
  • Students produce audio that presents religious studies research to a broad public.

Course Materials

Required Software and Web Tools

Required Texts

These are available from the SUPEstore and through various online sellers.

Optional Texts

These are available as e-books for free, but can be purchased if you prefer a hardcopy.

Class Requirements

Assignments (30%)

There are 4 short writing assignments throughout the semester. These are noted on the course schedule. These assignments may be written up as posts on your blog or posted in the course Slack channel.

Presentations (15%)

Three times during the semester you must present a blog post from a blog in your area of research interest. Your presentation should include:

  1. A summary of the blog post and its argument
  2. Why the blog post is of interest to you and your research interests or the field of religious studies more broadly
  3. A critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the blog post
  4. Two or three discussion questions about the post for the rest of the class

You should post a link to the post in the Slack announcing you’ll be presenting on it in class at least 24 hours before our class session. This will give everyone a chance to read the post before class. You cannot present on class days where we are meeting outside of our usual space (e.g. in the ADHC or Sanford Media Center).

Projects (40%)

There are four projects that you will complete during the course of the semester. The due dates are noted on the class schedule. Two the projects will be completed individually and two as a group. Details about the projects will be posted closer to the due date.

  1. Build a WordPress Site

  2. Build an Omeka Exhibit (Group)

  3. Produce a Podcast (Group)

  4. Analyze #aarsbl17 Tweets with NVivo

Blog Post Submission/Pitch (15%)

By the last class of the semester, you must submit a blog post or pitch a blog post to a widely-read blog in your subfield or within the study of religion writ-large. The REL Dept. blog, Religion in Culture, does not count. If you choose a blog that only accepts pitches, you must still write the whole blog post out and turn it in to me.

The topic of this blog post is wide open and should reflect your particular research interests and current projects. It is perfectly acceptable to draw on work you are reading/researching in another course for this blog post. The goal here is to force you to translate your work into something easily digestible as a blog post and to begin to represent yourself as a scholar of religion in public. The success of your submission will not affect your grade so aim high.

Course Policies

As this is a graduate seminar, you are expected to attend the class, be prepared for the class, and participate in the class. Assignments and projects are expected to be completed on time. If you miss class for any reason please let me know promptly so we can ensure you don’t fall behind. Unexcused absences, frequent tardiness, or a lack of participation will lower your grade for the course. If you have any questions or concerns about the course I am happy to talk to you.

The grade scale for the course is:
A         90-100%
B         80-89
C         70-79
D         60-69
F          below 60

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Code of Academic Conduct provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

UAct Statement

The UAct website provides an overview of The University’s expectations regarding respect and civility.