Yes, It's Summer, and I'm Already Planning for the Fall ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yes, It's Summer, and I'm Already Planning for the Fall

Milton, Fl – July 26, 2005. A volunter f...

Summer hit hard this year - kids coming out of school, several deadlines looming, a stack of books to read, talks to prepare, papers to edit, some phone calls and emails to make, work around the get the picture. I can't decide if my summer highlight so far was a wonderful visit talking with several scholars of race and religion at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, or a weekend working with a chainsaw, sweating out the humid Carolina heat, cutting down trees in my backyard -- I must say hacking through those stubbornly hard limbs and hearing them crackle and crash on the ground was strangely satisfying.

(FYI, this picture is not me, but you get the idea.)

Sitting at my desk, I'm once again caught between celebrating finished projects and making progress on new ones. This alternating back and forth weave is part of the rhythm of academic life I'm still getting used to. Now that I have things through "the pipeline," I can read a just published article on one side of my desk ("how pretty! how nicely written! how did I do that?") to the mangled notes and stuttering drafts forming on my computer desktop. That weird sense of something complete versus something so haphazardly unformed is disorienting, but I'm getting there. Part of life I suppose, whether academic or not.

I find some refuge in a series of books I'm reading: combination of fiction (Devil's Dream by Madison Smart Bell at the moment), non-fiction (An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought by Stefanos Geroulanos, among others), and another trip through the Christian Scriptures (this time working with notes from a beautifully bound newly published 4th Edition Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV I received as compensation for reviewing a manuscript for Oxford earlier this year). Refuge because these are bounded material things with a clear beginning and ending which place no demand on me yet stimulate my imagination in a hundred directions.

I also find refuge in playing around a bit more than usual this summer. As a family we've take a few trips to Carowinds, our local roller-coaster & water park, and seen a few movies. I'll admit to sleeping in a bit more than usual and lingering in bookstores a bit more than normal. More fun is coming with a trip to New York City in August and a family visit down to Georgia before school starts.

As to Fall 2010, a few things coming around. September will feature a new conference of emerging church-type leaders in Durham, NC, called "Big Tent Christianity" (I'm going by memory here) that looks to be a very strong showing of several people central to the movement. For me, it's a two-hour drive to experience of being with some very friendly people who are working through some very interesting questions about what needs to be kept and what needs to be thrown out of contemporary Christianity, so the conversation ranges between theology, ethics, anthropology, and a whole lot of good eating. One thing I appreciate about this crowd is the value for conversation - long conversation, not easily wrapped up and quickly solved questions, and lots of "let's throw it on the wall and see if it sticks" kind of speculation.

September also features the theological conversation regularly planned by Emergent Village. This year, the focus is on global theology and diversity, with scholars coming from an array of what sociologists call "social locations" to try to jar Western-shaped Christianity out of its blind spots. {CORRECTION: The Emergent Village dialogue is November 1-3!! see link for more info... h/t Steve Knight.}

In October I'll be speaking at the 20th anniversary conference for the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts at Valparaiso University, and I may try to sneak in time with current Lilly Fellows meeting a couple days before the conference so I can get a good "fix" among historians of American religion (I really envy the work of these historians), picking their brains on all the things I wish I had the time and expertise to study and paying attention to the sheer intelligence that will surely be in the room.

October will also be one of the best conferences of the year with the annual meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Loads of good things already slated for the program this year, with the meetings being in Baltimore, Maryland. Never been there, so hope to catch the best of what's available to experience while catching up with a few friends.

The American Academy of Religion meetings are in Atlanta this year. It's a bad time for me, with the SSSR meetings happening the exact same weekend, but I might make it for a day or two. {CORRECTION follow-up: With the Emergent Village Theological Conversation happening same place/same time, I may be able to pop back & forth...hmmm...}

And by that time, I hope to be moving to the home stretch of courses for the fall, especially my experimental course titled "Race, Religion, and Barack Obama" -- a new course that uses the life and presidency of Obama to highlight sociological issues on the interplay of race and religion in American society.


Steve K. said...

This is an exciting agenda for the coming months! I'm planning to be at Big Tent Christianity, but I probably won't be able to attend anything else. So have enough fun for both of us, and I'll live vicariously through your tweets and blog posts ;-)

BTW - The Emergent Theological Conversation is in November (1-3), not September. Just so you know ...

Gerardo Marti said...

Ack! Thanks for the correction - I'll post later for the November date.