In “Religion, Religions, Religious,” J.Z. Smith asserted that “‘religion’ is not a native term; it is a term created by scholars for their intellectual purposes and therefore is theirs to define.” [This essay can be found here and here, and in pdf form here.] It is, in other often quoted words, “the creation of the scholar’s study.” While many scholars may rely on this to frame our research or teaching, our students and the general public are often introduced to “religion,” religions, and the religious through their own use of search engines. As Hugh Urban has recently pointed out, religions–like in this case Scientology–are being contested in the streets of cities and in cyberspace, seemingly separate from scholarly classifications.
For THATcamp AAR, I propose a session that considers how digital technologies, including but not limited to social media, can encourage critical approaches to religion. The organizing question is: rather than cataloging instances of religion, how can digital approaches to the humanities help Religious Studies scholars draw attention to or model critical inquiries of “religion,” religions, and the religious? In the spirit of THATcamp, I do not have answers to propose, but an interest in brainstorming with colleagues how we can incorporate sources, apps, and the like from the web into our research and teaching.
I have questions about: TEI/XML (or other markup solutions) as a tool for teaching and research, including for right-to-left Unicode (Hebrew) but also just English. Depending on the skill levels of those who show up, this session could be “Make” session in which we pool our knowledge into a shared resource for further learning, or a “Teach” or “Play” session if someone shows up with commanding knowledge and a will to lead.
My own goals: I would like to be able to mark up plain-text Unicode Hebrew and English with tags of my own making, and assist my students in doing the same. I would like to be able to create simple programs or Regular Expressions to manipulate this marked-up plain text in simple ways. For a research-related example: I would like to be able to mark up Biblical Hebrew poems with varying suggestions for line-breaks (or verbal expressions, or accentual beats, or parallel expressions, etc.) and then manipulate the results for different kinds of display. For a teaching-related example: I would like to assist my students in marking up a biblical text for (say) genre-markers (like <statementOfTrust>text</statementOfTrust>), and then be able to manipulate the results for display (e.g., filtering several files for a particular marker and displaying the results in columns).