Category Archives: Research Methods

The Web of Religion, Religions, Religious

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.

Workshop Preview: Digital Ethnography

In addition to workshops on Omeka and statistical programming languages, THATCamp AAR is excited to also offer a workshop on utilizing technology in ethnographic research. Gregory Grieve, an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Tim Hutchings, of Durham University, will be hosting the workshop, which will take place in our first breakout session.

Event Description:  “Virtual ethnography: Exploring religion in digital worlds” introduces and evaluates new methods in virtual ethnography and offers a perspective on the field of digital religious studies.  The first half of the workshop features Dr. Greg Grieve, a leader in the field of digital religion, and specializes in ethnographic approaches to the intersection of religion, media and popular culture.  He will draw from his work on Buddhist meditation in the virtual world and his forthcoming book from Routledge entitled: Digital Zen: Buddhism, Virtual Worlds and Networked Consumerism (2014). The second half of the workshop features Dr Tim Hutchings, who also uses ethnographic methods to study digital religion. Dr Hutchings will draw on his studies of online Christian churches (2006-2010) and Christian mobile apps (2012-2013), exploring the ethical challenges encountered in multi-sited and virtual ethnographic research.

Race, Religion, and the Digital Humanities

This session will consider the ways in which “difference” makes a difference in broaching zones of contact between religious studies and the digital humanities. I am proposing an open conversation to address silences as well as critically rethink the problems and possibilities of engaging race (as well as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability, and class) for digital humanities and the study of religion. Potential topics for discussion include this overly ambitious but hopefully fruitful list:

  • Representations of people of color and the religion-related cultural productions created by people of color on the Internet.
  • The recovery/preservation of works about and by people of color in the study of religion.
  • Sharing ways that we might incorporate digital tools, coding and software applications (i.e. Blogs, Live Group Video Broadcasting, Virtual Environments , Cloud Computing, and Augmented Reality) into teaching and collaborations in race and religion research.
  • The development and application of digital research methodologies for the study of race and religion.
  • Questions concerning how identities (gender, race, class, sexuality, religious identifications) could inform and transform the theory and practice of digital humanities.

    Note: This session is limited to afternoon scheduling times. 1:00-2:30 pm or 2:45-4:15 pm.