A Call for Papers: Religion and Spirituality in Society

I just read an email notification for the Call for Papers for the Fifth International Conference on Religion and Spirituality in Society being held at the University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, USA from 16-17 April 2015.  This conference looks very intriguing.  According to the call, the special conference focus will be “Social Movements and Faith.”

Religious commitments are, as often as not, social commitments. In addition to its usual range of themes, this year’s special focus of the Religion and Society knowledge community is the relation of religion to social movements, ranging from movements for nominally “progressive” or “liberal” social change, to “fundamentalisms” whose religious practices are often explicitly or implicitly social and political. The conference will ask the questions: Under what conditions and to what extent are religious communities social activists, either in their doctrine or their practices? How do religious communities support or align with other social movements?

The 2015 meeting will feature a special focus on this provocative subject. We welcome open debate, discourse, and research from participants that center on this special topic, as well as any other themes or issues relevant to religion and spirituality in society.

“Provocative subject,” indeed.  Check out the conference website for more information, including themes, and where to submit a proposal.  Looks like the deadline is February 16, 2015.

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Remembering That It IS a Big Deal to Publish a Book

Recently, I was visiting with my in-laws and friends in New Hampshire and sitting around the dinner table on the Fourth of July, and someone asked me about my book.  I hadn’t forgotten about my book (I think about it all the time!), but it has been some time since it has come up in conversation.  Two of the people at dinner have published books – they have published bird guides, among other things.   We had a nice chat about the work of writing and publishing.  (Apparently people get royalties for books they sell.  Who knew?  People sell books? Apparently I am #151,924 in Books on the Amazon Best Sellers List.)  We also talked about the work of promoting one’s own work.  When they started publishing books, their publisher asked what they were on, social media-wise.  This of course led to a discussion of social media and its purposes in promoting oneself.  There was an entire article in the January 2014 Perspectives on History on this.  According to Vanessa Varin in “Managing Your Digital Self,” creating an online profile is a positive thing:

In the end, you may find that creating and maintaining a digital persona will open up new and different professional networks and inspire another creative outlet for your research and teaching interests, as many historians in our field have.

More and more historians (even tenured professors!) are turning to digital media to promote their work.  They are doing it for more reasons than to simply up their Amazon number; they are doing it to engage in a larger discussion and reach a larger audience than they would normally through traditional methods.  Joseph M. Adelman spoke about this in his post in March at The Junto, “Audiences, Publicity, and Engaged Academics.” While stressing that historians write articles to address a specific audience, they also must consider how they publicize their work – to, in a sense, get the word out to those outside the academy.  Adelman writes:

Doing a better job of publicizing our work in the humanities and social sciences, that is, translating our arguments for an educated public, would immeasurably improve our public engagement, and consequently our public perception.

My conversation at the Fourth of July Dinner reminded me that “ah jeez, I am not doing enough to talk about my book.”  My author-friends reminded me that I need to do a better job.  Articles like Varian and Adelman’s remind me of that as well.  Sure, I need to publicize my work for my personal and professional development, but I would also like it if scholars I have read and admire read my work. I would like it if  anyone read my work!  What’s the point of doing the work otherwise?

So, with that moment of self-doubt and negative thinking to endure over dinner, our conversation also reminded me that “Heck, I published a book! That’s pretty neat,” even after a few months.  And to further stroke my ego, I read a review of my book.  It is my first review!

The book (the more I say that, the more I feel I should capitalize The Book every time I type it) was reviewed for the History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland.  This group of scholars are doing wonderful things to promote and develop scholarship on the history of women religious. Granted their main purpose is Britain and Ireland, but they cast they net widely to include Americanists from time to time.

So the review is positive and the reviewer is someone whose work I admire.  To say that I am relieved, grateful,and pleased is an understatement.  I feel like Sally Field at the Oscars.

The other question at dinner last week was “what is my next book project?”  Oh…yeah…right…