Bulletin for the Study of Religion: guest lecturing in geographies of religion: interviewing my colleagues’ students, focusing on tangents

I am very thankful to Philip Tite at the Bulletin for the Study of Religion for inviting me to revise and publish two previous posts on this professional blog as part of a Tips for Teaching series in his journal. My article focuses on my experiences guest-lecturing on geographies of religion in both his class and in Steven Hu’s at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Here’s the abstract:

This ‘Teaching Tips’ article focuses on my recent experience of guest-lecturing in colleagues’ classes. Influenced by Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, my initial guest-teaching revolved around posing an argument about geographies of religion as ‘grounded theologies’ as a problem for students to challenge. However, my recent guest lectures have involved interviewing my colleagues’ students to discover why they find grounded theologies interesting. I show that this new mode of guest-lecturing – also influenced by Freire – has opened up new conversations at a primal ontological level through a wider breadth of topics discussed, including occupy movements, Game of Thrones, Black Nordic Metal, and modern imperialist ideologies. Following Sam Rocha’s folk phenomenology, I suggest that the primal depths that this interview-lecture style of guest lecturing is perhaps worth a try, even though I plan to use the argumentative lecture in the future as well.

I hope that readers of the Bulletin will find it helpful, especially in thinking about how to guest lecture as a pedagogical exercise. I also hope that geographers of religion will also find it useful for thinking through how to teach our discipline to students with a variety of interests. Many thanks, Phil, for generously allowing me to pitch in my two cents!

Guest lecturing in Steven Hu’s UCSB class

I had the privilege of guest-teaching in my friend and colleague Steven Hu‘s class on ‘Global Christianity and the Public Sphere’ at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Skype is such a powerful tool, and I’m glad that we can learn from each other across universities through this medium. It’s also always fantastic to be able to interact in such direct ways with the goings-on of UCSB’s brilliant religious studies department, the academic home of many crypto-geographers of religion (including Ann Taves, who gave the Geography of Religions and Belief Systems Annual Lecture at the national geography conference in 2013).

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I learned a lot from Steve’s students, mostly from seeing in what they were and were not interested. Steve assigned my article on the Hong Kong democracy movement and wanted me to talk about geographies of ‘grounded theologies‘ and Hong Kong. We decided to do this in more of an interview style, with Steve asking me questions about what geography is, what Hong Kong is, and what the Umbrella Movement is. I did my standard run-down of the political system in Hong Kong, its legacy of colonization, and how to make an ideological map – all of my favourite things! We also got to talk about the different ways that Catholics and Protestants label themselves vis-à-vis the term ‘Christian,’ which is one of Steve’s favourite things, and I got to tell the class about how the colloquial Cantonese term ‘talking Jesus’ is not about evangelism – it’s about a long-winded person going on and on about meaningless things (not unlike certain points of some of my meandering answers to Steve’s questions). We also talked about some of the unexpected Byzantine practices in the Umbrella Movement because finding ways to always include the Orthodox in geographies dominated by Western Christianity is how I roll.

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Oh yes, that Syndicate forum.

 

At the end of the interview-lecture, I got to ask my own questions, and I’m so grateful to Steve for providing this time because that’s where I learned the most, as that’s when we got to talk about the students’ favourite things. I asked them whether they were personally interested in Hong Kong, and that’s where things got interesting. They told me that they were interested in comparing protest movements and that the most interesting bits of the interview-lecture were the parts about how these protest movements, far from being solely focused on the secular and the material, were laced with religion. They especially connected when I held up my copy of Nathan Schneider’s Thank You, Anarchy and said that one of Schneider’s central arguments is that Occupy Wall Street generated new theologies. They also liked it when – as Steve talked about connections with the Polish Solidarity Movement – I held up my Black Madonna of Częstochowa prayer card (which they seemed to know a lot about – good job, Steve!!). And yet, I also got to respond to another student’s questions about the church’s collaboration and confrontation with the government through the lens of capital – sometimes (I said) capital will determine whether the church will kiss the state’s ass (#sorrynotsorry); after all, as I’m coming to argue, capital has amazing power to do theology – it may even be a god (or, as one of the greatest theologians of our generation, Ms Lauryn Hill, says, ‘it’s funny how money change a situation‘). That seemed to connect well with the students as well, although I could sense that there was some nervousness about the political implications of church-state-civil society separation and collaboration in protest movements. Lastly, I got to learn way more about Steve’s own research on New Calvinist urban ideologies in Shanghai, which I think for the class was a great ‘fishbowl’ moment (Steve and I being the two fish) where scholarly collegiality was put on display.

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Q. Wait, what does this have to do with Hong Kong? A. EVERYTHING.

All this is to say – thank you, Steve, for a great Skype class session. Your class has given me some things to think about, and reflecting on it will be great for keeping my scholarly focus as I keep moving forward. When you read this, please thank them for me, and by all means forward this post to them as a token of my gratitude.

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Photo taken by Steve! Thanks for having me!

AAR 2013: Asian North American “Conservative” Christian Communities, Masculinities, and Gender Issues

I had the privilege of organizing a panel for the upcoming American Academy of Religion (AAR) meeting in Chicago, IL.  It is sponsored by the Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society (ANARCS) Group and will feature a very diverse panel of scholars speaking about masculinities and gender issues in “conservative” Asian American and Asian Canadian communities.  Here is our abstract:

This panel session explores the “conservatism” of certain Asian North American religious communities, particularly evangelical and fundamentalist Christian ones, around gender issues. By gender “conservatism,” we refer to attempts to reinforce heteronormative, patriarchal practices both within Asian North American religious communities and without in civil society.

Our panelists will discuss 1) the usage of evangelicalism by Korean American men to restore a sense of empowerment, 2) the appropriation of Asian American tropes of mixed-martial arts and “linsanity” (following the recent stardom of Jeremy Lin) by conservative evangelicals at large to reconstitute masculinities, 3) the experience of a trans-male in a Korean American Christian community in New York, 4) the activism of conservative Asian Americans in opposing LGBTQI rights in America, and 5) the exploration of conservative Asian North American religious groups in a Canadian context who oppose sexual equality despite its federal legal status. A feminist ethicist will respond.

The panel will be chaired by Michael Sepidoza Campos (GTU) and will be responded to by Grace Yia-Hei Kao (Claremont School of Theology).  The panelists themselves come from very diverse backgrounds and espouse fairly different academic approaches; they are: Mark Chung Hearn (Azusa Pacific University), Steve B. Hu (UC Santa Barbara), Sung Won Park (Union Theological Seminary), Patrick S. Cheng (Episcopal Divinity School), and myself.  Our aim in assembling this very diverse set of voices is to encourage conversation on a topic that has been seldom discussed in Asian North American religious studies, not to mention academic discussion more generally.

I will be speaking on the intersection of Asian Canadian studies and the need to contextualize the traditional sexuality activism of Cantonese Protestants in Vancouver, British Columbia, within their engagements with Canadian civil society.  My take on the panel is that these issues require a fair, accurate, and scholarly interpretation from the academy and are not served well by caricatures, particularly as stereotyping often leads to the very forms of socially unjust orientalizing racism that are increasingly unacceptable in our civil society.

The panel will take place Sunday, 18 November 2012, from 9 AM to 11:30 AM and all those registered for the AAR meeting are warmly invited to join in what promises to be an exciting conversation.

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On Monday, 19 November 2012, I will also be presiding over another ANARCS panel entitled “Boundary Crossings: New Directions in Asian American Theologies.”  This panel will feature Barbara Yuki Schwartz (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary), Simon Joseph Kierulf (Union Presbyterian Seminary), Yeon Yeon Hwang (Graduate Theological Union), and Ren Ito (University of Toronto), and the respondent will be Nami Kim (Spellman College).  The panel will be held from 1-3 PM, and it will be followed by the ANARCS Business Meeting.