Friday, December 07, 2007


OK, finally, another quarter done. Gotta go turn in my Hebrew paper (10% of my grade and far too much time spent on it, as is my usual habit), and then I'm not working until Monday (when I gotta dive into the GTU app pretty hard, seeing how it's due on the 15th). *sigh* No rest for me...not only is GTU coming up, but Notre Dame is due Jan 2 (and I figure my recommenders will be happier with me if I get them their stuff prior to, say, Christmas week), and then the others will be due 2/1 which will come up before I know it. At least the hardest part is doing it all initially - writing the personal statement, making a CV, adding explanation to make my transcript more readable for non-Evangelicals - most of that I can do one time and use over and over. Then, when all that's done, I still have a glossary to write for the project I'm doing for my worship prof. What fun. Christmas break?? Hardly.

Still, I refuse to do any more this week. I shall take a couple of days to make myself feel refreshed and loved, and congratulate myself on this second-to-last quarter well done. It's so trippy that I'm about to enter my final classes at Fuller. It's definitely the end of an era. Yet since I'm going, God willing, right into another degree, I don't feel like it's all that much of a big deal.

Oh, it is nasty out today. I was considering a little shopping but I don't know about going out in this weather. It's only like in the 50's!!! Can you imagine!!

I realized I never really reported on my first AAR experience. Overall, it was pretty interesting, although I really took it easy and did AAR-lite. Just a couple days, only two (and a half) real sessions, and a tiny amount of networking. But I did buy a book, of course. Just one. I skipped all the nighttime stuff (receptions & whatnot), which I later heard weren't all that great anyway (except the art one, at which my friend Craig got to talk to Bill Viola all night - if only we'd been there, we could have too! Almost would have been worth staying up for). My one major error was staying - for free, mind you - with my aunt, 20 mins away. So I couldn't run back to my room for a nap when I was completely slogging in the afternoon, and thus I gave up around 7 pm and went back and fell right asleep. Which actually was good, since I had to be at a 7 am breakfast the next morning, where I met people who were very good to meet (including a photographer who wants to illustrate my food in religion book, whenever I get around to writing it!). Oh, yeah, after that I got to meet Diana Eck, who is one of my personal heroes, so that was a huge pleasure. Other than her, I didn't have many "star sightings" (J, who walked around the town while I went to the conference, saw a lot more famous academics - I guess they were all hanging out in the coffee shops instead of attending sessions!).

I guess my other big problemo was that I didn't have a program book with all the sessions, although that certainly helped me narrow down what to go to (which became whatever I knew people at). I never got mine (I'm guessing it was pitched by our helpful manager who throws away mail that's too big for our boxes...thanks, dude) and I asked for a replacement in early Nov. but never heard back. When I told the AAR people about it, their response was, "Well, it's your first year, you're bound to make some mistakes." Nice, esp. since it wasn't actually my mistake. But like I said, it probably saved me in the end, since I only could use the online and look up specific scholars and/or topics I was interested in.

I kicked it off with a session on religion and food. How about that? Right off the bat on Saturday, the first session, and they're already doing my topic. That was great. I even found out the next morning at the miracle breakfast where I met all the right people that this topic is hot hot hot. Boy do people get excited when I tell them what I want to study. Not necessarily people at the PhD programs, mind you, but the general population sure seems to groove on it. So anyway, that was the topic, and the papers were totally varied and interesting. The first was on Christian diet programs (!), very informative, and then one on food security vs. food sovereignty (that's the competing ideas of giving the poor food aid vs. giving them the ability/right to grow their own food - teaching to fish instead of giving fish), and then one on various economic factors involved in food distribution (it was titled "Let them eat cake" and the general thesis was that those of us who support local, organic - and more expensive - food options are basically telling the poor to eat our cake, even though they can't afford it), which touched on my favorite topic du jour, the farm bill, and finally, totally off the map, a presentation about blood sacrifices and birthday cakes in Santeria. Whoa! That was totally cool. I really enjoyed all of it. Plus, it was moderated by the head of the dept at Wilfred Laurier, where I'm applying, but I didn't get to talk to her. She seemed cool, though, and hey, she's moderating a session on my topic, so that's a good sign.

After that I went to a lunch sponsored by the GTU (turned out, the place was crawling with GTU students, faculty, and alumni all weekend), where they rejected J's attendance but I got to chat with some of the current lit theo students, which was cool. One invited me to her session the next day, which made the choice for that time slot easy (she was talking about spiritual formation through liturgy, one of my hobby horses, so it was perfect). After lunch I attended a session about the AAR for new members, where I learned a lot of stuff I wished I'd known prior to attending. Oh, well. Then I took off the rest of the afternoon, ogling books with J, and meeting with a student from Catholic U. He kind of turned me off the school, so I don't even know if I'm applying anymore. Then there was just too much time to kill, so we went to dinner and went home.

The next morning, as I said, I went to that great new member breakfast, where I met the photographer (who went to culinary school too) who's totally into my project, and I got advice on British orgs that might dig my work from another guy, and then a woman plopped down next to me who just happened to be Nathan Mitchell's student at Notre Dame. Hello. Mitchell's a big Eucharist guy - really couldn't have planned that better. She and I had a great chat about the program and she encouraged me to apply (honestly I really do not think I will get in). That was wonderful. And then I got to meet Diana Eck and she said she was happy there was "someone like me" at Fuller. What a series of events, and it wasn't even 8 am yet.

So I checked out the session with the GTU student, which actually was the queer studies group (or pre-group, whatever they call it). That was by far the most diverse thing I attended and therefore the most fascinating and fun, for me. The first paper was a British MA student speaking on the possibility of same-sex marriage for Muslims (what was so interesting is that she was using all the same type of historical-critical stuff we use on the Bible on the Qu'ran - I mean, I guess that makes sense, I just never thought about it - about what marriage meant in that culture - property, basically - and how it's different today, all that stuff). Next was an Australian talking about a sociological study he did with immigrant queer Muslim Aussies. Now that's a hybrid handful. Then my new friend talked, comparing the identity formation in religious ritual to that in some queer activities, such as a drag show. It's hard to explain but it made sense at the time. The last paper picked up on the same idea, talking about what it means to be a "queer religious" person - if gender identity is constructed, and one has a religious identity that doesn't fit cultural norms (say, a Jew who is enamored of Jesus' teachings or a Christian who follows Muslim rites), that religious identity could maybe be labeled "queer" (just kind of as a catch-all, so that you don't have to explain why you're combining Buddhism, Christianity, and Paganism in your faith arsenal - to describe a friend of mine!). Whew. It was hugely interesting, if for no other reason that it was so different from everything else going on. The little group was struggling for its survival; I hope they make it.

Then we had lunch at the restaurant of one of the sous-chefs on Hell's Kitchen (yes, once we found that out, it was a no-brainer). Unfortunately, he was no Gordon Ramsey.

Finally, we stuck around for a session on Andrew McGowan's work. He wrote Ascetic Eucharists, which was one of the texts that set me on my current path of study. So it was getting to meet the person who inspired many of my ideas, only I didn't actually get to meet him. But I heard him talk. And then I heard other people talk about him. Then I learned something - I'm an AAR person not an SBL person. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It was soooooo boring!! It was on my interest and I still was bored! Once they went off talking about participles in the Greek, I was completely tuned out. See, the main difference, from what I can tell, is that AAR people tend to approach religion socio-culturally, and SBL more from the texts. And I'm just clearly in the former group. So that was a helpful thing to learn. And I snuck out and we went home early, which was nice.

So that was my first AAR experience. Not much to it, but I enjoyed myself when I wasn't feeling completely overwhelmed or exhausted. And now you got to hear about it, since I finally have time to write again! What fun!!

OK, 'spose I'll go find something to eat now. Cheers.

1 comment:

JTB said...

Yet another reason to be bummed that AAR was out of reach for me this year...would have loved to have met you in person. But very glad you had a great initiatory AAR experience!