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Jots and Tittles (vol. 3, no. 3)
THE NEWSLETTER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY & RELIGIOUS STUDIES
Farewell (until Fall!)
Farewell to all of our students and faculty for the summer. We hope you've had a wonderful and productive semester, and that you've stayed safe throughout this uncertain time. We'll see you next semester!
Dr. Paul Thomas, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, is the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies chairperson. If you have questions about PHRE curriculum, the major and minor, or about the department, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Good Fruits of PHRE
"...you are not one thing, you can change and grow."
- Ms. Pamela Mullins, Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy
"A student can learn about different cultures, religions, and practices of people all over the world."
- Rachael Cahoon, PHRE Major (Religious Studies Concentration)
"Philosophical theories can enlarge perceptions and make us more sensitive and responsive to the world around us."
- Dr. Fesmire, Professor of Philosophy
Rachel Cahoon (Religious Studies Concentration)
What attracted you to the philosophy and religious studies major?
When I first started at Radford I was just a history major, and I decided to take a religious studies class with Dr. Webster, and then I took another one and another one until I decided that I wanted to learn as much about both history and religion as possible.
How has taking philosophy and religious studies courses benefited you?
Learning about philosophy and religion has been beneficial because they correlate with history so well. When I am in a history class, I see something that I had learned in a religion class. When I am in a religious studies class, I see things that I had learned in a history class. There are so many things that I have learned by taking both history and religious studies courses.
Which classes have been among your favorites?
Both the monsters class with Dr. Thomas, and the New Testament class with Mr. Lytton. I’m currently taking Religion in India with Dr. Jordan, Survey of Religious Experiences with Dr. K, and I am currently doing an independent study learning Koine Greek with Mr. Lytton that I am really enjoying.
What do you plan to do after college?
I plan to start graduate school in the fall at Brandeis University in Massachusetts for their Ancient Greek and Rome civilizations masters program.
Why should students consider a major or minor in philosophy and religious studies?
Students should consider a major or minor in philosophy and religious studies because of the variety of courses that you have the option to take. A student can learn about different cultures, religions, and practices of people all over the world. You also get to take classes that are interesting and unique, such as a class about monsters and a class about death.
Declare a Major with Us!
World turbulence and discord got you down? Looking for some bright spots in seemingly gloomy times? Consider a major or minor in philosophy and religious studies. In our classes you can explore some of the most vexing problems faced by society today and explore ways in which other cultures have found meaning in the face of challenging problems. New course substitutions make majoring in philosophy and religious studies easier than ever and our 30 credit major makes us one of the easiest double majors! Stop by CHBS 4209 for more information or email email@example.com.
Faculty Spotlight on Research
Pamela Mullins (Philosophy)
You’ve recently published a book, titled Misrepresenting Black Africa in U.S. Museums: Black Skin, Black Masks. Can you tell us a bit about what this book entails?
The book explores identity and the construction of race at the turn of the 19th century in the U.S. Looking at how Black African objects are brought into the U.S. and enter early museums in the late 1800s. I trace how racial stereotypes about Black Africans work to affirm a white racial nation after the civil war. My stance is that Black African objects in U.S. museums are simulacra a la Baudrillard in that the historic reality of Black Africans they rely on is wrong. I did interdisciplinary PhD. work (though didn't complete my degree at Tech) so the book draws on anthropology, art, history, museum studies, and cultural theory to tell a story of how identity is distorted for Black people in the U.S. There is discussion of ideas from Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, DuBois, Fanon, and Foucault, to name a few, as well as detailed historical analyses based on my archival research.
What are some things from your book that students can learn and find useful for their lives?
I think the book gives students a better understanding of identity and racialization. That racism has a history and has an impact on today's world at all levels of society. That the knowledge produced in years past must be examined critically. History has been highly inaccurate and missing a lot of information when it comes to places of colonization like Black Africa. I also work to show that identity is not monolithic (no two people are alike, much less people in a group), and that it isn't static. I think that's important as you are forming your own idea of who you are and how you fit into the world-that you are not one thing, you can change and grow- which is where many of my students are at in their life journey.
How has teaching at Radford University influenced your research?
Working with my students has inspired a lot of research. They have asked questions in classes which are really interesting and make me think about new ways to look at my research question. They also reminded me to keep the language simple in the book. I try hard not to write in jargon that is not well explained within the text. It made the writing clearer and hopefully more accessible. Philosophy doesn't have to be written in all 4-8 syllable words. Philosophy is not just for philosophers.
What’s next on your research agenda?
I'm currently researching my next book. I am going to springboard off my first book to look at how Black African objects affect U.S. aesthetics (art pieces and artists) coming out of 1914 up through the Harlem Renaissance. So instead of looking at collectors and collections, I'm going to be looking at white art and artists and how ideas of Blackness shaped their work and western ideas of art. It will be subtitled, "White Skin Black Masks."
Philosophy & Religious Studies in the News
Faculty Spotlight on Teaching
Dr. Steven Fesmire (Philosophy)
Due to recent events, this interview has been shortened to one of the most relevant questions:
Why do you think education in philosophy is important?
Philosophical study is practical. It allows us to understand the unstated assumptions underlying popular views and aims at developing a coherent, well-reasoned system of beliefs and values in a world where leaders seem not to have thought things through. It also enhances our ability to apply a principle of charity to views with which we (at least initially) disagree. Philosophy can help us to make more practical and reliable judgments about what is valuable and enables us to understand the standard defenses and critiques of worldviews. Overall, philosophical theories can enlarge perceptions and make us more sensitive and responsive to the world around us.