This past week I attended to Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in Denver, CO. While the sentiment wasn’t universal, I’ve seen several of my friends say something to the extent that this was the best conference in a long time. I think this is because many more attended in person this year. While there was an “in person” element last year in San Antonio, it felt sparse, and half the conference was still on Zoom. I appreciate the online option for accessibility reasons, and I support future efforts to have an online version of these conferences, but just like many of us recognized with online learning, there’s something missing for many of us when everything takes place over a screen. This is likely because conferences, like classrooms, are only partially about the exchange of information. It’s the relational, face-to-face interactions that students missed during the pandemic and I think this is what many of us were missing last year.
This was my first year on the Educational Resources and Review Committee. I know this may sound nerdy but our meeting was one of my favorite parts of the conference. I’m excited about what we’re going to do as a committee, especially the emphasis that’s being placed on carving out a space for secondary/high school and middle school teachers, including those who may not teach religious studies but instead say English language or history classes.
I heard a handful of great papers, including some by friends of mine, but the best overall session I attended was last Saturday’s “Bible In America” which featured several excellent presentations—one on “the character of Dinah and on her subsequent reception in American history as a symbol of Black womanhood” (Nauff M. Zakaria); one on the non-use of Numbers 5:11-31 among pro-choice religious group (Kirk R. MacGregor); one on a specific “hologram” Bible known as the “monarchist” Bible and how it relates to Tr*mp (Rebekah Carere); one about the Bible as a celebrity (John W. Fadden); and one the invention of public school Bible courses in Colorado (Mark Chancey).
My goal for next year is to see a session on pedagogy for high and middle school teachers. It may be combined with community college teaching. We’ll see!
I didn’t get many books because six or seven that I wanted were display copy-only or sold out, but I’m excited about the three I did purchase!