Elon students participate in annual religious studies conference

6 Elon undergraduates presented at the virtual American Academy of Religion's Southeastern regional conference with the theme of Race, Religion, and Health: Epidemics of Disparity

Every spring, Elon’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society and its Religious Studies Department bring a number of students to the Southeastern regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL SE).

At those conferences, students are able to present research and learn the skills of networking in a professional setting. Although academic meetings all around the world have been moved to online formats this year, during the weekend of March 12, Elon Department of Religious Studies faculty members Brian Pennington and Amy Allocco arranged a virtual conference experience for students from a variety of majors so they could have some opportunity for the professionalization that conference attendance can entail.

Six Elon seniors presented the results of long-term, faculty mentored research in the Undergraduate Research sessions of the AAR/SBL SE virtual meeting, sponsored by Florida State University. Eight other students attended the conference on Zoom to support the seniors and to learn conference culture in hopes of presenting there in a future year.

In a typical year, students would attend the conference’s opening reception and mingle with scholars in attendance. This year, masked and socially distanced, they dressed up, attended the conference’s opening session in McEwen’s screening room, and then took over Snow Atrium for a pandemic-inflected reception experience. Although there was no Elon van ride to a different state together, no shared hotel accommodations, and little chance to meet their peers from other universities, Elon’s student attendees nonetheless demonstrated the outstanding work they can do under the guidance of Elon faculty.

The following senior projects presented at the conference were developed in Elon’s signature undergraduate research programs, including Multifaith Scholars, Elon College Fellows and Honors Fellows:

  • Annabelle Baker: “The Role of Bollywood in Cultivating Cultural Connection with Indian Diaspora” (Mentor: Brian Pennington)
  • Srija Dutta:  “South Asian College-Aged Women and the Influence of Religion and Cultural Factors on Sexual Decision Making” (Mentor: Amanda Tapler)
  • Madison Gray: “Cambodian American Religion in Contemporary American Diaspora” (Mentor: Brian Pennington)
  • Sarah Jane Mcdonald: “‘The Church is a Piece of Home’: Religious Experiences of East and Central African Refugees” (Mentor: Mussa Idris)
  • Kylee Smith: “Practices, Beliefs, and Identities: Muslim Immigrants Acculturation to the United States” (Mentor: Sandy Marshall)
  • Kaitlin Theall: “Promoting Sufism as a Counter-Extremism Strategy in the Moroccan Press” (Mentor: Ariela Marcus-Sells)

In addition to undergraduate presentations, Adjunct Assistant Professors Hunter Bandy and Helen Orr presented “The Medicalization of Religious and Political Talent in 16th-century Kārkiyā Gilan” and “Dark Humor and Healing: Post-War Explorations in Trauma, Laughter, and Transgression,” respectively.

Many of these senior projects will be featured during Elon’s annual Student Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) on April 27.