What is the conflict about? What was the trigger event? How has the conflict been expressed? 

Question 2:
What binds the parties together? In what ways each party needs the other?

Question 3:
What are the parties not getting?

Question 4:
What are the perceived scarce resources? (e.g. time, money, affection, inclusion, etc.)

Question 5:
In what ways each party is interfering with the other’s goals?

Livingston gives five reasons why religion should be studied in your textbook, 
Anatomy of the Sacred. Can you think of any other reasons? Which reasons do you find the most compelling for studying religion? What do you think about the reasons that the article gives concerning what one learns in religious studies?8/29/13 Why the World Needs Religious Studies | Culture | Religion Dispatches

ESSAY November 20, 2011

Why the World Needs Religious Studies

The first time I went to the American Academy of Religion conference it really got my hopes up.
This was the fall of 2006 and, with only a summer in between, I’d just finished college and begun

my first year of a PhD program in religious studies. The AAR was at the enormous new

Washington, DC convention center. Fittingly, one of the plenary speakers was Madeleine Albright,
the former secretary of state who had just written a book about why religion is so important.

What I remember her saying, which stuck with me and probably a lot of the other graduate

students in the hall, were things like this: “Our diplomats need to be trained to know the religions of
the countries where they’re going.” And: “I think the Secretary of State needs to have religion

advisors.” I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but it made great sense, especially with

someone like Albright saying it. Religion is everywhere. It does matter. The ongoing sectarian

violence in occupied Iraq had turned the headlines into daily reminders about the consequences of
not taking religion seriously—to say nothing of politics in DC back then. Yes—sounds like a job for a

religion scholar.

Suddenly, committing the next however-many years to getting my degree in this stuff switched from

the leap-of-faith category to eminently reasonable. Sure, maybe I’d end up a scholar. But I could

also be a diplomat. Or the director of an NGO. Or a bartender. Or an astronaut.

Fast-forward a few years—the AAR, 2010. Grad school hasn’t really panned out. (It wasn’t you,
PhD, it was me.) By this point I’ve become a journalist, but still go to the conference to connect with

friends and keep up with the field. Things have changed, though. The economy crashed, and the

bottom fell out of the academic job market. Quite independently, a handful of scholars—established

ones, tenured ones, reputed ones, etc.—tell me the same story in the hallways. They confess to

feeling remorse about training graduate students. There are so many bright young people, but so

few jobs. (The AAR reports 193 positions filled in 2005-2006, compared to 49 in 2008-2009.) They

sound kind of despondent.

To me, though, this sounds like an opportunity. Maybe it’s a chance to finally throw religious

studies a coming-out party. I’ve learned quickly how little the world (by which I mean, from here on

out, the world that isn’t academia) knows about what religious studies even is, and how much the

world needs what religious studies does. Now, hearing these professors talking like this, it occurs to

me that religious studies needs the world, too. At the very least, the world has a bigger job market. 1/6“Who Do We Hire?”
Participants: John, Jim (the Director), Laura, Karl, Keith and Celeste
Setting: Mental health center
Situation: An opening for a full-time therapist has been created by one of the staff therapists quitting

Jim: We need to fill this position since Lee is leaving. I suggest we hire Nikki full time. She’s done a great job as an intern, and the kids seem to really like her. What do you think?

Keith: I agree. We should hire her.

Jim: Anyone else?

(Long silence)

John: Yeah, that’s okay with me.

Jim: Is there any discussion on this matter?

Laura: Yes. I don’t think we should hire Nikki without doing a search. She does a good job, but we might be able to get someone even better.

Karl: I sort of feel that way, too.

Keith: I don’t think we could find anyone better. Besides, it could take months to do it and we need the help right away, especially on the weekends.

Karl: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we should hire just anyone.

Jim: Nikki’s not just anyone. Plus, we could lose the funding if we don’t hire right away. I’ve talked to Nikki about it—I’m sure she’d take the position.

Keith: And if we don’t offer it to her, I think she’ll quit completely.

Laura: Sounds like you guys have already figured it out. Why are you even asking us if you’ve made up your mind already?

Jim: There’s no “we” here, and I didn’t already make up my mind.

Celeste: I don’t think we should act so quickly. I’m not sure Nikki is all that committed to her work. You say the kids like her, but personally, I think she just likes having them do what she wants. She seems like a control freak to me. She likes having the kids like her.

Jim: What is it with you, Celeste? You always disagree with what this group wants to do. Everyone wants this but you. I’m tired of your constant opposition. You should listen to what we’re saying.

Celeste: What is it with me? Why do you act like we’re making a group decision, when you already made a decision and obviously got Keith and John to agree before talking to the rest of us?

Jim: If you can’t be a team player, then maybe it’s you who needs to start looking for a new job.


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