A Decade with Religion in American History
Emily Suzanne Clark
As other posts this month have noted, this is the 10th birthday for the Religion in American History blog and here's another post on that topic. I didn't start reading the blog until it was in year three when I was a first-year Ph.D. student, and the blog helped me figure out the field of American religions and American religious history. I didn't start focusing on American religions until the middle of my M.A. program at the University of Missouri (I have Chip Callahan and Kristin Schwain to thank for that). Being a terminal M.A., the Religious Studies graduate program at Mizzou was small but mighty, so I wasn't really introduced to a community of American religions scholars until I started my Ph.D. work at FSU. Finding the blog at the same time really showed me how big and kind of intimidating this field was, but the blog immediately countered that intimidation with collegiality.
I think a big reason for the collegiality of the blog is Paul Harvey, and to show my gratitude I've photoshopped a birthday hat on Omar (Paul's cat) to celebrate RiAH's birthday. The blog introduced me to new books in the field and new ideas about American religions. People typically posted about research, but the occasional teaching post was also incredibly helpful for me as a graduate student and instructor of my own undergraduate course. The blog posted calls for papers, announcements about conferences, and more. It helped me figure out how to really hit the ground running as a Ph.D. student in the field.
For the last seven years, I've been happy to participate on the blog and be part of this active community. Late in my first year at FSU, I became the managing editor of the Journal of Southern Religion and was asked to write a reflection post for RiAH on the special issue the journal did on Hurricane Katrina. Art Remillard posted it and Paul thanked me for it and told me to send him any other posts ideas I might have. I did, and upon his receipt of that first pitch/post, he asked if I wanted to become a contributor. This was a great opportunity for a graduate student, and I think it's important to note that Paul asked many graduate students to post on the blog (a tradition current blogmeister Cara Burnidge has kept going). And honestly, I think it helps keep networking in our subfield from feeling quite so smarmy.
And it was through the blog that I first got to know Paul. I was never Paul's graduate student but he has been a big mentor to me: graciously reading works in progress, helping me network, and swapping injury reports (me soccer, him basketball). Ten years ago Paul asked on this blog, "anybody out there?" We answered, "Yep!" And the blog helped us continue that conversation in creative and collegial ways. Happy Birthday RiAH! And thanks Paul.