Karen Jackson-Weaver is the associate dean of Academic Affairs and Diversity at Princeton University’s Graduate School. She specializes in American religious history with a focus on black women’s leadership roles in sacred contexts. Jackson-Weaver has been a Fellow at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, a faculty member at the Institute of Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a visiting scholar at the King Center Library and Archives in Atlanta, GA. She earned her BA degree from Princeton University and a Master’s degree from Harvard University. She holds a PhD in American History from Columbia University, where she was a Kluge Scholar Fellow, dean’s dissertation winner, and nominee for the university-wide teaching award.
One of the reasons why I am excited about serving as the editor of the AAR/OUP Teaching Religious Studies Series is because we have a unique opportunity to create a meaningful intellectual forum for religious scholars and theologians. In fact, the Teaching Religious Studies Series locates itself at the intersection of pedagogical concerns and the substantive content of religious studies. In addition, this Series seeks to foster an understanding of the methodological and pedagogical framework with a number of topics. My hope is that our readers will see the extraordinary connections between teaching and scholarship. I am convinced that our scholarship and teaching are organically connected and it creates an exclusive occasion to form a substantive link between theory and practice. Due to the broad nature of this series, our contributors are able to grapple with leveraging the themes that are addressed in the most imaginative and innovative ways.
Each volume provides scholarly and pedagogic discussion about a key topic (e.g., a text, theme, or thinker) of significance for teaching and scholarship in religious studies. Volumes typically comprise essays setting the topic within its historical context and locating the work within the traditions of religious studies, and an array of brief essays that discuss theoretical problems relevant to teaching the topic in a range of contexts. Volumes may also include primary sources and guides to reference tools. Taken together, the pieces collected in each volume place the topic firmly within the religious studies context and raise challenging questions about its role in teaching and in the field more generally. The Series is designed to be useful and of interest to several groups, including new teachers, those who are teaching a subject for the first time or in a new context, teacher-scholars, and students interested in the specific topic. Ultimately, the Teaching Religious Studies Series seeks creative ideas that represent the best of our work as teachers and scholars.
Published works in the Teaching Religious Studies Series include a wide range of themes such as Teaching Religion and Healing (edited by Linda L. Barnes and Inés M. Talamantez), Teaching African American Religions (edited by Carolyn Jones and Theodore Louis Trost), and Teaching Religion and Film (edited by Gregory Watkins). Other topics the Series has included are Teaching Freud (edited by Diane Jonte-Pace), Teaching Islam (edited by Brannon M. Wheeler), and Teaching Lévi-Strauss (edited by Hans Penner). The most recent publications include Teaching Mysticism (edited by William Parsons), Teaching Jung (edited by Kelly Bulkeley and Clodagh Weldon), and Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies (edited by Rebecca Todd Peters and Bernadette McNary-Zak). My predecessor, Susan Henking, was unwavering in her commitment to this Series and as a result we are well poised to make an even larger impact upon the field, especially as it relates to the craft of teaching religious studies.
There are a number of topics that I would like to see in future volumes. One of the most important topics I would like to address concerns women in religion. I am really interested in interrogating women’s roles in sacred contexts. How do we explain the role women play in broad theological contexts? It is imperative that we explore gender dynamics in many of the subfields in religion and create a framework of how to present this rich material in a seminar or classroom setting. How do we reconcile the “stained glass ceiling” in sociohistorical contexts and what are the implications of this as it relates to gender, class, race, and socioeconomic status?
I would also like to see us compile a volume on politics, religion, and popular culture. It will be necessary to explore the intersection of policy issues, religion, and culture, and how one makes sense of the various moral, philosophical, and religious perspectives that exist. I would especially appreciate submissions for a volume which tease out some of the modern dilemmas and issues. What are new approaches we should consider as we teach courses and seminars that highlight our moral, ethical, theological, and religious differences and how do we make sense of the very real contemporary challenges we face as a society?
Ultimately, I find it extremely fulfilling to create and oversee a process that results in a body of work that has the potential to make an important contribution to the field. I look forward to hearing other ideas from the AAR community and invite you to think about other topics or themes that have not been addressed that may have a significant impact on students and scholars in the academy. For more information on the Teaching Religious Studies Series, please visit the AAR website.