“I’m the idiot box. I’m the TV. I’m the all-seeing eye and the world of the cathode ray. I’m the boob tube. I’m the little shrine the family gathers to adore.’
‘You’re the television? Or someone in the television?’
‘The TV’s the altar. I’m what people are sacrificing to.’
‘What do they sacrifice?’ asked Shadow.
‘Their time, mostly,’ said Lucy. ‘Sometimes each other.’ She raised two fingers, blew imaginary gunsmoke from the tips. Then she winked, a big old I Love Lucy wink.
‘You’re a God?’ said Shadow.
Lucy smirked, and took a ladylike puff of her cigarette. ‘You could say that,’ she said.”
(Neil Gaiman, American Gods)
Why did I decide to start this website and write a blog about religion and media?
Lets’ start with some background story
I was born in a non-religious family. My parents have great respect for all religions, and they always encouraged me to explore them, telling me I could pick one if I wanted. Having the Vatican for neighbour, I grew up surrounded by Catholic people. I went to church for weddings and confirmations, I watched the Pope on TV and got curious about the Bible. When I asked a priest, who was a religious education teacher at school, why I couldn’t become Pope myself, he said God had other plans for me, and I decided Catholicism wasn’t my religion. I started exploring some other faiths: I read all the books of the Dalai Lama, I visited mosques in Turkey and Orthodox churches in Greece, I stopped by a Scientology center and watched their videos, I learned everything about Shintoism. I discovered the Internet contained a lot of information about contemporary religion, and this fascinates me. In the end, I remained an atheist, but I decided to start studying religion and media.
When I tell people about my field of study, sometimes they are surprised: “what’s the connection between religion and media?” The question always puts me in a difficult position, as the connections are so many it is difficult to list them all. People discuss their religion online, they create Facebook pages and Tweet about their faith. Newspapers and television channels report news about religion and ask religious leaders to intervene in public debates. Movies and books often directly or indirectly tell stories about religion. Religion has always been somehow mediated, diffused through oral communication, written in sacred texts, and engraved through the printing press. The little me who wanted to learn things about religion turned primarily to media.
Therefore, at a certain point it seemed natural to start a blog about religion and media.
And yet, I hesitated before creating this site. The little girl too shy to raise her hand in class that lives inside me told me that the world does not need yet another academic blog. That a website would just expose me too much, that I should stick to journal articles that get one-hundred views in two years. That I should just remain a faceless (and non-famous) Elena Ferrante without drawing too much attention.
But the reasons why creating a website is a good idea started to seem more and more relevant. The little prima ballerina who lives inside me together with the shy girl pointed out that academia should engage more with public scholarship. I am fond of the work on religion, media and public scholarship that the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado is carrying on, even if I was only briefly part of the conversation. I like how CERES, my current research center, puts efforts in engaging with the community and connecting with non-academic environments. I believe that social science and humanities need to produce results to be shared with larger publics, and this website is an attempt to share a little bit of my work: religious symbols in the public sphere; Islamophobia; religious change; religious authority; material religion; and other topics you’ll discover if you stick around.
The little prima ballerina who wants (Internet) attention also rightfully pointed out that I always enjoyed writing blogs, as I contributed with “Third Spaces Blog” and “Marginalien.” My Ph.D. dissertation, which I am currently transforming in a book, is literally about blogs. So, opening a blog myself to talk about the blogs I study just seemed the right choice, and also a great mise en abyme. I plan to talk about my work, my projects, my experience in academia and my general opinion on the world, which, the little prima ballerina ensures, everybody is interested in knowing. I also make my publications available and talk a bit about myself.
So that’s the story of how I went from exploring religions to creating a website. Thanks for reading, and welcome to my blog.