Mapping the Sounds of Religion

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BEHIND THE WILL is a video series that gives viewers an inside look into what drives our faculty’s research, teaching, and creativity in Michigan State University’s College of Arts & Letters.

Amy DeRogatis is Professor of Religion and American Culture in the Department of Religious Studies at Michigan State University. Professor DeRogatis teaches courses on American religious history, religion, sex, and gender, evangelicalism, missionaries, religion and the senses, and introductory courses in the study of religion.

What does religion in the Global Midwest sound like? Where should one go to hear it? How might we understand religious diversity in the global Midwest if we begin by listening? The Religious Soundmap Project invites broad public audiences to experience the religious diversity of the Midwest through sound. The hope is to invite new ways of thinking about religion in the global Midwest.

Working under faculty supervision, student researchers at Michigan State University and The Ohio State University will produce high-quality audio recordings of religion in practice. These recordings will be edited, archived, and integrated, along with interviews, visual images, explanatory texts, and interpretive essays, onto a publicly accessible online mapping platform. This innovative digital humanities project will provide new research and pedagogical tools for scholars, experiential learning opportunities for students, and an interactive resource for the general public.

This project is supported by the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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I think of myself primarily as a teacher.
I loved being in the classroom as an undergraduate. The joy of learning
together with other people… I knew that I wanted to become a professor.
I'm Amy DeRogatis. I'm a Professor of Religion in American Culture. I'm
interested in the edges of religion as it works through sound. What we aim to do
in the American Religious Sounds Project is to leverage digital tools to ask some
questions about, "What does religion sound like? And how is it practiced through the
senses? When we look at religious groups we're always asking questions of
identity. "Who am I? What happens to me after I die?" Paying attention to religious
sound, it's a very fluid look at religious practice that can't be
confined to a particular place. This is not a traditional study that looks at
text, or considers institutions as defining religion. But every student has
a stake in the production of knowledge. For me as a teacher, that's the success.