Meet Our Newest Contributors: Kristin Du Mez and Tim Gloege

I’ve been blogging here at The Anxious Bench for three weeks… which makes me only the third most junior member of this august fellowship! In the meantime, independent scholar Tim Gloege and Calvin College professor Kristin Kobes Du Mez have also made their debuts on the Bench, where they’ll be sharing the Thursday slot with John Turner. If you missed them, be sure to read Tim’s first post (starting a series on “corporate evangelicalism”) and Kristin’s (on the role of history and memory in Christian feminism).

You can learn more about Kristin and Tim at their author bios, but they were also kind enough to answer a few more introductory questions.

– Chris Gehrz

If your official Anxious Bench biography were one or two paragraphs longer, what would you add?

Kristin Kobes Du MezKKDM: I might talk about my religious roots in Calvinist theology and the Reformed intellectual tradition. Or about how I became a historian of women, having never read a single book about women’s history before I arrived in graduate school. But since I study and write quite a bit about feminism, I’ll go out on a limb and self-identify as the mother of three young children. That means I write in the early mornings, late at night, and during babysitting/school hours. There are small gaps in my cv timed to the pregnancy and birth of each of my kids, and when I depart for conferences I must first pry off little arms trying to prevent my leaving. I share these experiences with many other female scholars—I know, because we speak in hushed tones about such things when we meet up at conferences and events. (And with some male colleagues too, I should add, except for the pregnancy part). So there’s that.

TG: Well, I probably would have said something about the privilege (and luxury) of having had several years to focus on raising two incredible daughters. I’m grateful that our family has been able both to teach and to model that a married woman’s career need not play second fiddle. And now that I am shifting my focus back in a professional direction, I am incredibly grateful that I can pursue my research, teaching, writing, and tech-tinkering on my own terms.

I’m deliberately using terms like “privilege” and “luxury” to describe my situation. Most people cannot afford to take time off. And there are so many incredibly gifted scholars out there who are trapped in exploitative working situations for reasons that have nothing to do with their talent. (And, as Kelly Baker has written, this group disproportionately, and uncoincidentally, consists of women.) So, I want to be sure not to minimize the difficulties facing many contingent faculty. I realize I’m in a really fortunate position.

If you were going to recommend one book for people to read this summer (in addition to your own, that is), what would it be?

Johnson, African American ReligionsTG: Limiting us to one book isn’t very nice, Chris! [Ed. – True.] There is so much good stuff out there. Forced to choose, I’d probably push a book I’m in the middle of reading right now: African American Religions, 1500-2000 by Sylvester Johnson. It may be a bit of an unusual choice for a blog of evangelical history (since the word “evangelical” does not even appear in its index—I just checked). But it is a brilliant work of history. It has helped me immensely in thinking about how religion (Christianity especially) has operated in its larger political and economic context (colonialism and global capitalism respectively) over the last 500 years. And for me at least, it puts to bed the idea that we can talk about religion as being a “private” thing that stands outside of “the world.”

KKDM: Marilynne Robinson’s The Givenness of Things. I don’t know that this qualifies as beach reading, but maybe hammock reading. Blogs are good—I read way too many. I currently have a stack of what appear to be fabulous books on American religion I haven’t yet gotten to, and I’m eager to dig in. But every once in a while it can be good to slow down, to think big thoughts, and to relish the beauty of words. Robinson’s book does this for me. The book is filled with little nuggets of wisdom on faith, history, Calvinism, education, politics, and fear, to name a few. But the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts. At a time when scholars often rush to publish illuminating but often highly specialized investigations of sometimes minute topics, Robinson’s book offers a refreshing alternative. She meanders across disciplines and across (and sometimes far afield of) areas of her own expertise; she offers some evidence and some musings. But the truth she is poking and prodding at is something we too often lose sight of in the midst of our everyday quest for smaller truths.

If you were going to recommend one historical site for people to add to their summer travels, what would it be?

Whitney Plantation
Whitney Plantation (CC BY-ND 2.0 Corey Balazowich)

TG: I’d encourage people to visit a national park as a historical site. They offer insights into how we as Americans have constructed “nature” over the last century. And the larger parks have some pretty amazing lodges, fantastically engineered roads, and other types of infrastructure–the history of which is often available. I might suggest Glacier National Park, not only because it is amazing, but also for the sobering fact that the park service estimates its glaciers will be gone in the next decade or two.

KKDM: I haven’t been here yet, but I really want to visit Whitney Plantation. I spent a couple of years growing up in Tallahassee, FL. As a transplanted Yankee from small-town Iowa, I was taken in by the romance of the Old South. But in the romantic version, the lived experiences of slaves were of course obscured. This restored plantation puts slavery, and the lives of slaves, front and center.

Finally, help our readers promote this blog by completing the following sentence (which they can then copy-and-paste into Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc.): “You should all read The Anxious Bench because _________.”

Tim GloegeKKDM: “You should all read The Anxious Bench because knowledge used to be power, and it might be again someday.”

TG: “…you could do worse.” (This is what you get for asking this question to a native Minnesotan with a severe allergic reaction to anything tangentially related to self-promotion!)

To be fair, a Minnesotan also asked the question. :) Thanks again, Tim and Kristin. Looking forward to reading more from you both.

Before we conclude, there’s one other recent addition to The Anxious Bench that you may have noticed: our new logo! Thanks to Lisa Swartz for her excellent design work.

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