Researching Ancient Rituals in the Digital Age:
Music in Religious Thought and Practice (JINS 301)
Shirley McKamie, Truman State University
The Junior-Year Interdisciplinary Seminar (JINS) is the signature course of the Liberal Studies Program at Truman State University, Missouri’s designated public liberal arts and sciences institution. In 2001 the JINS courses, featuring topics drawn from all disciplines, were implemented. The goal then and now is to help students develop keen interdisciplinary analysis through high-level research and writing, culminating in a final seminar project designed by the student.
Since 1987 Truman has provided a venue for presentation and publication of student research, including JINS projects, through its annual Student Research Conference and Web site, which in 2008 featured the work of 389 Truman students mentored by 156 faculty members.
Increasingly, student research reflects the recent availability of authentic rituals filmed and posted on YouTube, among other video-sharing Web sites. Ceremonies, sometimes graphic, range from Maori tattooing rituals to possession rites of Korean shamans. Accompanied by traditional scholarly research, such videos may help students experience more directly the power and immediacy of the world’s cultural traditions.
In JINS 301: Music in Religious Thought and Practice, students are challenged to investigate the concept of “global competence” by researching topics that address the twenty-first-century relevance of “theomusicology.” Notably, JINS 301 attracts many international students, who—in this context—feel comfortable to share details of unique rituals performed in their countries. They frequently use digital means to do so: Recently a Truman student from Nepal was asked by an American classmate to help him find an example of a specific Hindu burial song; and, after searching the Internet unsuccessfully that afternoon, the student used his cell phone to text his father in Kathmandu. The next day the father walked to a nearby temple in that city, recorded the funeral song with the permission of a Nepalese family and their priest, and immediately sent the audio file to his son at Truman State University. Considering that other professors may have had similar experiences leads me to propose a presentation devoted to the discussion of the effect on student research of immediate access to such significant digital materials.
Abstract accepted for presentation at NITLE conference held in Boston area on January 17, 2009.