Dr Jason C Bivins

Professor

Biography

Jason C. Bivins is a specialist in religion and American culture, focusing particularly on the intersection between religions and politics since 1900. He is the author of Spirits Rejoice!: Jazz and American Religion, a study of the intersections of jazz and American religions in and across comparative themes/categories like ritual, community, and cosmology. The book is enjoying coverage from mainstream and academic media, including National Public Radio, the Washington Times, Downbeat, All About Jazz, and all the usual academic suspects. It was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2015. The book has a listening blog, here:

https://spiritsrejoice.wordpress.com/

 

Bivins has published most actively in the area of U.S. political religions, the subject of his first two books, Religion of Fear: The Politics of  Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2008), a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2008, and The Fracture of Good Order: Christian Antiliberalism and the Challenge to American Politics (University of North Carolina Press, 2003). He has also published multiple articles, review essays, and occasional pieces on religion, politics, and culture in the United States, and - increasingly - on theory and method in the study of religion. He is currently working on his next monograph in political religions: Embattled Majority, a genealogy of the rhetoric of “religious bigotry” in conservative Christian politics since the 1960s (as this category is manifested in Christian textbook narratives, conferences such as Justice Sunday, and political organizations like the JCCCR) and of the varied responses to such claims. Instead of focusing simply on the coalescence of these claims, Bivins interprets the agonisms of "religion" as a public category by focus on technology, affect, and conflicted fundaments of democratic life as a way of giving shape to how Americans think broadly about "religion" as a register of public panic and/or public virtue. He is also writing a volume on Jack Kirby for Penn State's Religion Around series.

 

Shifting to the first person, my not-so-secret, para-professional life continues to involve a lot of music. I play in several groups that perform what might be called non-idiomatic free improvisation. If you’re sloppy you’ll call it “free jazz,” though it has little formal resemblance to the “Fire Music” of the 1960s and its offspring. So it’s probably more accurate to situate it at the intersection of European free improvisation (specifically influenced by the important London scene whose pioneers include Evan Parker and the late Derek Bailey) and contemporary “laminal” improvising (sometimes called electroacoustic improvisation and heavily indebted to the improvisational collective AMM). My best documented associations include the Unstable Ensemble (three albums on Family Vineyard, and one possibly awaiting release), a duo with percussionist Ian Davis (one album on Family Vineyard), the former Micro-East Collective (I joined in time for MEC’s third album on Umbrella), and the Impermanence Trio (where Davis and I are joined by Richmond saxophonist Jimmy Ghaphery; one album, and one awaiting release). Listen here: http://www.umbrellarecordings.com/ and here: https://family-vineyard.com/artists/unstable-ensemble

 

I also have tracks on several different anthologies, including Antiopic’s Allegorical Power Series. Current recording projects include an electroacoustic ensemble with Baltimore-based pianist Nobu Stowe, San Francisco-based sound artist Lee Pembleton, and Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Ross Bonadonna (http://www.vime.org/ensembles/ovarian.htm). We're still hoping to get this one out. The same is true for my second recording with my friend and fellow NCSU faculty member, Tomas Phillips. Our first came out in 2010 on Infrequency/Dragon’s Eye. And Marty Belcher (my longtime saxophonist in Unstable Ensemble) and I co-lead a project called Exo, an octet whose debut recording was released by Public Eyesore records in 2013 (the follow-up was recorded, funded in part by an Indiana Arts Council grant, in July 2016). In recent years, I've also been gigging regularly with two collectives, Polyorchard (led by bassist David Menestres) and Cyanotype (led by violist and composer Dan Ruccia), as well as in a duo with saxophonist Chris Robinson: https://outandgonemusic.wordpress.com/og-bands/bivinsrobinson-duo/. Polyorchard's recordings are beginning to get out there, and hopefully our annihilation by the Japanese noise assassin Merzbow (from the 2013 Hopscotch Festival) will get picked up soon. In my spare time (increasingly rare), I also write reviews of jazz, improvised music, and occasionally a heavy metal or new music record for multiple online and print outlets.

Teaching and Research Interests

Religion in American History and Culture; Religion and Politics; New Religious Movements; Theory and Method in the Study of Religion; Religion and Popular Culture

Education

  • PhD in Religious Studies from Indiana University, 2000