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Take 5 with George Sanders

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Take 5 with George Sanders
By Katie Land, news editor

Composed of a diverse array of faculty, staff and administrators, the Oakland University community is unique, creative, and dedicated. As part of a continuing effort to explore the various roles and lives of our Golden Grizzlies, the News @ OU website presents a new interview series. We invite you to share these stories and “Take 5” with OU.

“Take 5 with George Sanders”

George Sanders, Ph. D., is an assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. His main focus of research has evolved from studying cultural traditions surrounding death into a broader look at the cultural impact of religion. Before coming to OU three years ago, George taught in his home state of Tennessee. George has been able to incorporate his personal interest into course load, which includes teaching the stratification and sociology of religion.

1) What are some of the more interesting modern funeral rites that you have come across in your studies?

I love that many people plan ahead for their own funerals and are not taking themselves as seriously as they used to. This event can be less somber, and more playful, or tawdry even. Given the significance of loss and mortality, it is wonderful to see unique and independent views on what is sacred. While researching, I met an older man who was planning his own Liberace-themed funeral. He had even picked out piano-keyboard-shaped key chains to give to guests as party favors. I love to see people incorporating their own interests and lifestyles even into death.

2) Do you have any hobbies?

I like to skateboard and play punk rock music on my guitar. I also have three kitties. Since I’m from the south, I am just starting to get into some Michigan-activities. Right now I’m learning a bit about hockey, and I went ice skating this winter for the first time ever.

3) What are some current issues in your field?

As I look at the commercialization of different cultural rites, it is interesting to see the ways in which our consumer-driven society influences traditionally sacred rituals. I have lately been exploring the religious “meaning making” processes in the context of the busy, modern world. Looking at people’s daily activities such as shopping or going to the movies can show how the ordinary places in our lives have become significant.

4) Are you currently conducting any field research?

I have lately been researching “mega churches” lately. I have been interviewing members and leaders about their impressions and feelings about practicing religion in these settings. Many churches have new technology, large screens and huge projections. They make big productions every week.

5) What do you like to do on a typical Saturday afternoon?

Lots of times I’m working, but if not, I am still new enough that I like exploring the Detroit area. I love to get out and play tourist. So far, I have been to a cider mill, Frankenmuth, Belle Isle, Greenfield Village and a few of the downtown areas.