Metadata Analyst Profile on May May Latt
by Todd Aiello/
June 08, 2023
Atla’s research tools benefit from the applied expertise of Atla’s team of metadata editors and analysts. Atla’s metadata analysts and editors synthesize research from a wide range of academic resources and make decisions about the most relevant subjects to include in the records in our databases to support discovery by our community of researchers and students. Their depth of knowledge ensures that Atla’s research tools support the successful discovery of relevant research from a highly diverse range of academic sources.
The staff has graduate degrees in theology, religious studies, history, anthropology, philosophy, literature and languages, and the social sciences. In addition to titles aligned with their formal academic background, many index areas of personal interest or research, such as sacred music or archeology. The team indexes titles representing research in more than forty-five languages from seventy countries.
This month we feature Metadata Analyst, May May Latt
May May was born and raised in Myanmar, also known as Burma. A fourth-generation Christian of the Burmese Baptist faith, she grew up in a nation in which the military-led government routinely persecuted religious and other minorities, limiting their right to free expression and their career and economic opportunities. After completing high school, May May attended Yangon University to study Chemistry, but her studies paused for three years while the university was closed by the government in the wake of popular uprisings challenging the dictatorship’s authority. She was finally able to complete her bachelor’s degree in 1991.
She chose to continue her education in the Seminary, which was the only type of secondary school open in Myanmar for more than three months of the year at the time. She joined the Bachelor of Divinity program, which is the current equivalent of a Master of Divinity degree, in the Seminary at the Myanmar Institute of Theology. Upon graduating from the program in 1995, she joined the faculty of the Myanmar Institute of Theology, teaching courses on the Old Testament and the Hebrew language. After two years in this position, she matriculated into the Boston University School of Theology to earn her Master of Sacred Theology degree. She then moved to Chicago, where she earned her Ph.D. in the Hebrew Bible from the Lutheran School of Chicago in 2012.
In addition to her graduate studies, May May’s career path took her to a wide variety of places. She spent two years as an interpreter for the Burmese refugee community and worked as a liaison between American Baptist churches and Burmese churches in Wisconsin. She also taught at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas as an adjunct professor of the Hebrew Bible. In 2016, she took two months off from her work in the United States to go back to Myanmar and teach at the Lisu Theological Seminary of Myanmar.
During this period, she received a job interview with Atla for the role of Metadata Analyst of Biblical Studies. May May previously built experience for this role through a summer internship at her Seminary’s library and later volunteering at local seminaries’ libraries to help with sorting books by subject matter and in other areas of general support. Her passion for libraries as well as her extensive background in theology made her a natural fit in her role with Atla, and she joined the organization in 2016.
May May indexes a wide variety of subjects in her role. Her main areas of concentration are biblical studies, archeology, and Jewish studies. Secondarily, she also indexes titles covering religion in general, practical theology, and interdisciplinary works on religion and science. She has indexed works in a number of languages, including English, Hebrew, Greek, German, French, and Pali. In her work, she takes pride in her ability to put herself in the mindset of scholars and researchers and to treat every article she indexes as unique, important, and searchable.
In addition to her work with Atla, May May is an ordained pastor for a Burmese-speaking church that serves immigrants and refugees from Myanmar. In addition to preaching every Sunday at the Milwaukee Myanmar Christian Church, May May also teaches Sunday School and adult Bible Study. She is also an adult Sunday School curriculum writer for Journeys, Judson Bible Lesson Series, published by Judson Press. She is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, where she presents and reads papers almost every year. In her free time, she enjoys the beauty of nature, including hiking, backpacking, gardening, running, swimming, biking, camping in all seasons of the year, and all other outdoor activities. She splits her time between Glendale, Wisconsin, near where her church is located, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, where her husband, Thomas R. Blanton IV, is a New Testament scholar and teaches at John Carroll University.
When asked what role Atla fills in the theology and religion space, May May said, “Atla covers many religions from all over the world and has rich resources for the scholars of religions. Recently, Atla’s resources have become more relevant and available for a broader general audience, such as pastors and members of the Church and other religious associations. Geographically, resources from Southeast Asian and African countries have become more available for students and scholars of religions, which allows international and exchange students to receive their own countries’ resources easily wherever they study. In this globalized era, Atla databases have connected students, scholars, and all users to various religions and countries and made research easy, effective, and efficient. For example, many students from and in Burma are thrilled to find journals of their own and from other Southeast Asian countries in the Atla database, and they have mentioned that Atla Religion Database® has supported their academic research and studies effectively in the contextual study of the Bible and religion.”
We asked May May to highlight some titles in Atla’s research tools that she has worked on, in her words
Journal of the Bible and Its Reception is published twice annually by De Gruyter in Germany. Each article focuses on the field of Reception History and discusses reception of the Bible in Judaism and Christianity. This title covers various academic fields, cross-cultural studies, and interdisciplinary studies, such as the Bible in relation to politics, gender, sexuality, social movements, and cultural issues. Indexed in Atla Religion Database®, full text in Atlas PLUS®.
Near Eastern Archaeology has been published quarterly since 1998 by American Schools of Overseas (formerly Oriental) Research (US). The journal focuses on excavation methodology, radiocarbon dating, and the geological location of excavation sites. Based on archaeological findings and data, each article addresses ancient culture, practices, lifestyles, and most importantly their religion in their own contemporary period. Indexed in Atla Religion Database®, full text in Atlas®.
Journal of Africana Religions has been published quarterly since 2013 by Pennsylvania State University Press. This title includes anthropological and religious perspectives of African and African Diasporic people. Cross-cultural studies, interdisciplinary approaches, and social scientific methods are used in this journal; thus, it addresses social and political issues from ancient times to the current era not only in Africa but also in Europe, America, Asia, and the Atlantic Islands. Indexed in Atla Religion Database®.
Journal of Myanmar Biblical Studies, published by the Society of Myanmar Biblical Studies, was first issued in 2019 and aimed to be published annually at that time. Due to COVID-19, they did not hold the conference of the Society of Myanmar Biblical Studies in 2019, and a military coup d’état followed in 2020; consequently, the Society has not met to hold a conference and has not had any additional publications to this day. The journal focuses mainly on Biblical issues, which are discussed exegetically and contextually. Reading the Bible in the context of Burma addresses social, political, and economic issues happening in this current era. This journal also aims to create a bridge between academic biblical studies for theological schools and churches in Burma by bringing in present-day issues that every person faces. Indexed in Atla Religion Database®.
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