Tag Archive for Religion

McAlister Teaches “Ethnography of Religion” Seminar in Haiti

In June, Professor Elizabeth McAlister taught a seminar on prayer practices at the State University of Haiti. She previously spent almost four months in Haiti studying with Pentecostal prayer warriors and Haitian sorcerers.

In June, Professor Elizabeth McAlister taught a seminar on the ethnography of religion at the State University of Haiti. She previously spent four months in Haiti interviewing Pentecostal prayer warriors and Haitian sorcerers.

Professor Elizabeth McAlister recently presented a weeklong intensive seminar on the ethnography of religion at the Anthropology and Sociology Department, Faculté d’Ethnologie, at the State University of Haiti, Université d’Etat d’Haïti. McAlister is professor of religion, professor of African-American studies, professor of American studies.

Her seminar catered to Haitian university students who are training in field methods of ethnography of religion.

The seminar wrapped up McAlister’s four-month study on “Understanding Aggressive Prayer Forms in Evangelicalism and Afro-Atlantic Religions.”

Her research was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation in “New Directions in Study of Prayer.” Developed through the Social Science Research Council’s program on religion and the public sphere, the funds support the academic ventures of 28 scholars and journalists on multidisciplinary aspects of prayer in a modern, global context.

Gottschalk Authors Op-Ed Published in L.A. Times

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the author of an op-ed published April 17 in The Los Angeles Times on the history of religious intolerance in the U.S. Responding to recent shootings near Jewish community centers in Kansas, in which three people were killed, Gottschalk writes that though the incident “seems at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present,” in fact religiously motivated violence is alive and well in the U.S. Gottschalk walks readers through a history of religious intolerance from the country’s earliest days, and traces the various forms the KKK has taken over the years. He concludes: “The religious pluralism evident in the United States testifies to the remarkable accomplishments the nation has made in promoting tolerance and inclusion. However, the recent sad news from Kansas reminds us that a pernicious current promoting racial, religious, and national exclusivity electrifies an active third rail of American history.”

Rubenstein’s Worlds without End Published

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Book by Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion, is the author of Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse, published by Columbia University Press, 2014.

“Multiverse” cosmologies imagine our universe as just one of a vast number of others. While this idea has captivated philosophy, religion and literature for millennia, it is now being considered as a scientific hypothesis—with different models emerging from cosmology, quantum mechanics and string theory.

Beginning with ancient Atomist and Stoic philosophies, Rubenstein links contemporary models of the multiverse to their forerunners and explores the reasons for their recent appearance. One concerns the so-called fine-tuning of the universe: nature’s constants are so delicately calibrated that it seems they have been set just right to allow life to emerge. For some thinkers, these “fine-tunings” are evidence of the existence of God; for others, however, and for most physicists, “God” is an insufficient scientific explanation.

Rubenstein also is the author of  Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe.

Explore Israeli Culture during Spring Film Festival

The film, Fill the Void, is written and directed by Rama Burshstein (2012). It will be screened on Jan. 30 as part of the Israeli Film Festival. Lisa Dombrowski, associate professor of film studies, will speak about the film after the screening.

The film, Fill the Void, is written and directed by Rama Burshstein (2012). It will be screened on Jan. 30 as part of the Israeli Film Festival. Lisa Dombrowski, associate professor of film studies, will speak about the film after the screening.

Seven films, all with English subtitles, will be screened during the annual Israeli Film Festival this spring.

The festival aims to educate and explore the richness, diversity and creativity of Israeli culture as witnessed through the flourishing of contemporary Israeli cinema. Each film screening is followed by a guest speaker or Wesleyan faculty who comments on the film from a particular perspective.

FIlms this year include Fill the Void, Wherever You Go, Welcome and our Condolences, Zaytoun, By Summer’s End, Six Million and One, Back by Popular Demand: Eyes Wide Open. 

Films run every Thursday at 8 p.m. from Jan. 30 to March 6 in the Goldsmith Family Cinema. Admission is free.

The Festival is organized by Dalit Katz, adjunct assistant professor of Religion and Israel Studies and cultural coordinator of Israeli events at Wesleyan University. It is sponsored by the Ring Family, Jewish and Israel Studies and co sponsored by the Film Studies Department.

For more information about the films and the full schedule, visit the Israeli Film Festival website.

Gottschalk’s New Book Chronicles History of Religious Intolerance in the U.S

New book by Peter Gottschalk.

New book by Peter Gottschalk.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk recently authored a new book, American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerancepublished by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2013The book chronicles the history of religious intolerance in the U.S. – from persecution of Irish and German Catholics in the mid-19th century to today’s discrimination against Muslims, Sikhs and other religious groups. Through the historical record it presents, the book challenges the notion that the U.S. is a stronghold of religious freedom.

Gottschalk’s book recently was featured in a holiday book round-up in the Chicago Tribune.

Dubler ’97 Publishes Immersive New Book on Religion in Prison

Joshua Dubler '97

Joshua Dubler ’97

Joshua Dubler ’97 is the author of the new book Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison (Farrar Straus Giroux). A religion scholar who was working on his dissertation at Princeton University, he spent more than six years working with prisoners at the Graterford Maximum Security Prison outside of Philadelphia, focusing his studies on the religious diversity of the prison chapel.

Book by Joshua Dubler '97

Book by Joshua Dubler ’97

Down in the Chapel tells the story of one whole week at the Graterford chapel in which Dubler attended Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Catholic, and various other services and study sessions. Conversing with chaplains and correctional officers as well as prisoners, he keeps his presence in plain view as he investigates issues of faith and everyday life during incarceration.

Dubler, who graduated from Wesleyan with a BA in College of Letters and religion, is currently assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester. He is coauthor with Andrea Sun-Mee Jones of the 2006 book Bang! Thud: World Spirit from a Texas School Book Depository.

Rubenstein Appointed 2013-14 Distinguished Teaching Fellow

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion and chair of the Religion Department, has been appointed  Wesleyan’s 2013-14 Distinguished Teaching Fellow. She also is associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Established last year by the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Rob Rosenthal, the Distinguished Teaching Fellowship honors Wesleyan’s most outstanding teachers and gives them the opportunity to teach a course outside their usual departmental offerings. The inaugural fellowship was awarded to Andy Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies.

“It is no surprise that Mary-Jane is Wesleyan’s second Distinguished Teaching Fellow: she is known across campus for her exceptional teaching and innovative pedagogy,” said Ruth Striegel Weissman, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “She is deeply engaged in scholarly and pedagogical initiatives on campus.”

Rubenstein has served as co-director of the Certificate in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory, regularly giving talks on campus including for the Wesleyan Thinks Big series, the Theory Lecture Series, the Humanities luncheon, First Year Matters, the Center for Humanities, the Division II Seminar and more. Her scholarship commands strong interest: she gives many invited lectures, recently giving addresses at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, Princeton Theological Seminary, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the London School of Economics, and Yale University.

She is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe, as well as articles on Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Derrida, negative theology, political theologies, global Anglicanism and contemporary cosmology. Her next book will be published in February: Worlds without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse. This work puts recent theories of the “multiverse” into conversation with ancient “many-world” cosmologies.

As Distinguished Teaching Fellow, Mary-Jane will teach “Kierkegaard: an Advanced Seminar in Absurdity” this spring.

Chen Named Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow

Lang Chen

Lang Chen

Lang Chen, a visiting instructor in religion, was named a 2013 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The Newcombe Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious such award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences whose dissertations address questions of ethical and/or religious values. Each 2013 Newcombe Fellow will receive a 12-month award of $25,000.

Chen is teaching “Buddhism “and “(Non)violence in Buddhism” this semester at Wesleyan.

Chen also is a doctoral candidate in religious studies at Yale University. Her dissertation, Elixir or Poison? Indian Origins and Chinese Interpretations of Buddhist Antinomian Narratives, explores the origins of antinomianism in Indian Buddhist narrative literature and the pertinent philosophical development in China.

As a Newcombe fellow, she will return to her dissertation after the spring semester and try to finish it by March 2014.

“I believe while writing my dissertation, I will always recall my experience of teaching at Wesleyan and my inspirational students there,” she said. “According to the Buddhist idea of interdependence, my experience at Wesleyan has become and will always be a part of ‘me.’”

For more information on the fellowship see http://www.woodrow.org/news/news_items/WW_NewcombeFellows_2013.php.

Gottschalk’s Book on Hinduism and Islam in British India Published

Peter Gottschalk

Book by Peter Gottschalk.

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, is the author of Religion, Science, and Empire Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India, published by Oxford University Press in November 2012. In this 448-page book, Gottschalk offers a compelling study of how, through the British implementation of scientific taxonomy in the subcontinent, Britons and Indians identified an inherent divide between mutually antagonistic religious communities.

England’s ascent to power coincided with the rise of empirical science as an authoritative way of knowing not only the natural world, but the human one as well. The British scientific passion for classification, combined with the Christian impulse to differentiate people according to religion, led to a designation of Indians as either Hindu or Muslim according to rigidly defined criteria that paralleled classification in botanical and zoological taxonomies.

Through an historical and ethnographic study of the north Indian village of Chainpur, Gottschalk shows that the Britons’ presumed categories did not necessarily reflect the Indians’ concepts of their own identities, though many Indians came to embrace this scientism and gradually accepted the categories the British instituted through projects like the Census of India, the Archaeological Survey of India, and the India Museum. Today’s propogators of Hindu-Muslim violence often cite scientistic formulations of difference that descend directly from the categories introduced by imperial Britain.

Religion, Science, and Empire will be a valuable resource to anyone interested in the colonial and postcolonial history of religion in India.

McAlister’s “Religion of Zombies” Published in Anthropological Quarterly

Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of religion, associate professor of African American studies, associate professor of American studies, is the author of  “Slaves, Cannibals, and Infected Hyper-Whites: The Race and Religion of Zombies,” published in Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 85, No. 2, pages 457-486, 2012;

And “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History,” published in Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2012.

McAlister Presents Work on Evangelical Missionaries in Germany

Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of religion, was invited to present recent work on how evangelical missionaries are responding to the Haiti earthquake at a conference on Refugees and Missionization at the Max Planck Institute, Goettingen, Germany Oct. 6-7, 2011.

She also attended an invited conference on the study of prayer funded by the Templeton Foundation at the Social Science Research Council, Desmond NYC, on April 30, 2012.

McAlister also is an associate professor of African American studies and associate professor of American studies.

Rubenstein’s Article on the Nothing and the Sovereign Published

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion, is the author of “Cosmic Singularities: On the Nothing and the Sovereign,” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 80, No. 2, pages 485–517, in 2012.

Until very recently, the paper explains, “the creation myth of secular modernity has been the hot big bang hypothesis: the explosion of our single universe out of a single point. Physicists concede that in its traditional form, this story performs an uncanny recapitulation of Christian creation theology: the universe bursts forth suddenly, in a flood of light, out of nothing. As many contemporary thinkers have argued, however, the ‘nothing’ of Christian orthodoxy is neither scripturally nor doctrinally self-evident; rather, it is the product of ontopolitical efforts to secure the sovereignty of God.”

The article traces the twinned concepts of sovereignty and nothingness through theological and astrophysical sources, arguing that “even rabidly atheistic appeals to the ex nihilo end up enshrining a figure of absolute power.” Ultimately, it suggests that far from supporting an absolute beginning, quantum and multiverse cosmologies undermine the logic of nothingness and sovereignty by means of chaos and entanglement.

Rubenstein also is the author of “The Twilight of the Doxai: Or, How to Philosophize with a Whac-A-Mole™ Mallet,” published in The Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Issue 24, pages 64-70, in 2012.

This article evaluates the hermeneutic value of the category of belief from the perspective of a broadly “continental” philosophy of religion. From Socrates’s dismantling of his interlocutors’ doxai to Pseudo-Dionysius’s un-saying of the divine names to Kierkegaard’s noetic divestment to Derrida’s aporetic genealogies, it argues that “belief ” is the target, rather than the telos, of philosophic scrutiny. For the authors engaged here, beliefs are phantasms—uninterrogated positions that uphold a kind of routine political, psychological, or theological order—whose unraveling opens the possibility of difference, and thus of thinking itself. Read the article online here.