Tag Archive for Religion

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.

Quijada Publishes Volume on Circumpolar Community’s Health-Seeking Practices

Justine Quijada, assistant professor of religion, is the author of two new publications. They include:

“Signs as Symptoms in Buryat Shamanic Callings,” published in The Healing Landscapes of Central and Southeastern Siberia, with David Anderson, ed. The publication is supported by the Canadian Circumpolar Institute (CCI) Press in cooperation with the Centre for the Cross-Cultural Study of Health and Healing, University of Alberta. The edited volume is the first in a possible series that addresses health problems in Native Canadian communities by both training doctors to consider cross-cultural perspectives in health, and to train more Native Canadians as doctors. The book series will document circumpolar people’s traditional medical and health-seeking practices.

And “Soviet Science and Post-Soviet Faith: Etigelov’s Imperishable Body,” published in American Ethnologist 39:1: pages 138-154, 2012.

Rev. Billy Preaches on Anti-Consumerism

Reverend Billy (Bill Talen), anti-consumerism activist and performance artist, "preached" in Memorial Chapel on April 23. Mary-Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion, is teaching Talen’s work in her Introduction to the Study of Religion course, as part of a unit on capitalism and some of its counter-movements as late-modern religious expressions.

Rev. Billy Warns of the Coming “Shop-Ocalypse” in April 23 Lecture

Anti-consumerism activist Reverend Billy stages revival-style “services” in public squares, theaters, art museums and parking lots, seeking to make people and institutions mindful of the consequences of their spending.

On Monday, April 23, Wesleyan will receive a visit from Reverend Billy (Bill Talen), the anti-consumerism activist and performance artist, who has tried to “exorcise” so many Starbucks cash registers, he’s been banned from the coffee shop chain. He will speak at 7 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

Talen is best known as the subject of the 2007 documentary, What Would Jesus Buy?, produced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlok and directed by Sundance Film Festival Award-winner Rob VanAlkemade.

In his performance art, Talen takes on the persona of an evangelical preacher to protest the excesses of corporate commercialism.  He and his choir, “The Church of Stop Shopping,” preach a broad message of economic justice, environmental advocacy, and anti-militarism. He stages revival-style “services” in public squares, theaters, art museums and parking lots, seeking to make people and institutions mindful of the consequences of their spending. Talen also implores audiences to confront abusive labor practices, exploitative resource extraction, the demise of small businesses and the ecological costs of excessive consumerism. He chants things like “change-aluia” and warns of the coming “shop-ocalypse” to try to get his audience to imagine a world free from consumerism.

“Products, logos, and labels have become our gods; the beings for which we will give up everything we have. Shopping malls are our temples and churches,” says Mary-Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion, describing Talen’s message. “In the style of a revivalist preacher, he calls his audiences to turn away from their self-destructive investment in false gods and turn back toward ‘reality,’ which is to say to make things rather than buy them; to support small businesses rather than transnational corporations; and to stop the endless, unconscious consumption that’s destroying the earth, our bodies, and our civil life together.”

Rubenstein is teaching Talen’s work in her Introduction to the Study of Religion course, as part of a unit on capitalism and some of its counter-movements as late-modern religious expressions.

The event is sponsored by the Baldwin University Lectures, the Center for the Arts, the Ethics and Society Project, the Office of Institutional Partnerships, the Religion Department, Sociology Department (Hoy Endowment) and Government Department.

Rinzler ’05 Writes About Buddhist Teachings for New Generation

Lodro Rinzler '05

In his book The Buddha Walks Into a Bar …: A Guide to Life for a New Generation (Shambhala), Lodro Rinzler ’05 shows how Buddhist teachings can have a positive impact on every little nook and cranny of your life—whether you’re interested in being a Buddhist or not. These teachings can help inspire individuals to make a difference in themselves and in the world. The book explores the four dignities of Shambhala (the tiger, lion, garuda, and dragon) and the three yanas, or vehicles, of traditional Tibetan Buddhism.

Rinzler writes in his book’s introduction that the volume is “about taking these traditional teachings that have been tried and tested over thousands of years and saying, ‘I am going to try to live my day with a little more compassion,’ or, ‘I’m going to slow down a bit and enjoy my life.’ You don’t have to change you. You are great. This book is just about how to live your life to the fullest.”

In a recent profile of Rinzler at The Daily Beast, Allison Yarrow writes:
“The tactic that’s earned him an audience outside the practicing Shambhala Buddhist community is that he applies meditation techniques to modern temptations often perfected on college campuses—drinking in bars and one-night-stands. While the benefits of meditation have crept into the scientific mainstream in recent years, Rinzler believes ancient teachings continue to be misunderstood by outsiders who see them as “hippie stuff.” Hence the slick wardrobe of bow ties and fitted jeans. He’s rebranding the practice for a new millennium, starting with himself.”

Justin Whitaker’s review of the book at American Buddhist Perspective says: “Rinzler does a good job of weaving ancient wisdom with the kinds of situations many young people will find themselves in today: from relationship break-ups to experimenting with alcohol. His use of pop culture: cartoons, comic books, rap music and the Rocky movie, help ground Buddhist practice in the real life experiences of his intended audience.”

In a recent essay “Becoming Who You Want to Be (When You Grow Up)” at the Huffington Post, Rinzler writes:

Book by Lodro Rinzler '05

“… I call upon members of my generation to look not just for a profession which might make you happy but also contemplate who you want to be as you get older. What are the core values you care about, as opposed to a profession you think might be suitable?

“If my generation, Generation O, took on this simple question we would not squander years trying to find the ‘perfect job’ or the ‘perfect position’ within a company. We would discern what is important to us and live all aspects of our life in line with that core intention. We wouldn’t all be astronauts or athletes but we would be who we want to be, and by doing that we would ultimately create that Change with a capital C.”

Rinzler is a meditation practitioner and teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. Over the last decade he has taught numerous workshops at meditation centers and college campuses across the United States.

Cameron Edits Book on Paul and the Corinthians

Book edited by Ron Cameron and Merrill Miller.

Ron Cameron, professor of religion, is the co-editor of the book Redescribing Paul and the Corinthians. The 340-page book was published by the Society of Biblical Literature in 2011.

This second volume of studies by members of the SBL Seminar on Ancient Myths and Modern Theories of Christian Origins reassesses the agenda of modern scholarship on Paul and the Corinthians. The contributors challenge the theory of religion assumed in most New Testament scholarship and adopt a different set of theoretical and historical terms for redescribing the beginnings of the Christian religion. They propose explanations of the relationship between Paul and the recipients of 1 Corinthians; the place of Pauls Christ-myth for his gospel; the reasons for a disinterest in and rejection of Pauls gospel and/or for the reception and attraction of it; and the disjunction between Pauls collective representation of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians and the Corinthians own engagement with Paul in mythmaking and social formation, including mutual (mis)translation and (mis)appropriation of the others discourse and practices.

Cameron also contributes an essay to the book. More information is online here.

 

Gottschalk Edits Book on South Asian Religions, Indigenous Responses

Book edited by Peter Gottschalk.

Peter Gottschalk, chair and professor of religion, is the editor of the book, Engaging South Asian Religions: Boundaries, Appropriations, and Resistances, published by the State University of New York Press in May 2011. The book looks at Western understandings of South Asian religions and indigenous responses from precolonial to contemporary times.

Focusing on boundaries, appropriations, and resistances involved in Western engagements with South Asian religions, this volume considers both the pre- and postcolonial period in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It pays particular attention to contemporary controversies surrounding the study of South Asian religions, including several scholars’ reflections on the contentious reaction to their own work. Other issues explored include British colonial epistemologies, Hegel’s study of South Asia, Hindu-Christian interactions in charismatic Catholicism and the canonization of Francis Xavier, feminist interpretations of the mother of the Buddha, and theological controversies among Muslims in Bangladesh and Pakistan. By using the themes of boundaries, appropriations, and resistances, this work offers insight into the dynamics and diversity of Western approaches to South Asian religions and the indigenous responses to, involvements with, and influences on them.