Tag Archive for Religion

Rubenstein Guest Panelist at Global Politics of Sexuality Conference

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, assistant professor of religion, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, was a guest panelist at a conference titled “Christianity and the Global Politics of Sexuality” held Oct. 21 at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, New York University.

Focusing specifically on sexuality, Rubenstein and other panelists discussed the ways in which transnational and non-governmental Christian organizations have an impact on legal and social policies in different areas where Christians may comprise a small minority or a larger percentage of the population. In addition, sexuality continues to rankle and even divide Christian churches themselves, as evidenced by the recent tensions in the Anglican Communion over LGBT clergy members. This panel explored debates about sexuality within Christian churches and the global reach of Christian claims about sexuality.

Rubenstein is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe, and of numerous articles and chapters on continental philosophy, negative theology, and the crisis over sex and gender in the global Anglican Communion.

5 Questions With . . . Religion’s Peter Gottschalk

YouTube Preview Image

This issue we ask “5 Questions” of Peter Gottschalk, chair and professor of religion and co-author, with Gabriel Greenberg ’04, of the book Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy (Rowman & Littlefield).

Q. How did you become interested in studying Islam?

A: My interest arose entirely by serendipity. While in college, I hadn’t any interest in studying Islam but, because I was planning on visiting my parents who had just moved to Saudi Arabia, I took an introductory course on Islam. Fortunately, John Esposito, one of the few American specialists in Islam at the time, taught the class. From Saudi, I continued on to my first trip to India, where I lived in an area with a mixed Hindu, Muslim, and Christian population. I didn’t go to India for the sake of learning about the local religions, but the similarities and differences among the religious practices there, and between the forms of Islam practiced in Saudi and India, piqued my interest. After my return to the U.S., following other career pursuits, the lure of understanding more about both Islamic and Hindu traditions grew until it finally overtook me, and I shifted my attention.

Peter Gottschalk, chair and professor of religion, is the co-author of the book Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy. The book aims to better publicize the existence of an accepted – and corrosive – social prejudice. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Q: Much of your scholarly work has been focused on Islam in the Asian subcontinent, but your book Islamophobia is decidedly focused on the Western World. How did this come about? 

 



A: Following the tragedies of 9/11, it wasn’t hard to guess that the prejudice that Muslims historically had faced in the United States would heighten. Of course, the hijackers religiously justified the violence they unleashed against their victims, but this clearly resulted from an entirely marginal interpretation of Islam held by a fraction of Muslims so small that they would be insignificant,

Willis Delegate at Inaugural U.S.-Indonesian Conference

Janice Willis, professor of religion, was one of 20 American religious scholars and nonprofit leaders selected by the U.S. State Department to participate in the U.N.-sponsored, Indonesia-U.S. Interfaith Cooperation Forum, held in Indonesia, Jan. 25-27.

Jan Willis, professor of religion, was one of 20 American religious scholars and nonprofit leaders selected by the U.S. State Department to participate in an Indonesia-U.S. Interfaith Cooperation Forum, held in Indonesia, Jan. 25-27. She stands before a model is of the great stupa/mandala Borobudur in the courtyard of the Hotel Borobudur. The actual Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world.

Unexpected invitations come with the holidays every year, but one in particular received by Jan Willis, professor of religion, caught her attention. It was from the U.S. State Department, and was inspired by President Barack Obama.

The invitation asked Willis to serve as just one of 20 American religious scholars and nonprofit leaders selected by the U.S. State Department to participate in the inaugural Indonesia-U.S. Interfaith Cooperation Forum that was being held in Jakarta, Indonesia, Jan. 25-27 under the auspices of Religions for Peace.

“As soon as I read it, I knew I had to attend this,” Willis says. “It was a unique opportunity, and one I knew could not miss.”

The consultation was a follow-up to President Obama’s “New Beginning” speech in Cairo, Egypt where he called for interfaith cooperation, especially between Muslims and other faiths. Indonesia was chosen as the location for the first meeting by virtue of it being the largest Muslim nation in the world.

Willis, a Buddhist and renowned Buddhist scholar, was the only Buddhist from The United States invited and one of only two at the gathering; the other:

Jewish Community Donates Roman Coin to Special Collections

Jewish Chaplain Rabbi David Leipziger Teva holds a silver coin minted in 70 C.E.

Jewish Chaplain Rabbi David Leipziger Teva holds a silver coin minted in 70 C.E.

In 70 C.E., Roman Emperor Vespasian and his son, Titus, sacked the city of Jerusalem, destroying the Jewish temple.

To commemorate the success of quelling the Jewish Revolt, the Romans minted a series of nearly 50 “Judea Capta” (Captured Judaea) coins in gold, bronze and silver to remind the Roman Empire of its victory. Most of these coins depict a Roman soldier or leader, outfitted in military attire, and a mourning female Jewish woman, seated under a palm tree or trophy.

On Jan. 14, Jewish Chaplain Rabbi David Teva Leipziger Teva, director of religious and spiritual life, donated a silver coin, known as a denarius, to Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives. The silver denarius, featuring an embossed profile of Emperor Vespasian and the words “Caesar Vespasianus Avg(ustus),” was struck in 69-70 A.D.

The coin shows a mourning female Jewish woman, seated under a palm tree or trophy.

The coin shows a mourning female Jewish woman, seated under a palm tree or trophy.

“The coin was probably minted at a time when the teaching of Judaism and outward expressions of biblical, temple cult-based Judaism were made impossible by a dominating power,” Rabbi Leipziger Teva says. “Fast forward to 2010 at Wesleyan. Today we have multiple creative pathways for students to express and explore their Judaism and their Jewish identities. This coin talked about the complete opposite of all of this.”

Suzy Taraba, university archivist and head of Special Collections and Archives, says the denarius is the first coin donated to Wesleyan in at least 12 years. The coin will be housed with another Roman coin of the 15th century, which is embossed with the first, regularly used printer’s mark.

Taraba encourages faculty teaching courses on religion or history to use the coins as teaching tools. Jewish history

WesSukkah Dedicated Oct. 3

WesSukkah, designed and built by Wesleyan’s Architecture II research-design-build studio, was dedicated Oct. 3 on Foss Hill. The sukkah is used by Wesleyan’s Jewish community during the festival of Sukkot. For eight days, students studied, socialized, mediated, ate, and occasionally slept in the religious structure.

WesSukkah was honored with a 2009 “Faith and Form” Award for art and architecture from the American Institute of Architects.

sukkah1

sukkah2

sukkah3

sukkah4

sukkah5

sukkah6

(Photos by Olivia Bartlett Drake and Steve Rowland P’11. Rowland travelled from Seattle, Wa. for the dedication Oct. 3. His son, Cameron Rowland ’11, is one of the architecture students who designed WesSukkah)

Jewish Community Celebrates Holiday in Student-Designed WesSukkah

WesSukkah, designed and built by Wesleyan's Architecture II research-design-build studio, is constructed with 1,600 culms of bamboo, measuring a combined 19,200 linear feet. The Wesleyan community is invited to the WesSukkah dedication at 1 p.m. Oct. 3 on Foss Hill.

WesSukkah, designed and built by Wesleyan's Architecture II research-design-build studio, is constructed with 1,600 culms of bamboo, measuring a combined 19,200 linear feet. The Wesleyan community is invited to the WesSukkah dedication at 1 p.m. Oct. 3 on Foss Hill.

Every October, Wesleyan’s Jewish community dwells in a temporary structure built for the festival of Sukkot. For eight days, students study, socialize, mediate, eat, host events and occasionally sleep in the religious building.

This holiday, the Jewish students will celebrate the Israelites 40-year journey to the Holy Land inside an airy, five-mound curving structure of carbon-steel clad in bamboo. Designed by 15 students enrolled in Architecture II, a research-design-build studio, the “WesSukkah” provides a sacred space that adheres to a complex, medieval Rabbinic building code.

“The students have crafted something which is both compelling and meaningful for Wesleyan’s campus,” explains the studio’s instructor, Elijah Huge, assistant professor of art. “The structure maintains its symbolic and literal connection to the broader landscape through its materiality and permeability.”

WesSukkah was honored with a 2009 "Faith and Form" Award for art and architecture from the American Institute of Architects. (Photo by Gideon Finck '11)

WesSukkah was honored with a 2009 "Faith and Form" Award for art and architecture from the American Institute of Architects. (Photo by Gideon Finck '11)

The students designed WesSukkah with 1,600 culms of bamboo, 46 high carbon steel pipes, six steel rods, five spools of monofilament test line and steel rebar. The structure will be dedicated at 1 p.m. Oct. 3 on the top of Foss Hill.

The final design is a result of an intensive sequence of research, design, fabrication phases and client presentations.

Initially, the project clients,

McAlister and Ulysse Discuss Haiti, Vodou

Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of religion, associate professor of African American studies, and Gina Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of African American studies, associate professor of feminist gender and sexuality studies, were featured guests on the Sept. 11 Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR. The 49-minute show titled “CMS: Hatian Vodou and Zombies Too!” focused on the practices of Vodou and how it affects so many aspects of Haitian culture.

McAlister Essay Selected for Prominent American Studies Book

Liza McAlister's essay is featured in the book American Studies.

Liza McAlister's essay is featured in the book American Studies.

An essay titled “The Madonna of 115th Street Revisited: Vodou and Haitian Catholicism in the Age of Transnationalism,” by Liza McAlister, associate professor of religion, associate professor of African American studies, associate professor of American studies, has been selected as a “key essay” in the book, American Studies: An Anthology. American Studies is a vigorous, bold account of the changes in the field of American studies over the last 35 years. Through this set of carefully selected key essays by an editorial board of expert scholars, the book demonstrates how changes in the field have produced new genealogies that tell different histories of both America and the study of America. American Studies is edited by Janice Radway.

Willis Honored for Efforts with Buddhist Nuns

Jan Willis, professor of religion, professor of East Asian studies, meets with three Buddhist nuns in Ladakh, India. Willis was honored as a "Outstanding Woman in Buddhism" recently for making an "exceptional contribution to Buddhism."

Jan Willis, professor of religion, professor of East Asian studies, meets with three Buddhist nuns in Ladakh, India. Willis was honored as a "Outstanding Woman in Buddhism" recently for making an "exceptional contribution to Buddhism."

In the sparsely populated, mountainous region of Ladakh, India, elderly Buddhist nuns are suffering from isolation, illiteracy and lack of respect from their communities. These women, who spent their lives serving their family or working as laborers, have rarely had the opportunity to become ordained or to worship in a monastery like the highly regarded male monks.

“These women have been devalued from the beginning,” says Jan Willis, professor of religion, professor of East Asian studies. “All they’ve ever wanted to do is serve the dharma and study, but instead, they’ve become servants of their community, or helpers for the monks.”

Jan Willis

Jan Willis

Willis, who has devoted part of the last seven years to helping a group of elderly Ladakhi nuns, is being honored as an “Outstanding Woman in Buddhism” for the year 2009 for making an “exceptional contribution to Buddhism.”