We’re happy to announce the Religion & Human Science workshop presentation schedule for the Spring Quarter. Our meetings take place on alternate Tuesdays in the Marty Center Library (2nd floor of Swift hall) at 5pm. Light refreshments are always provided. Contact Andrew with any questions (kunze@uchicago.edu). Hope to see you there!

2nd Week (April 5) – Andrew Kunze (Div PhD student): “Donating Devotion: Financial Discipline in Hindu Mass Media.” What’s the difference between local, personal donations to religious mendicants and mass mediated, transnational fundraising campaigns? This presentation will argue for a greater continuity between the two, in a case study of BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu publications, studying both their provincial Gujarati press in the 1970s and their contemporary online presence.

4th Week (April 19) – Eric Gurevitch (SALC PhD student): “Erasing History, Emplotting Authors, Critiquing Ideology: The Place and Reception of Vijñāneśvara’s Mitākṣara,” an (abbreviated) reception history of Vijñāneśvara’s commentary on Yājñavalkya-smṛti (a text that was used in constructing colonial anglo-Hindu law), coupled with a close reading of the text to show how we can start to move away from some of the assumptions affected by colonial erasures.

6th Week (May 3) ­– Alireza Doostdar (Div Professor): Professor Doostdar will share a selection from his newly completed book project on supernatural practices and conceptions of science in contemporary Iran.

8th Week (May 17) – Charles Preston (Div PhD candidate): “Akbar à la Kālidāsa: Muslims, Tolerance, and Hindu Nationalism in a Modern Sanskrit Drama.” The modern Sanskrit drama Anārkalī (1972), by V. Raghavan, dramatizes Akbar’s Dīn-i-Ilāhī conference of religions and rewrites as a romance the tragic legend of Anārkalī.  While intended to address contemporary concerns of national integration and religious tolerance, the play subsumes Islam, the Mughals, and modern Indian politics under an imagined hegemonic and naturalized identity of Sanskritic Hindu tolerance.  In the Dīn-i-Ilāhī scenes, the play extols religious and national unity, yet mocks Muslim sectarianism and positively depicts Akbar as more Hindu than Muslim.  By refashioning the Anārkalī legend as a classical Sanskrit romance in the style of classical Sanskrit, and by having the eponymous heroine rescued by her royal lover’s Hindu wife, the play advocates an affective nationalism mediated through Sanskrit aesthetics and Hindu benevolence.  This reading of Anārkalī underscores contradictions of tolerance discourse when conveyed in Sanskrit’s elite register while combined with postcolonial nationalist rhetoric and colonial conceptions of essentialized religious identity.

10th Week (May 31) – Joshua R. Vera (History PhD candidate): “Locating the Gods: Discerning Religion in the Ancient Cityscape.” What exactly can we learn about religion from the built environment? Is it truly possible to make concrete conclusions about religious identity and practice without a foundation of textual evidence? This paper examines the troublesome relationship between archaeology and religious history, using as a case study the cityscape of Athens under Roman control. Drawing upon the rich material evidence for the redevelopment of certain sanctuaries after the city’s subjugation, I will argue that indeed we can discern significant features of the everyday religion of the post-classical Athenians—buried somewhere between heritage and history.