Religion, Theory, and Interpretation

A UChicago CAS Study Group

Author: kunze (page 1 of 3)

Spring 2018 Schedule

The Religion and the Human Sciences workshop is happy to announce the schedule for Spring 2018. Our theme this quarter is “Aesthetics of Religion.” This quarter features a few collaborative workshops, so be sure to check the time and place!

April 12
Diane Picio, Ph.D. Student in Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture will present her paper “Representing the Family.”
Swift 201, 12:00pm -1:15pm 
cosponsored by the Religions in America workshop

April 17
Kris Palmieri, Ph.D. Student in History of Science will present her paper “Biblical Criticism and the Transformation of Philology in 18th Century Göttingen.”
Marty Center Library, 12:00pm – 1:15pm 

May 1
Dhruv Nagar, Ph.D. Student in Philosophy of Religions, will present his paper “The Ṛgveda as cosmos-making tool: Vedic semantics of action & the question of the processual prehistory of the Indian philosophical tradition.”
Marty Center Library, 12:00pm – 1:15pm 
cosponsored by the Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture workshop

May 7
Clifford Ando, David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor of Humanities and Professor of Classics, will present his paper “The Discovery of Paganism.”
Swift 200, 4:30pm – 6:00pm
cosponsored by the Early Christian Studies workshop


We hope you can join us!

Rachel Carbonara & Marielle Harrison
Religion and the Human Sciences Workshop Co-Coordinators

Winter 2018 Schedule

The Religion and the Human Sciences Workshop is happy to announce the schedule for Winter 2018. Our theme this quarter is “Artifacts of Religion.” Meetings will take place on Mondays from 12:00-1:15pm in the Marty Center Library.  All events will include lunch!

January 8
Alex Jania, Ph.D. Student in History, will present his paper “For us, the earth still shakes: Thoughts on disaster memorialization in Japan and methodologies of emotional history”.
cosponsored by the East Asia Transregional Histories Workshop 

January 22
Alexandra Cotofana
, Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington, will present her paper “The importance of a meaningless 1989: Political continuities and religious communists.”

February 5
Justin Smolin, Ph.D. Student in History of Religions, will present his paper “Tāntrika on Trial: The Uncanny Genre of ‘Tantric Horror.’”

March 5
Paride Stortini
, Ph.D. Student in History of Religions, will present his paper “Imagining a cosmopolitan ‘Furusato’: India and Buddhism in the Silk Road Imaginaire of Hirayama Ikuo”.
cosponsored by the East Asia Art and Politics Workshop


We hope you can join us!

Marielle Harrison & Rachel Carbonara
Religion and the Human Sciences Workshop Co-Coordinators

Autumn 2017 Schedule

The Religion and the Human Sciences Workshop is happy to announce the schedule for Autumn 2017. Our theme this quarter is “Texts of Religion.” Meetings will take place on Mondays from 12:00-1:15pm in the Marty Center Library unless otherwise noted. All workshops will include lunch!

October 2 (Marty Center Seminar Room)
Adam Miller
, Ph.D. Student in History of Religions, will present his paper “Preaching and the Production of Joy: Ritualization, Affect, and Social Formation in Middle Period Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism.”

October 16                                 
Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, Professor of Anthropology at SUNY Buffalo, will present her paper “The Potency of Indigenous ‘Bibles’ and Biographies: Mapuche Shamanic Literacy and Historical Consciousness.”
co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies and the History of Religions Club       

October 30
Andrew Kunze, Ph.D. Student in Anthropology and Sociology of Religion, will present on “Mass Media Hinduism.”
co-sponsored by the Committee on Southern Asian Studies

November 27
Christian Wedemeyer, Associate Professor of the History of Religions, will present his work on rhetorical techniques in the Mahāyāna Sūtras “Rhetorics of Solidarity in Mahāyāna Sūtra Literature: Or, ‘You’re So Vain, I Bet You Think This Sūtra is About You'”
co-sponsored by the Buddhist Studies Club and the Committee on Southern Asian Studies

We hope you can join us!

Autumn 2016 Schedule

Dear Friends,

The Religion & Human Sciences workshop is excited it announce its schedule for this Fall quarter! We’ll meet on Tuesdays from 5 to 6:30pm either in Swift 208 or in the Marty Center Library, as indicated below (the Martin Marty Center is located on the second floor of Swift Hall. The Library is at the end of the hall, on the left.) Our sessions begin on the Tuesday of 2nd week (Oct 4), and run weekly through the Tuesday of 8th week (Nov 15). Snacks and drinks are always provided!

Our theme for the year is Public Religion (i.e. when public officials cite religion to support policy; religion’s status within publics and/or counterpublics; and how new media may be re-casting the entire private/public divide.) Please see our schedule below and send your thoughts, concerns, quips to Andrew at

Our presenters:

(Oct 4 – S208) J Barton Scott, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Department for the Study of Religion, will discuss his recent work on the Public and defamation in South Asia, part of which was recently published in the Special Issue of South Asia: The Journal of South Asian Studies, ‘What is a Public? Some Notes from South Asia.’

(Oct 11 – S208) Kajri JainAssociate Professor of Indian Visual Culture and Contemporary Art at the University of Toronto, will also discuss the Public in South Asia. Jain’s first book, Gods in the Bazaar, and examined popular religious art in India, and her current research considers the role of religion in public, democratic aesthetics and the emergence of giant historical monuments in India since the 1990s.

(Oct 18 – S208) Dotan Leshem, senior lecturer in the School of Political Science at the University of Haifa, will discuss religion’s entrance into the publics sphere, as portrayed in his new book, The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy From Jesus to Foucault.

Note: This will be a joint-workshop session with the Global Christianities Workshop.

(Oct 25 – Marty Lib.) Mennatallah Khalil, PhD candidate in Anthropology, will discuss her work on the use of religion in politics/for political legitimacy and public support in Egypt.

(Nov 1 – Marty Lib.) Will Kunert, MDiv 2017, will discuss his MDiv thesis on the movement to quantitatively measure the results of hospital chaplaincy. Hospital chaplaincy is one of the last fields to use quantitative research to analyze itself, or advocate for itself to public administrators. Many maintain that chaplaincy can’t be measured. Will investigates the quantitative research that has so far been done in hospital chaplaincy and the public ‘obsession’ with quantification.

(Nov 8 – Marty Lib.) Alireza Doostdar, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and the Anthropology of Religion, will discuss his working article on public screenings of ‘spiritual films’ in Iran, and recent Satanic accusations in response to the films.

(Nov 15 – Marty Lib.) Sahm Myung Suh, PhD candidate in ASR, will discuss his article, ‘Broadcasting the Good News through the Bamboo Curtain’; FEBC and its Spiritual Cold War, on Christian radio broadcasting in East Asia. See the abstract:

The Far Eastern Broadcasting Company is an American-born, global radio ministry network originally established in the wake of the Cold War to transmit the Christian Gospel behind the ‘Bamboo Curtain.’ Co-founded by an evangelical radio broadcaster, Robert Bowman, and an ex-Navy intelligence officer, John C. Broger, the FEBC made it its mission to provide spiritual nourishment to hidden or anonymous Christians who were imagined to profess Christian faith in private secrecy under communist rule, as well as to ward off the advancement of communism in the broad Asian region through faith-based propaganda war. By tracing the historical development of the FEBC during the Cold War, the paper I propose to present in the upcoming ISMRC conference will explore the ways in which the lines between the private and the public spheres become blurred in the cycle of production, transmission, and reception of the politically and religiously charged sound media. The enterprise of making radio stations in various parts of the world and producing multi-language programs evidently took place in the public sphere, which involves a great deal of efforts at raising funds, negotiating with local authorities, and overcoming various technological problems and challenges. Meanwhile, the messages were sent out to penetrate the ‘Bamboo Curtain,’ and the intended audience was expected to listen to them in private and ultimately create what may be called the ‘counter-public.’

Hope to see you there!

Fall 2016 Announcement & Call for Papers

We’re happy to announce that the Religion & Human Sciences workshop will be back in action this Fall quarter 2016. Hope you all will join us, and take note of a couple changes:

R&HS will be held only during the Fall quarter: (Winter? nope. Spring? nu-uh). Our idea is to foster a more focused conversation over a shorter period of time. Our schedule isn’t fixed yet, but the plan is to meet more frequently. Over the quarter, we’ll have about 7 sessions (maybe more!). We’ll also bring in a few outside speakers (more on that later).

Our theme for the quarter is ‘Public Religion’: We want to talk about religion in the public sphere, or religion that disrupts common public/private divides. We’ll also pay special attention to the role of mass media (new and old) in shaping the Public.

Call for Papers: If you’d like to present anything in the Fall quarter – dissertation chapters, conference presentations, article drafts, etc – please send me a title, abstract, and preferred date. As long as there’s something ‘Public’ and some ‘Religion,’ we’ll be happy to have you present.


R&HS Poster copy

Spring Quarter Schedule

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 ( 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.

Nell Hawley Presentation

Please join us on Tuesday, Feb 23, for a presentation from Nell Hawley, PhD student in South Asian Languages and Civilization. Nell will talk to us about the game of dice scene in the Mahabharata, and some literary theoretical issues therein. Chaz Preston will be the respondent.

We’ll meet in Swift 208 at 5pm. Light refreshments will be provided.


Pete Faggen Presentation

Join us this Tuesday at 5pm in Swift 208 to hear Pete Faggen, PhD student in History of Religions, discuss his dissertation proposal, ‘Authority Interrupted: The Gungru female lineage in post-1958 Tibet.’ Light refreshments will be provided. Email Andrew for a copy of the paper:

Bonus Event: Friday, March 11

We’re excited to announce that on Friday, March 11 at Noon, Maria Jose de Abreu, professor of Anthropology at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) will join us to discuss her work on religion and media. We’ll meet in Swift hall, room 106, and free lunch will be provided by the Dean’s office (fancy). See below for a bit about Professor de Abreu’s work. Join us for a respite from your inevitable finals mania.
Maria Jose de Abreu studied Anthropology of Media at SOAS, University of London, and received her PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam in 2009. Her work engages with a range of anthropological, philosophical and literary debates about religion, time, space, personhood, the human senses and their technological extensions. She is currently working on a book project on the flourishing of Byzantine imaginary in urban Sao Paolo through the practices of a media-savvy religious movement. She has published in various journals and edited volumes and has recently been awarded a grant to support an international Wenner Gren symposium titled ‘New Media, New Publics’ (2015). She worked as a visiting scholar at Concordia University (2010) and Columbia University  (2011) and in 2013-2014 as a fellow of the Forum for Transregional Studies under the program Art Histories/ Aesthetic Practices and affiliated to the department of Art History at the Humboldt University of Berlin. She will be joining the faculty at Groningen (Netherlands) in Anthropology this fall. For more information about de Abreu, see

Francis McKay Presentation

Please join us next Tuesday, Feb 9, for a presentation from Francis McKay, PhD candidate in Anthropology. Francis will discuss a chapter from his dissertation on the Buddhist Mindfulness movement in America. The chapter has a great discussion in the philosophy of virtue ethics before turning to the anthropology of virtue and Francis’ findings among Mindfulness practitioners. Please read the paper (email Andrew for a copy:, as you can, and join us in Swift Hall room 208 at 5:00pm. Light refreshments will be there.
See you then!
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