On March 14th, 2017, the MU Religious Studies Department hosted a town hall forum open to all and aimed at discussing the recent spate of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents on our campus. A formal survey was administered to all attendees, asking two questions: “What concerns or fears do you have regarding attitudes or acts of antisemitism and/or Islamophobia on this campus?” and “Please tell us what you would like to see from MU’s Administration in terms of effectively responding to the above.” See the results of the survey here: TOWN HALL SURVEY FINDINGS
Dr. Dan Cohen’s research is noted in this news release: Researchers Find Neurological Link Between Religious Experiences and Epilepsy
Department of Religious Studies Response to Recent Anti-Semitic Incidents
The faculty of the Department of Religious Studies is disturbed by the recent news that two MU students have been arrested on suspicion of ongoing harassment of another student with anti-Semitic taunts dating back to August. We learn of this on the heels of news that more than 150 headstones were damaged at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in University City, MO, last week. And the same thing happened at another Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia over the past weekend. Meanwhile, nearly 100 bomb threats have been called in to Jewish institutions across the country over the past 60 days since the start of 2017.
Our Department feels a special obligation to highlight and speak out against such behavior, but more than that, to recognize that when it happens in our midst, on our campus, we as an institution must admit our failure to educate our students to be critically self-reflexive and aware of how they relate to others. We are also painfully aware that incidents like this are not new on our campus. For instance, there were at least two publicly acknowledged anti-Semitic acts on campus during the 2015-2016 academic year, and swastikas drawn on the walls of a campus dormitory the spring before that. Moreover, incidents of bigotry and expressions of exclusion directed against other groups (Muslims, African Americans, Asians, and others) have been well documented and have been the occasions for public discussions about campus climate and inclusion.
In October, 2015, the Department of Religious Studies found it necessary to release a statement of support for students who, for many reasons, felt excluded from the campus community. It is worth quoting from that statement here, as our perspective remains relevant today:
As scholars of religion we study, among other things, how human communities construct themselves through dynamics of inclusion and exclusion that are linked to professed values and conceptions of nature, social structure, and cosmology. We are familiar with the ways that communities and the individuals sustained by those communities represent self and other through words and behaviors that construct classifications of human, superhuman, and subhuman. We work hard to identify and deconstruct histories and traditions—including those on this campus—that make such classifications appear natural and socially acceptable. It is important to us that our students learn to recognize these processes at work in their own communities.
We are committed to the idea that higher education can only succeed when all students are considered to be equally valuable human beings, and all are treated with respect and dignity by all members of our community. We are committed to the idea that in diversity lie strength and knowledge, and that we can only learn from diversity when we learn to listen and take each others’ experiences seriously.
The faculty of the Department of Religious Studies reaffirms the value of diversity of all kinds, including religious diversity, and the value of directly confronting ignorant, hateful, and intolerant behavior. We also encourage that efforts to promote inclusion simultaneously include hard, public discussions about our own institutional history and its failures to create both a climate and concrete structures where inclusion can thrive and be sustained. This is not only a political problem, but an educational problem at the heart of our mission as a public land grant research intensive university. We reiterate our department’s commitment to care for all students and to help them remain safe in a national, regional, and state atmosphere where intolerance and acts against marginalized communities are increasing.
The Department of Religious Studies affirms the value of diversity and inclusion on our campus and in our society. This week marks the first anniversary of powerful events at this University and also the end of a divisive election season. This has been an emotional time for many members of our community, especially in light of reports of hateful and violent acts directed at particular segments of our society occurring on college campuses in the wake of the election.
We remain committed to the idea that in diversity lie strength and knowledge, and that we can only learn from diversity when we learn to listen and take each others’ experiences seriously. Our department and our professors welcome anyone who wants to talk or just wants a place to sit and be.
The Department of Religious Studies affirms the necessity of all members of our community to be treated with respect and inclusion. We are saddened and angry at the continued racism on our campus, and stand in support of those struggling against it.
We are offering two graduate seminars this fall that have plenty of room for grad students in any department who might be interested:
Register for these courses through MyZou.missouri.edu
The Department of Religious Studies joins the rest of the nation in mourning the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. We also mourn the dead and wounded police officers and civilians in Dallas. One of our jobs in our discipline is to try to understand how the classification of human (and non-human) beings and communities enables (or disrupts) systems of power and concepts of value. It is important in this regard to acknowledge and examine the central role that race has played, and continues to play, in American life and death. Only by talking about this topic openly and plainly, with the academic tools at our disposal, will we have any hope of healing..
Religious Studies faculty, including professors Amponsah, Callahan, Duncan, and Gregory, Kelley, and Lawless participated in the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature in November. Alumns Adam Miller and Emily Clark also presented their work.
Prof. Daniel Cohen has been very productive this year. He was contributing author to the following publications:
Professor Rabia Gregory has also been busy. Her book, Marrying Jesus in Medieval and Early Modern Northern Europe, has been published by Ashgate. She has also co-authored “Gaming Religionworlds: Why Religious Studies Should Pay Attention to Religion in Gaming,” in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. It is available online now, and will be in print soon.
Professor Callahan has published "Whales, Cannibals, and Second Nature,” in J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 3 (2015): 173-181.
Professor Hofer’s new book, The Popularisation of Sufism in Ayyub and Mamluk Egypt, 1173-1325, has been published by Edinburgh University Press.
The faculty of the Department of Religious Studies stand united with students fighting against racism on our campus.
Recent incidents of race-based hatred do not represent something new, but are only the latest in a history of abuse perpetrated by some associated with our University against others in our community. As organizations like the Legion of Black Collegians and the Concerned Student 1950 group have raised their voices and put their bodies on the line to disrupt business as usual and call attention to the problems tearing at the heart of our institution, we have not heard a satisfying response from those who are charged with the responsibility of leading the campus and the University. Mizzou’s much-emphasized values of respect, responsibility, discovery, and excellence would suggest that combatting incidents of racism, disrespect, stereotype, and exclusion should be a top priority and worthy of sustained, highly visible public conversation and policy considerations. So far, the Chancellor and the President of the University have failed to uphold their responsibility to respond in a meaningful manner.
As scholars of religion we study, among other things, how human communities construct themselves through dynamics of inclusion and exclusion that are linked to professed values and conceptions of nature, social structure, and cosmology. We are familiar with the ways that communities and the individuals sustained by those communities represent self and other through words and behaviors that construct classifications of human, superhuman, and subhuman. We work hard to identify and deconstruct histories and traditions — including those on this campus — that make such classifications appear natural and socially acceptable. It is important to us that our students learn to recognize these processes at work in their own communities.
We are committed to the idea that higher education can only succeed when all students are considered to be equally valuable human beings, and all are treated with respect and dignity by all members of our community. We are committed to the idea that in diversity lie strength and knowledge, and that we can only learn from diversity when we learn to listen and take each others’ experiences seriously. We are therefore committed to fighting the climate of racism on our campus, and we call for campus and university leaders to practice the values of respect, responsibility, discovery, and excellence toward those in our midst who are urgently calling for our attention.
The faculty of the Department of Religious Studies are unanimously in support of the graduate student movement for health care, tuition waivers, and respect. The Department will place no sanctions on those who participate in next week’s planned walkout.
Professor Dennis Kelley recently discussed Native American student enrollment at MU: http://convergence.journalism.missouri.edu/?p=13208
Samuel Stella and Rachel Koehn have been named the Chapman Scholars of Religion for 2015, and Nicole Formhals is 2015 recipient of the department's Community Service Scholarship. Congratulations!
Prof. Carrie Duncan’s article on Gender and Economics in Early Judaism is included in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies (Oxford, 2014).
Congratulations to Dr. Dan Cohen on the publication of his article "Ghost Exorcism, Memory, and Healing in Hinduism"! You can find it in the book Disease, Religion and Healing in Asia: Collaborations and Collisions, edited by Ivette Vargas-O’Bryan and Zhou Xun (Rutledge, 2015).
Congratulations to Prof. Dennis Kelley, who was one of three Mizzou faculty to be awarded the Provost’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award. The award recognizes early-career faculty for superior teaching and advising on the MU campus.
Congratulations to Rabia Gregory on being awarded tenure and promotion to Associate Professor! Prof. Gregory also has a chapter, "Citing the Medieval: Using Religion as World-Building Infrastructure in Fantasy MMORPG," in a new book on religion and video games, Playing with Religion in Digital Games, edited by Heidi A, Campbell and Gregory P. Grieve (Indiana University Press, 2014).
Prof. Nate Hofer has a new article titled "The Origins and Development of the Office of 'Chief Sufi' in Egypt, 1173-1325" in The Journal of Sufi Studies 3 (2014): 1-37.
Follow Mizzou Religious Studies on Twitter! @MizzouRelSt
Congratulations to Professor Dennis Kelley on being awarded the Provost’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award!
We are excited to announce our hiring of a fantastic new faculty member in the area of Indigenous Religions! David Amponsah will be joining us as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Fall of 2014. He comes to us from Harvard University's Committee on the Study of Religion, where he is finishing up his Ph.D. with a specialization in the History of African religions. Professor Amponsah's work focuses particularly on the currency of indigenous religious thought on political, moral, and social formations in colonial and postcolonial Ghana.
Andy McKee (MA 2013) has a post on the influential Religion in American History blog, titled "Painting, Working, and Haunting in the Steel City," discussing his the MA thesis he wrote at MU. More information here.
Professor Rabia Gregory has recently created the "Academic Kindness Tumblr" to spotlight acts of kindness in academia (which often go unnoticed). Her project was the subject of a story in Inside Higher Ed. More information here.
This coming weekend (Nov. 23-26) will be the occasion for the Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) in Baltimore, Maryland. All of our faculty are involved in the AAR/SBL, and several will be participating in the conference:
Professor Signe Cohen will be part of a panel “On Preparing MA Students for Doctoral Programs” (Stand-alone MA Programs in Religion Seminar, A23-137)
Professor Dennis Kelley will be presenting a paper titled “’Coyote could be Very Foolish or Very Wise…’: Sacred Humor in Indian Country as a Window Into the Spirituality of the ‘Nones’” in a session on Hero, or Superhero?: Religious Transcendence in Comic Books and Comedic Performances (Religion and Popular Culture Group, A23-125)
Professor Gregory will be presenting a paper titled “Citing the Medieval: Using Religion as World Building Infrastructure in Fantasy MMORPGs” in a session on Reflections on Playing with Religion in Digital Gaming (Religion, Media, and Culture Group, A24-136)
Professor Gregory will also be chairing a session on Material Interactions: Case Studies in the Cultural Production of Religious Difference (Religion and Popular Culture Group, A25-132); Professor Richard Callahan will be acting as respondent to the papers presented in that session.
Professor Callahan will also be chairing a panel on Discussing the "Nones": What They Say about the Category of Religion and American Society (Religion and Popular Culture Group A25-328)
Professor Carrie Duncan will be presenting a paper at the American School of Oriental Research (ASOR) Archaeology conference preceding the AAR/SBL meetings, titled "Words as Images: the Visual Culture of Jewish Inscriptions"
Religious Studies MA student Abel Gomez participated in an event this week that was related to both Transgender Awareness Week and Native American Heritage Month. Read about "Indigenous and Queer: Two-Spirit Identity in Native America" here.
Professor Nate Hofer presented a paper at the Middle East Studies Association annual meeting in New Orleans on October 13, 2013. The paper was called: “Abū l-Ḥasan al-Shādhilī and the Institutionalization of Sufi Identity.” He also organized a panel at the conference on the topic of “Rethinking the Consolidation of Sufi Traditions in the Medieval and Early Modern Period.”
This past weekend some of our professors and students attended a conference at Indiana University in Bloomington on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Abington v Schempp decision, which some say marked the beginning of the growth of religious studies in public universities. Pictured here are RS majors Luke Welsh, Haylea Craigmiles, and Drake Duckworth, and Professors Rabia Gregory, Signe Cohen, Chip Callahan, and Bob Flanagan.
Professor Callahan recently discussed the rise of the "religiously unaffiliated," also called the "nones," on KBIA's Intersection program. The program, which was also videotaped for broadcast on the web and community television, is available here.
Video of this year's Religion & Public Life Lecture by Dr. Stephanie Kaza is now available here.
Professor Signe Cohen has been awarded an Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award for 2013 from the Graduate Student Association.
Congratulations to MA student Jesca Scaevola on being awarded an Ancient Studies Supplemental Stipend by the Ancient Studies Committee!
Did you get a chance to read Professor Callahan's post on "Oceanic Religion" at the Religion in American History Blog the other day? You can find it here.
Professor Nate Hofer presented a talk on Islamophobia at William Woods University in Fulton on April 29.
Religious Studies major Maranda Johnson presented a paper and poster on "The Evolution of the Hindu Goddess Kali in Art and Literature" at the 24th annual McNair Scholars conference at MU this weekend.
Dr. Buhrman will be teaching "Buddhism and Science" (RelSt 2005) as a one credit Maymester course, meeting 1:00-3:00 May 20-May 24. More information here.
Congratulations to Adam Miller, current MA student, for being awarded the prize for Best Graduate Paper at the Midwest Region of the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting! Adam's paper was titled "Charisma as Discourse: An Analysis of Swami Vivekananda's Discursive Activity."
Congratulations to senior Religious Studies Major Catherine Newhouse on being awarded the Honors College Outstanding Senior Award!
Professor Callahan participated in the Colloquium on American Religion, Politics, and Culture at Washington University's Danforth Center on Religion & Politics on April 4. More information here.
Last weekend Kate Kelley participated in a panel at the annual International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, Florida. The panel, "Teaching Gaiman," included author Neil Gaiman as respondent! More information here.
Congratulations to Luke Welch, Religious Studies major, on being chosen by the CIEE South Korea Scholarship program to receive a full scholarship to study at Yonsei University in South Korea over spring break.
Dr. Hofer recently participated in an exciting workshop on "Religious Negotiations at the Boundaries" at Vanderbilt University. He presented a paper titled "Whoever Resembles a Community is From that Community: Medieval Jews and Muslims as Communities of Practice." See more about the event here.
Silas Allard (Mizzou Religious Studies major 2004) has been named Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University
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MA student Andy McKee will be presenting a paper titled "'Kolosalno! There is something here... Power energy, the future!': Of Haunting, Steel, Progress, and the Urban Religious Landscape" at Florida State University's Graduate Student Symposium this weekend. More information here.
Congratulations to MA student Jill Hartleip for receiving the 2013 Green Chalk Teaching Assistant Award from the Arts & Science Student Council!
Haylea Craigmiles is the 2013 recipient of the Community Service Scholarship, awarded by our department to a Religious Studies major who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to community service.
We are proud to announce that this year's Chapman Scholars in Religion, recognized for their accomplishments in the study of religion and their contributions to the program in Religious Studies, are Kelly Joyce and Catherine Newhouse.
You may have heard that the Garden of Eden is, according to some, in Missouri. But others think it was in the Florida panhandle. Emily Clark, who earned her MA in our department in 2009 and is now finishing up her PhD at Florida State University, writes on Florida's Garden of Eden Park on the Religion in American History blog.
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Nature.com has a nice write-up on a project on ritual, community, and conflict that Jon Lanman, who received his MA from our department in 2005, is involved with at Oxford University.
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Dr. Richard Callahan traveled to Princeton University on December 13 to discuss his paper “The Religious Spaces of American Whaling” with Princeton’s Colloquium on American Religious History.
Dr. Nate Hofer participated in the International Conference on Ethics and Spirituality in Islam: Adab of the Sufis, which took place in Paris, France November 29-December 1. Dr. Hofer presented a paper titled "Training the Prophetic Self : adab and riyāḍa in Jewish Sufism."
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Dr. Dan Cohen will be a guest on the KBIA’s Intersection radio program on November 19. The topic under discussion will be "Religion and the Brain." Tune in at 2pm to KBIA, 91.3 FM. The program will be archived for online listening (and viewing!) here: Click
This weekend is the Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. Here's what our faculty are up to at the conference:
Dr. Duncan: Paper titled "Archaeology, Theory, Text: Excavating the Monestary of Abba Seridos" in session on Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity (S17-337)
Dr. Hofer: Paper titled "Portraits in Palimsest: Finding the Sufis of Fatimid Egypt" in session on Mystical Intersections: Cultural Expressions of Sufism in the Pre-Modern Islamicate World (A17-128) AND Paper titled "The Production and Popularization of Sufi Culture in Medieval Cairo" in session on Rethinking Religion and Popular Culture in Medieval Christianity and Islam (A17-219)
Dr. Gregory: Respondent for session on Rethinking Religion and Popular Culture in Medieval Christianity and Islam (A17-219)
Dr. Baum: Paper titled "Human Rights and Researcher Responsibilities toward Threatened or Minority Populations" in a pre conference workshop on The Study of Religion as an Analytical Discipline Workshop: The Analytic Handling of Norms and Values in the Study of Religion (A16-204) AND Panelist in session on Teaching African and African Diaspora Religions (A17-209)
Dr. Callahan: Panelist in session on A Fabulous Rumor: Critical Interpretations of John Lardas Modern's Secularism in Antebellum America (A19-119)
The parentheticals indicate the session numbers. You can find more about these sessions, and everything else going on at the conference, here: http://papers.aarweb.org/program_book