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Archived Events

Spring 2016

9/11 Warping and its Discontents: Our Security State, Racism, and Foreign Policy - Ramzi Kassem, Associate Professor of Law at the City University of New York School of Law

Friday, Feb. 12, 2016
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106 | 95 Cushing Street 

The collective trauma of the September 11th, 2001 attacks made plausible the notion of a constant, omnipresent, almost supernatural threat.  In turn, this made mythical prospects of total security particularly appealing to officials and the public alike.  The distorting effect of formulating policy through a total security prism - a phenomenon Professor Kassem has described as 9/11 warping - can be observed both in the altered functioning of already - existing systems (like the imposition of cruel pretrial and post-conviction conditions of confinement in terrorism cases) and in the creation of new systems (such as the military commissions, the prisons at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram, and the infamous CIA black sites).  Join us for an exploration of the links of 9/11 warping, structural racism, and U.S. foreign policy.

Hosted by the Center for the Study of Race + Ethnicity in America (CSREA). 
Co-sponsored by the A. Alfred Taubman Center for American Politicans and Policy, The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, the Department of Religious Studies, and Middle East Studies. 

Free and open to the public.

"Between Earth and Heaven: Middle Byzantine Views of Mary, the Mother of God," with Mary Cunningham, University of Nottingham, UK.

Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016
Annmary Brown Memorial | 21 Brown Street

Sponsored by the the Rhode Island Medieval Circle, and the Department of Religious Studies.  A small reception will follow the lecture. 



Body, Culture, Religion: Byzantine Views
A symposium at Brown University

Saturday, March 12, 2016
BERT 015 | 85 Waterman Street

1:00pm Welcome & Light Refreshments

Session 1 (1:30-3:30pm)
1:30-2:10: "Picturing Psalms: Pilgrims' Processions in Late Antique Jerusalem," Georgia Frank, Colgate University
2:10-2:50: "Holy Oil: Fragrance and Touch in Byzantine Piety" Susan Harvey, Brown University
2:50-3:30: "The Virgin Mary and the Natural World: Byzantine Conceptions of Sacrament and Creation," Mary Cunningham, Nottingham University

3:30-4:00pm: Break

Session 2 (4:00-6:00pm)
4:00-4:40: "Teenagers off Byzantium," Leslie Brubaker, Birmingham University
4:40-5:20: "Dissolving Bodies in Byzantium," Thomas Arentzen, University of Oslo/Brown Univeristy
5:20-6:00: Panel: Reflections on Lay Piety and Religious Culture, Vasileios Marinis, Institute of Sarcred Music, Divinity School, Yale University; James Skedros, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
Reflections & Open Discussion

This event is free and open to the public.  Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and the Royce Family Professorship. 

Materializing Sancity, Enacting Authority: Text, Image, and Performance in China & India
Graduate International Colloquium

March 14 & 15, 2016
All events are at the Watson Institute unless otherwise noted.

The Graduae International Colloquium will present two public lectures:

"How to Become a Brahmin and Get Away With it: The Social Power of Hindu Mythology," with A dheesh A. Sathaye, Associate Professor of Sanskrit Literaure and Folklore, University of British Columbia

Monday, March 14, 2016

Joukowsky Forum | Watson Institute

One of the most well-known features of classical Hindu thought is that it is impossible for an ordinary individual to change one's caste.  But in the Sanskrit epics, the mythological sage,Viśvāmitra is said to have done exactly that - to have become a Brahmin by amassing a tremendous amount of ascetic power, or tapas. This presentation will eamine how stories about Viśvāmitra in the Sanskrit epics would have served to establish the social identity of real-world Brahmins for an early Indian public culture. 

Daoist Use of Images in Private and Public Contexs," with Shih-shan Susan Huang, Associate Professor of Art History, Rice University

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Birkelund Boardroom | Watson Institute 

This talk will elaborate the key concept of Daoist visual culture: the polarization of private/inner (nei) and public/outer (wai) images and the interconnectivity and tension between the two.  The pictures associated with the private use or the inner system refer to the mental images generated in visualization as well as the artifacts made to correspond to such internal experiences.  The images associated with the public function or the outer system cover the multimedia materiality tied to the physical rituals and encompass liturgical paintings, ritual space, ritual artifacts, and the mobile spectacle of ritual performance.  From a theoretical perspective, this talk will also propose three modes of images central to Daoist symbolism: aniconic, immaterial/invisible, and ephemeral.  

For more information on the Graduate International Colloquium, please clickhere. Sponsored by the Graduate International Colloquium Fund, India Initiative, China Initiative, and the Departments of Religious Studies, Classics, and Hisory of Art & Architecture.

Family and Geneology in the Study of Religion.  
An interdisciplinary graduate student conference hosted by the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University. 

March 18 & 19, 2016
Petteruti Lounge | Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center

Keynote Address: "Family Romance: The Longest Fiction" by Professor Tomoko Masuzawa, University of Michigan.

Friday, March 18, 2016
Petteruti Lounge | Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center 

For a full schedule of events, please click here.

Sponsored by the American Academy of Religion, New England/Maritime Region (NEMAAR), the Cogut Center for the Humanities, the Department of Religious Studies, the Program in Judaic Studies, the Graduate Student Council, the Department of History, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Egyptology/Assyriiology, the Department of Philosophy, the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, the Department of Engish, the Department of Modern Culture and Media, the Department of Comparative Literature,  and the Department of American Studies.

Music in the Lives of the Crypto-Jews of Portugal, with Judith Cohen, York University, Canada

Sunday, March 20, 2016
Brown RISD Hillel House | 80 Brown Street

Since the mid-1990s, Dr. Judith Cohen has been conducting ethnomusicological fieldwork in Belmote, as well as villages in the northeast of Portugal, Tras-os-Montes, exploring the use of music in the lives of the members of a hidden Jewish community, discovered only at the beginning of the 20th century.  Judith will talk about her work with them, how they use local songs in coded ways, and how the internet has changed their musical lives, and will also sing extracts of songs from the regions they live in, with the tradtional square frame drum, the "adufe," used in women's songs in the area.

Sponsored by the Program in Medieval Studies, the Program in Judaic Studies, the Department of Religious Studies, the Department of History of Art and Architecture, Brown/RISD Hillel, the Department of Portugeuse and Brazillian Studies, and the Dean of the Faculty Office. 

Contemplative Minds: the Mary Interlandi '05 Lecture Fund presents "Reviving the Contemplative Suf Heart of Islam," with Alan Godlas, Ph.D., University of Georgia.  

Monday, April 11, 2016
Salomon 001.

Contemplation in Islamic Sufism, being rooted in the Qur'an and hadith and elaborated principally in Sufi texts, secondarily consists of various contemplative practicesreferred to as forms of "remembrence" (dhikr) transmitted especially in Sufi orders; while primarily such contemplation consists of a retraining of the individual's consciousness to respond at each moment twoard one's consciousness and whatever appears in it, responding with a specifici contemplative attitude consisting of a continual re-embrace of an unconditionnally grateful and loving attitude of awareness of God, who is understood as approaching us at each moment in the form of the ever-changing contents of our consciousness.  

This lecture is made possible by the generosity of Elizabeth and John Interlandi in memory of their daughter, Mary, and is co-hosted by the Office of the Chaplains and Religious LIfe and Contemlative Studies Initiative at Brown.  

This event is free and open to the public.  No registration is necessary.  

What I Am Thinking About Now Series: Andre Willis, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, "Whiteness as God: Towards a Theo-Political Understanding of American Democracy"

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
CSREA Conference Room | Hillel 303 | 80 Brown Street

"What I am Thinking About Now" is an on-going informal workshop/seminar series to which faculty and graduate students are invited to present recently published work and work-in-progress.  All are invited to attend and participate in the discussion.

RSVP to  Location of seminar may change if the number of RSVPs received exceeds the capacity of their conference room.   

6th Dorushe Graduate Conference in Syriac Studies

May 8-9, 2016
Sunday, May 8, 1-730pm: Hillel Meeting Room (80 Brown Street)
Monday, May 9, 9am-3pm: LIST 110 (64 College Street) 

Keynote addesses by:
Dr. Ute Possekel, Harvard University
"Go, and set up for yourselves excellent laws...": The School of Nisibis and Institutional Autonomy in Late Antique Education.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016
Hillel Meeting Room (80 Brown St.)

Professor Adam Becker, New York University
What is Syriac Christian Tradition(Is it any of the three?)

Monday, May 9, 2016
LIST 110 (64 College Street)

Conference registration is $25.  Keynotes are free and open to the public.

The conference is made possible through the generosity of Brown University's Department of Religious Studies, the Program in Judaic Studies, the Inernational Graduate Student Colloquium Fund, Middle Eastern Studies, the Program in Early Cultures, and the Royce Family Professorships of Teaching Excellence.

Fall 2015

Brown University Reception at the Annual Meeting of AAR/SBL

Sunday, November 22, 2015
The Westin Peachtree Plaza 
Savannah Room (A) 


Of Panopticons, Pannomions and the Corpo-Real: Bentham and Universalization of 'Blasphemy' 
Asad Al Ahmed, Harvard University
Commentator: Nancy Khalek, Department of Religious Studies
Chair: Sarah Besky, Brown University

Friday, November 13, 2015
Kim Koo Library, Watson Institute 

Asad Ali Ahmend's research and teaching interests include Secularism and Religion; Liberalism, Language and the Law; Colonial and Post-Colonial Studies; Ethnography of the State; and South Asia.  He received his Ph.D. in Socio-Cultural Anthroplogy at the University of Chicago.  His most recent publication, titled "The Paradoxes of Ahmadiyya Identity: The Leal Appropriation of Muslimness and the Construction of Ahmadiyya Difference," appeared in Beyond Crisis: Re-evaluating Pakistan in 2010.

Sponsored by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, South Asian Studies, and the Brown India Initiative.   

Why Not Prison Abolition?
 A lecture by Joshua Dubler, Univeristy of Rochester,Why Not Prison Abolition?Why Not Prison Abolition?author of Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in American Prison.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Rhode Island Hall 108 


Camp Dharma: Buddhism and the Japanese American World War II Incarceration Experience, a lecture with Duncan Ryuken Williams, USC

Monday, November 9, 2015
Crystal Room, Alumnae Hall 

Duncan Ryuken Williams is the Director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture.  He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and previously held the Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair of Japanese Buddhism at University of California at Berkeley and served as the Director of Berkeley's Center for Japanese Studies.  He is the author of a monograph titled, The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan (Princeton, 2005) and co-editor of a number of volumes including Issei Buddhism in the Americas (Illinois, 2010),American Buddhism (Routledge, 1998), and Buddhism and Ecology(Harvard, 1997).  He has also translated four books from Japanese into English including, Putting Buddhism to Work: A New Theory of Economics and Business Management (Kodansha, 1997).  He is currently completing a monograph titled, Camp Dharma: Buddhism and the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II (forthcoming, UC Press) and writing a manifestor for Japan in the 21st-century titled Hybrid Japan (in Japanese).

Sponsored by Brown American Studies, East Asian Studies, Religious Studies and Contemplative Studies.

Confucian Role Ethics and the "Casting" of Persons, a lecture with Prof. Roger Ames, University of Hawaii.

Friday, November 6, 2015
Brown Faculty Club (1 Magee St.)


Roger Ames is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii and editor of Philosophy East & West and China Review International. He has authored several interpretative studies of Chinese philosophy and culture, most recently, Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary. His publications include translations of Chinese classics :Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare; Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare and Tracing Dao to its Source and the Confucian Analects and the Classic of Family Reverence: A Philosophical Translation of the Xiaojing, Focusing the Familiar: A Translation and Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong, and A Philosophical Translation of the Daodejing; Making This Life Significant.  Recently he has undertaken several projects that entail the intersection of contemporary issues and cultural understanding.  His Democracy of the Dead: Dewey, Confucius, and the Hope for Democracy in China and Confucian Role Ethics: Doing Justice to Justice (forthcoming) are a product of this effort.

Sponsored by Brown Contemplative Studies, Religious Studies, and East Asian Studies. 

Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty, a conference.

November 1-3, 2015 #mce_temp_url#
Brown/RISD Hillel (80 Brown Street)

Traditional Jewish texts present different approaches to wealth, poverty, and money.  The purpose of this conference is both to identify these texts and to explore the diversity of their ideeas.  Accordingly, the conference will be organized around particular texts dealing with specific issues.  Conference time will be spent primarily in study of and conversation about these texts.  Our ultimate goal is to produce a volume that includes the texts (in original translations) with short commentaries.  To view the entirety of the program, please click here.

This workshop is free and oen to the public but registration is required.  For more information and in order to register, please goto the Registration page.
Any questions should be addressed to Michael Satlow

This workshop is being generously funded by the Program in Judaic Studies; the Ruth and Joseph Moskow Endowment in Judaic Studies; the Brown Judaic Studies Symposium fund; the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University; and the Royce Chair for Teaching Excellence.  


"Centers and Peripheries between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Silk Road," a lecture by Charles Stang, Professor of Early Christian Thought, Harvard Divinity School.

Thursday, October 29, 2015
Annmary Brown Memorial (21 Brown Street).

A small reception will follow the lecture.  Sponsored by the Rhode Island Medieval Circle.  


"Garden of Love: Rumi's Legacy of Poetry, Sufism, and Music" a lecture and performance by Kudsi Erguner.

Thursday, October 29, 2014
5:30pm: Lecture
6:30pm: Reception
7:30pm: Performance

Kudsi Erguner is a prominent Turkish muscian, residing in Paris. He studied Sufism and music since early childhood and was part of the Mevlevi-Sufi tradition.  He started his musical career in Istanbul Radio in 1969 and has been researching the earliest roots of Ottoman music which he has also taught, performed and recorded.

In the eighties he founded the Mevlana Institute devoted to the study and teaching of classical Sufi music.  He developed deep insights into the diversity of his culture that can be traced back to the 13th century.  However he did not neglect the modern music and at the same time he acquired the knowledge of other Middle Eastern music currents.

He took part in Peter Brook's movie Meetings with Remarkable Men in 1978 and later on he directed and performed live the much acclaimed Brook's Mahabharata.  He also directed and performed in Robert Wilson's Rumi in the Blink of the Eye.  

In addition to his own recordings, Erguner has performed with Peter Gabriel (The Last Temptation of Christ soundtrack), William Orbit's band Bassomatic (Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass), Jean Michel Jarre, Maurice Bejart, Peter Brook, George Aperghis, Didier Lockwood, Italian singer-songwriter Alice and Michel Porter.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Language Studies, Middle East Studies, the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life, Contemplative Studies, and the Department of Religious Studies.


Jane Hirshfield Reads from her Poetry

Tuesday, October 13, 2015
McCormack Family Theater, 70 Brown Street

Co-sponsored by the departments of Literary Arts, Comparative Literature, Contemplative Studies, East Asian Studies, and Religious Studies. 

The Five Institutions of U.S. Racism: On Angela Y. Davis's Abolitionism, a lecture by Eduardo Mendieta, Professor of Philosophy, Penn State University.

Wednesday, Sept. 30
Hillel, Meeting Room (2nd Floor), 80 Brown Street

In this talk, Professor Mendieta will consider the under-examined and original philosophical contributions of Angela Y. Davis.  He will argue that she bridges Marxist inspired historical materialism, through the meditation of Marcusian critical theory, Foucauldian genealogies of punishment and confinement, Black feminst analysis, the intersectionality of race, gender, and class, and a century old American autochthonous Black critical political philosophy.  

Eduardo Medieta is professor of philosophy at Penn State University.  He is author of The Adventures of Transcendtal Philosophy (Rowman & Littlefied, 2002) and Global Fragments: Globalizations, Latinamericanism, and Critical Theory (SUNY Press, 2007).  He is also co-editor with Jonathan VanAntwerpen of The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere (Columbia University Press, 2011), with Craig Calhoun and Jonathan VanAntwerpen ofHaberman and Religion (Polity, 2013), and with Stuart Elden of Reading Kant's Geography (SUNY Press, 2011).  He recently finished a book titled The Philosophical Animal, which will be published by SUNY Press in 2016. 

Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America.


Fall Welcome Back Party!
Join us for our annual party to kick off the semester.  There is sure to be good food and great conversation!

Monday, Sept. 21, 2015
Shirley Miller House
59 George Street

Graduate Student Breakfast

Religious Studies Ph.D. students meet with the DGS for an informal orientation to the Department.

Friday, Sept. 11, 2015
Seminar Room, Shirley Miller House
59 George Street 

Spring 2015

"'Full, Free, Absolute, and Uninterrupted Liberty of Conscience': Understanding Brown's Founding in a Global Religious Context" presented by Catherine Brekus, Harvard Divinity School

*Please note this event has been postponed from Feb. 17 to Feb. 24.  Also, the location has been changed to the JCB.   

Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015
JCB Reading Room
Reception to follow.

A lecture presented in honor of Brown's 250th anniversary.  Co-sponsored bu the John Carter Brown Library.

Graduate Student Breakfast with Catherine Brekus
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015
Religious Studies Seminar Room  (101)
RSVP to 

"The Art of Invisibility: Encountering Religion and the Secular in Contemporary Art"

An exhibition of art.  

February 18 - March 6, 2015
Lower Gallery, Granoff Center

Opening Reception: Feb. 18, 5-6:30pm

The Art of Invisibility: Encountering Religion and the Secular in Contemporary Art" brings together the work of 7 artists exploring -- in different ways -- the relationship between religion and contemporary art. We know that the categories of “religious” and “secular” are never stable. And yet, they are deployed as though their meanings can be taken for granted. Applying the categories of religious or secular to various objects, groups, and images, moreover, has broad political and social implications. How can contemporary art get us out of this bind and help us to see religion and the secular in new and unexpected ways? 

In conjunction with the art exhibit, the Art of Invisibility project will also be hosting a series of lectures:

"Staging the Secular: The Theatre of Wole Soyinka in 1960s Nigeria" with Avishek Ganguly, RISD
Wednesday, Feb. 25
Salomon 003

"Art as Magic in Havana, Paris, and London," with Courtney Martin
Wednesday, April 1
J. Walter Wilson 501 

These events are sponsored by the Cogut Center for the Humanities, the Department of Religious Studies, the Creative Arts Council and the Center for Public Humanities.

 "The Subject of Modern Art: Spiritualizing Art, Secularizing Religion" with David Morgan, Duke University
Tuesday, April 14
RI Hall 108

David Morgan is Professor of Religious Studies with a secondary appointment in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke. He has published several books and dozens of essays on the history of religious visual culture, on art history and critical theory, and on religion and media. Among the most recent are The Lure of Images: A History of Religion and Visual Media in America (Routledge, 2007); and The Embodied Eye: Religious Visual Culture and the Social Life of Feeling (California, 2012), and his edited volume, Religion and Material Culture: The Matter of Belief (Routledge, 2010). He is also co-founder and co-editor of the international scholarly journal, Material Religion. 

"Taboo Topics: Discussing Religion and Politics in the Classroom a roundtable with Ebrahim Afsah, University of Copenhagen; Stephen Bush, Department of Religious Studies; and Ross Cheit, Political Science 

Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015
Pembroke Hall 305
RSVP to 

Co-sponsored with the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, the Departments of Religious Studies and Middle East Studies.

Harvard | Yale | Brown Day
A chance for graduate students in Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean to gather and discuss important work in their fields

Sunday, March 1, 2015
2:00pm: Grad Student Workshop, Smith Buonanno G01
3:30pm: Break
4:00pm: Keynote Lecture by Prof. Michael Satlow, Brown University
6:00pm: Dinner, Sharpe Refrectory

For more information, please contact Reyhan Durmaz

"The Christianization of Jerusalem in the Fourth Century" a lecture with  Jan Willem Drijvers, University of Groningen.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
5:30 PM
Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Rhode Island Hall, Room 108

Dr. Jan Willem Drijvers is Associate Professor/Reader in Ancient History in the Department of History at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. His interests include Late Antiquity, the culture of leadership in the late Roman Empire, Christianization of the Roman Empire, and late-antique historiography (Ammianus Marcellinus).

His talk is co-sponsored by the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Department of Religious Studies.

2015 K. Brooke Anderson Lecture:

"War's Remainders: Virture, Violence and Christian Paradigms" with Aristolle Papanikolaou, Archbishop Demetrios Professor in Orthodox Theology & Culture, Senior Fellow & Co-Founder, Orthodox Christian Studies Center, Fordham University

Monday, March 16, 2015
BERT 130 

"Taming the Wild Horse: Religious Practice according to the Daoist Horse Training Pictures" a lecture by Louis Komjathy, University of San Diego

Friday, April 10, 2015
Location Smith Buonanno 201

During the Yuan dynasty (1260-1368), Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) Daoists created a uniquely Daoist (Taoist) adaptation of the Chan (Jpn: Zen) Buddhist Oxherding Pictures.  This centered on a series of illustrations depicting religious practice and experience through the metaphor of "taming a wild horse."  Largely unkown outside of a few specilaists, the "Daoist  Horse Training Pictures" were composed by the Quanzhen monk Gao Daokuan (Yuanming [Complete Illumination]; 1195-1277).  This lecture examines Gao's illustrated poems in terms of religious practice and experience.  Specific attention will be given to the technical details of the associated methods and stages.  The Daoist Horse Taming Pictures represent a sophisticated map of psychological transformation that results from intensive and prolonged meditation. 

"Anti-Jewish Violence and the Pastoureaux: The Case for Medieval Trauma," with Susan Einbinder, Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, UCONN.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Annmary Brown Memorial
21 Brown Street

A small reception will follow the lecture.  Sponsored by the Medieval Circle, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Program in Judaic Studies. 


"The Disenchanted City? Paris, Karachi and the In/Visibility of Religion." A roundtable discussion.

Thursday, April 30, 2015
Pembroke Hall, Room 202

A roundtable discussion with Ijlal Muzzafar, Assistant Professor, History of Art & Visual Culture, RISD; Elayne Oliphant, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Religious Studies & the Cogut Center for the Humainities; and Stefano Block, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Urban Studies Program and the Cogut Center for the Humanities.

Part of the "Art of Invisibility: The Aesthetic Construction of Religion and the Secular" Series.  Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and the Cogut Center for the Humanities. 

"Rethinking Mountains in Ancient Literature & Culture: Strabo, Apuleius, & Edward Dodwell,"with Professor Jason König, Head of the School of Classics, University of St. Andrews.

Thursday, April 30, 2015
BERT 015
85 Waterman St.

Organized by "Cultures of Performance in the Post-Classical Mediterranean," A Mellon Graduate Student Workshop sponsored by the Cogut Center for the Humanities and "Borders and Boundaries," a colloquium funded by the Graduate International Colloquium Fund.  Co-sponsored by the Departments of Religious Studies, Classics and History. 

Sacred Song in the Late Antique and Byzantine East: Comparative Explorations

A workshop conference.

May 3-6, 2015
For more information, please click here.



The Dawn & the Spring: Byzantine Chant from Paschaltide, performed by the Psaltikon Byzantine Chamber Choir, directed by Spyridon Antonopoulos ('03).

Sunday, May 3, 2015
AnnMary Brown Memorial
21 Brown Street

Part of the Sacred Song in Late Antique and Byzantine East: Comparative Explorations Conference, May 3-6, 2015 at Brown University. Sponsored by the Royce Family Professorships, the Scheuer Fund, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Programs in Judaic Studies & Medieval Studies. 



The Moskow Workshop: A Conversation on Jews in the Late Antique Mediterranean (Outside the Land of Israel and Environs)

May 10-12, 2015
More details to follow.

Sponsored by the Ruth and Joseph Moskow Endowment in Judaic Studies, the H.H. Goldberger Lectureship Fund, the Program in Judaic Studies, the Program in Early Cultures, the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, and the Department of Religious Studies.   

Fall 2014

Brown Reception at the Annual Meeting of AAR/SBL
Join the Department in San Diego for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature.

Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014
Aqua Terrace
Hilton Bayfront Hotel
San Diego, CA  

"crISIS in the Middle East" a forum for Brown University Students, with comments by Nancy Khalek, Department of Religious Studies, Brown University; Nukhet Sandal, Department of Political Science, Ohio University, and Executive Board Member for Religion and International Relations, International Studies Association.  Followed by a Q & A with Megan K. McBride.

Thursday, Oct. 16
Petteruti Lounge, Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center

The development of ISIS has been one of the most alarming issues in the post-Arab Spring Middle East.  Many people have questions and concerns that we hope to address in this forum, which features views from scholars of Politics, Religion, and International Relations.  

Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies, the Watson Institute for International Studies, and the Political Theory Project. 

"Forming Spirit: Art between Religion and Secularism in Post-Colonial India," a film screening and discussion with Prof. Kathryn Myers, University of Connecticut

Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
BERT 015 
(Building for Environmental Research & Teaching/81 Waterman St.) 

The Religion and International Project presents the first in its year long series, The Art of Invisibility.  Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and the Cogut Center for the Humanities.  



Religious Studies Fall Welcome Back Party!
Join the Department as we kick off the new school year!   We promise good food and great conversation!  Friends and family welcome. 

Monday, September 8, 2014
Shirley Miller House
59 George Street  


Religious Studies Graduate Student Breakfast

Friday, September 5, 2014
Seminar Room (Rm 101)
Shirley Miller House
59 George Street 

Spring 2014

"Christians and Muslims: Early Encounters" a symposium at Brown University

Sunday, February 23, 2014
2-6pm in RI Hall 108

The seventh-century rise of Islam opened a new era of religious "pluralism" in the Middle East.  Yet, it would be more than a century before early Muslim scholars recorded the first Arabic accounts of the changes taking place.  Syriac and Arabic-speaking Christians, however, were already producing and navigating their own responses to the new political and social order.  Historically, linguistically and culturally rooted in the central lands of Islam, yet sorely understudied as sources for early Islamic history, late antique and medieval Middle Eastern Christians provide fresh perspectives for understanding the nature of religious and social change in a dynamic era of history. 

Mosaic depiction of Mary holding and Arabic text, Convent of our Lady, Greek Orthodox Church, Sednaya, SyriaMosaic depiction of Mary holding and Arabic text, Convent of our Lady, Greek Orthodox Church, Sednaya, SyriaSymposium Schedule

  • 2pm: Sidney H. Griffith, Catholic University of America
    "Bible and Qur'an: Memory, Engagement and Difference"
    Nancy Khalek, Brown University, Respondent
  • 3:15pm Break
  • 3:45pm: Michael Penn, Mt. Holyoke College
    "Beyond Clashing Civilizations: Rethinking Early Christian-Muslim Relations"
    Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Brown University, Respondent
  • 5:00pm: New Questions in the study of early Muslim-Christian Relations
    A roundtable discussion with Jonanthan Conant, Brown University; Steven Judd, Southern-Connecticut State University; Sandra Toenies Keating, Providence College; Charles Stang, Harvard Divinity School; Anthony Watson, Brown University

About our Keynote Speakers:

Sidney H. Griffith is a pioneering scholar in the areas of Christian Arabic and Syriac studies.  Among his numerous publications are The Bible in Arabic: the Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam (2013); The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam (2007); The Beginnings of Christian Theology in Arabic: Muslim-Christian encounters in the early Islamic period (2002); 'Faith Adoring the Mystery': Reading the Bible with St. Ephraem the Syrian (1997); and Arabic Christianity in the Monasteries of Ninth-Century Palestine (1992).

Michael Penn is a leading scholar of Christianity in late antiquity, especially of the Syriac and Greek traditions.  He is the author of Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church (2005); and of two forthcoming volumes, Imaging Islam: Syriac Christianity and the Reimagining of Christian-Muslim Relations; When Christians First Met Muslims: A Sourcebook of the Earliest Syriac Writings on Islam, in addition to many articles.



Beasts, Monsters, and the Fantastic in the Religious Imagination

An Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference 
Hosted by the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University

February 28-March 1, 2014

With a keynote address delivered by John Lardas Modern, Franklin & Marshall College

Please click here for the full schedule.

"An Enigmatic Arabic Papyrus from Early Islam" a lecture by Fred Donner, Professor of Near Eastern History at the University of Chicago


Thursday, March 13, 2014
Watson Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute





Fred Donner is Professor of Near Eastern History at the University of Chicago.  He earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1975 and has been teaching at the University of Chicago since 1982.  Prof. Donner is the author of numerous publications including, Muhammad and the Believers: at the origins of Islam (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); ”Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the First Century of Islam,” annual Sutherland Lecture, Saint Michael’s College, Colchester, VT, April 15, 2010; and “The Qur’an in Recent Scholarship—Challenges and Desiderata,” in Gabriel S. Reynolds (ed.), The Qur’an in its Historical Context (Abingdon: Routledge. 2008), 29-50. For more information on Prof. Donner, please click here.  

This event is co-sponsered by Middle East Studies at the Watson Institute, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Humanities Initiative at Brown University.  

"The Mongols and the Church of the East," a colloquium in the Department of Religious Studies, with guest speaker Joel Walker, The Jon Bridgman Endowed Professor of History, University of Washington

Friday, March 14, 2014
Shirley Miller House
Religious Studies Seminar Room
(59 Goerge Street) 



"Islands of the Medieval World: Stories of Isolation and Connectivity," the 31st Annual New England Medieval Studies Consortium Graduate Student Conference.   

Saturday, March 15, 2014
Smith Buonanno Hall 106

Keynote Address: "Island Hopping: Trade, Ethnography and Connectivity in the Indian Ocean World of Late Antiquity," by Joel Walker, The Jon Bridgman Endowed Professor of History, University of Washington
Saturday, March 15

Co-sponsored by: Program in Medieval Studies, Departments of Classics, History, History of Art & Architecture, Religious Studies, Joukowsky Institute and the Graduate Student Council.  

Full program available at: http://nemsc2014/ 

"The Art of Secularism: The Cultural Politics of Modernist Art in Contempoary India" with Prof. Karin Zitzewitz, Michigan State University and discussant, Prof. Vazira Zamindar, Brown UniversityHow many hands do I need to declare my love for you? By Bhupen Khakhar, 1994, Private CollectionHow many hands do I need to declare my love for you? By Bhupen Khakhar, 1994, Private Collection

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Smith Buonanno 106

Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies & the Cogut Center for the Humanities, the Brown India Initiative and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.



The 2014 K. Brooke Anderson Lecture
"Latino Springtime and the New Democracy: Deep Heritage, Disruptions and Choices of Hope" presented by David Carrasco, Harvard Divinity School.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Smith Buonanno 106

David CarrascoDavid CarrascoDavid Carrasco is the Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard Divinity School.  He is a Mexican American historian of religions with particular interest in Mesoamerican cities as symbols, and the Mexican-American borderlands.  He is the author of numerous publications including, Religions of MesoamericaCity of Sacrifice; and Quetzacoatl and the Irony of Empire.  For more information on Professor Carrasco or the K. Brooke Anderson Lecture please clickhere.   


"Monks, Artisans and the Dead in Medieval Japan: The Iconography of Buddhist Stone Grave Monuments" a lecture by Prof. Hank Glassman, Haverford College.  Another Chinnoji Gorin CorpseAnother Chinnoji Gorin Corpse

Thursday, April 10, 2014
Petteruti Lounge, Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center

Hank Glassman is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at Haverfod College.  His scholarly work centers on the culture of medieval Japan, especially its religious culture.  He is the author of numerous publications, including The Face of Jizo: Image and Cult in Medieval Japanese Buddhism (University of Hawaii Press, 2012) and "Chinese Buddhist Death Ritual and the Transformation of Japanese Kinship."  In The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations (ed. by Brian Cuevas & Jacqueline Stone; Kuroda Institute/University of Hawaii Press, 2007).

Sponsored by the Brown University Departments of Religious Studies, East Asian Studies, History of Art & Architecture, and History. 

"Living In It: Oprah Winfrey, Goldman Sachs, and the Contemporary Study of Religion," a lecture by Kathryn Lofton, Yale University.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Wilson Hall, Rm 302

Kathryn Lofton is a historian of religion with a particular focus on the cultural and intellectual history of the United States. Her archival expertise is in the post-Civil War era, but her research draws upon the histories and anthropology of religions in the U.S. from pre-contact to the present in order to elucidate the meanings of and relationships between religion, modernity, and the secular. This research focuses scholarly attention on the public affects, intimate desires and corporate entities that have influenced—and are in turn influenced by—religious activity. Through studies of preachers and parents, bathing soap and office cubicles, evangelicalism and liberal theology, Prof. Lofton has developed a portrait of religion in America that emphasizes the formation of religion through new technologies, renegade manifestos, and the cornucopia of cultural practices that contribute to social identity in the modern world. Her first book, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (2011) used the example of Oprah Winfrey's multimedia productions to analyze the nature of religion in contemporary America. She is currently working on several projects, including a study of sexuality and Protestant fundamentalism; an analysis of the culture concept of the Goldman Sachs Group; and a religious history of Bob Dylan. For her work at Yale she has won the 2010 Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching, the 2013 Sarai Ribicoff Award for the Encouragement of Teaching at Yale College, and the 2013 Graduate Mentor Award in the Humanities. 

"The Body of the Pantomime Dancer: Between Presence and Representation" a lecture with Prof. Ruth Webb, Professor de Langue et Litterature Grecques, Universite Lille 3

Thursday, May 1, 2014
BERT 015 (formerly Hunter Laboratory)
85 Waterman Street

Organized by the "Cultures of Performane in the Post-Classical Mediterranean," a Mellon Graduate Student Workshop sponsored by the Cogut Center for the Humanities

Sponsored by the Departments of Religious Studies and Classics.   

2013-2014 Senior Thesis/McVickar Prize Presentations

Thursday, May 8, 2014
RI Hall 108


Thomas Finley (History Concentrator) for thesis titled "'A Church Where Jesus is Real'" Race, Religiosity and the Legacies of Protest Activisim in the Church of God in Christ, 1968-1989."

Joshua Schenkkan (Religious Studies Concentrator) for thesis titled "The Imaged Dead and the Ethics of Rupture: Thinking with George Bataille and Judith Butler."

Elizabeth Carroll (Religious Studies Concentrator) for thesis titled "Ida Robinson and the Mount Sinai Holy Church: Towards a Greater Understanding of Ida Robinson as Mother Assuming Authority in the Public Sphere."

Julia P. Elstrodt (Religious Studies Concentrator) for thesis titled "The Sacred Practice of Psychotherapy: An Argument for the Inclusiion of Spirituality in Psychology."

Fall 2013

The Faces of Cao Mo: "Fact" and Meaning in Early Chinese Historiography a lecture with Andrew S. Meyer, Brooklyn College CUNY

Friday, December 6, 2013
RI Hall 108

Cao Mo was immortalized as the first of the noble "Assassin Retainers" in theRecords of the Historian by Sima Qian circa 100 BCE.  Before that, however, Cao's career in literature was quite erratic. During the Warring States (481-221 BCE) Cao Mo appeared variously as a low-born but sage advisor to rulers or as a surly ruffian whose word could not be trusted.  Relying on transmitted and recently archaeologically discovered texts, Andew Meyer will explore the conflicting depictions of Cao Mo and what they can teach us about the craft of historiography in early China.  

Andrew S. Meyer graduated from Brown as an East Asian Studies concentrator in 1989, and eanred his PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilization from Harvard in 1999.  He has lived in China for four years and in Japan for one.  He is the co-author (with Harold Roth, John Major, and Sarah Queen) of The Huainanzi: A Guide to Theory and Practice of Government in Early Han China and the author of The Dao of the Military: Liu An's Art of War.  He is currently Associate Professor of History at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.



Brown University Reception at the Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature

hosted by Professor Susan Ashbrook Harvey and Professor Saul Olyan 

Conference Dates: November 23-26, 2013
Reception Date: Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, 9-11pm
Renaissance Baltimore HarborPlace Hotel, 
Maryland E - 5th Floor

Sponsored by the Department in Religious Studies and the Program in Judaic Studies.  For more information about the meeting or the American Academy of Religion or the Society for Biblical Literature, please click the links below.

The American Academy of Religion
The Society for Biblical Literature 
Meeting Information

What is Religious Studies? Dinner with Professor Andre Willis
Questions about Religious Studies? Professor Andre Willis? Life, the Universe, and Everything? Come ask your questions!

Andre WillisAndre Willis

Wednesday, November 13th
Seminar Room, Rm 101
Shirley Miller House, 59 George Street

All Religious Studies concentrators and prospective concentrators invited!  RSVP to Tina, no later than noon, Monday, November 11, 2013.


Late Antiquity: Whether We Like It or Not
a lecture by Christian Wildberg, Princeton University, with a reception to follow.

Wednesday, October 30 @ 5:30pm
RI Hall 108

Presented by "Corresponding Landscapes: Rleigious and Cultureal Exchange in the Post-Classical Mediterranean," a Graduate International Colloquium sponsored by the Office of International Affairs and the Departments of Comparative Literature, Philosophy, Classics, Religious Studies, and the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World. 

Dinner with Professor Cladis: Everything You Wanted to Know About Professor Cladis (and Religious Studies) But Were Afraid to Ask

Mark CladisMark CladisWednesday, Oct. 23 @ 5:30pm
Seminar Room (101), Shirley Miller House, 59 George Street

All Religious Studies concentrators and prospective concentrators invited!  RSVP to Tina, no later than noon, Monday, Oct. 21st.   


Improper Intimacies and the Cunning of Secular Power
with Mayanthi L. Fernando, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Tuesday, October 22
Salomon 203

How does the public/private distinction so central to secular-liberal democracy map onto the secular state's regulation of sex and religion?  Focusing on contemporary France, this talk analyzes how political and legal practices aimed at securing secularity by renderin both sex and religion private paradoxically compel Muslim women to reveal in public the innermost details of their sexual and religious lives.  That dual incitement to hide and to exhibit, and the grim consequences of exhibiting that which must be hidden, constitute what might be the cunning of secular power.  

Mayanthi L. FernandoMayanthi L. FernandoMayanthi L. Fernando is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  She is primarily interested in the intersection of religion, politics, sexuality and secularity.  Her first book, The Republic Unsettled: Islam, Secularism and the Future of France will be out in 2014 with Duke University Press).  She has recently begun a second project that examines the nexus of sex, religion and secularism, and in particular the French state's regulation of Muslim women's sexual and religious intimacies.   

Sponsored by the Religion and Internationalism Project, the Department of Religious Studies and the Cogut Center for the Humanities.


Torture and Media: Do Spy Shows Affect Torture Policy?
Stephen BushStephen Busha talk by Religious Studies Professor Stephen Bush on Modern Day Torture Policy and the Influence of the Media Today

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Wilson 309
*Primarily intended for Brown Undergraduates
Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies 


"Birth Control: Is it Moral? Margaret Sanger and Changing Views of Contraception."Marie Griffith, Washington University, discusses a chapter of her new book, Christians, Sex, and Politics: An American History. To obtain a draft of the chapter, please email

Tuesday, October 8, 2013
4:00-6:00pm in Wilson 101 

Marie GriffithMarie GriffithMarie Griffith is the John C. Danforth Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis and is currently the director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics.  She is the author of God's Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission (1997) and Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (2004).  She is also the editor of Women and Religion in the African Diaspora: Knowledge, Powerand Performance (co-edited with Barbara Diane Savage, 2006); Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States (co-edited with Melanie McAlister, 2008); andAmerican Religions: A Documentary History (2007).  Her forthcoming book,Christians, Sex and Politics: An American History is an anaylsis of sexuality debates in twentieth-century American Christianity.

Sponsored by the Religion and Internationalism Project, the Department of Religious Studies and the Cogut Center for the Humanites.

The Spectacle of Toleration Conference October 3-5, 2013 at Salve Regina and Brown Universities

No person shall be any wise molested: Religious Freedom, Cultural Conflict, and the Moral Role of the State 

The Conference marks the 350th anniversary of the 1663 Rhode Island Charter and features academic panel presentations, including 40 paper presentations on topics ranging from politics/law, toleration within history, toleration in modern times, and tolerartion and freedom within the context of various religions.  Presentations will include:

  • "How Special was Rhode Island? The Global Context of 1663 Charter" by Evan Haefeli, Columbia University
  • "The Cult Scare and the Shifting Politics of American Religious Freedom, 1975-1985" by Tisa Wenger, Yale University
  • "A Free Market of Religion? Toleration, Disestablishment and the 'Naturalness' of Religious Pluarlism" by Paul Firenze, Brown PhD '13, now teaching at Providence College  

The conference is open to the public.  It costs $75 for one day, or $150 to attend all three days.  There are 2 keynote presentations which are free to the public with pre-registration

  • Thursday, Oct. 3 @ 7pm: Opening Event at Salve Regina's Bazarsky Lecture Hall - "Toleration: Its Nature and Moral Justification" by Brian Leiter, Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago.
    To register visit: 
  • Saturday, Oct. 5 from 7-9pm: Closing Event at Brown University's Manning Chapel - A panel discussion focusing on how issues of religious tolerance are playing out in today's world featuring Morgan Grefe, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Society; Maura Jane Farrelly from Brandeis University; and Stephen Marini from Wellesley College.  To register visit:

The conference is a collaborative project between the Newport Historical Society, the Rhode Island Historical Society, the John Carter Brown Library and Brown University, George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, the Pell Center and Salve Regina University.  It is supported by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the partner institutions.  For more information on this conference or to register, please visit

"Sulamith and Eusebia: A Musical Exegesis on Judaism, Christianity, and Unity in Variety" a lecture by Yael Sela-Teichler, Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania

September 26, 2013
Pembroke Hall 202
172 Meeting Street

Co-sponsored by Religious Studies, Music, Judaic Studies, German Studies, and the Cogut Center for the Humanities.   

Graduate Student Breakfast

Monday, September 9, 2013
Seminar Room (101), Shirley Miller House 

A welcome back gathering for current and new graduate students.  Note the date was moved to accomodate the Jewish holiday.

Welcome Back Party!

Monday, Sept. 9, 2013

Join the Religious Studies Department in welcoming back current students, faculty and friends, and also introducing the new members of our community. Come share food, conversation and fun, as we celebrate the start of the new academic year!