Religious Studies Spring Events 2014

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 Mesoamerica; City of Sacrifice; and Quetzacoatl and the Irony of Empire.  For more information on Professor Carrasco or the K. Brooke Anderson Lecture please click here.   


"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."