UNC Religious Studies at AAR/SBL 2011

Members of the Religious Studies department facilitated, presented, and acted as respondents at this year’s joint national meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature.

Friday, 18 November

Jenna Tiitsman presided over the Religion and Media Workshop, “What’s Next for Texts: Scripting Religion in a Networked World.”  Juliane Hammer served as a panelist.

Saturday, 19 November

In the first session, Jenna Tiitsman presented on the Religion, Media, and Culture Group’s “Surveying Our Understanding of Digital Religion” panel.  Jill Peterfeso presented on the Mormon Studies Group’s “Mormon Women and Modernity” panel.

In the afternoon, Brannon Ingram presented on the Islamic Mysticism Group’s “‘It’s Not Made By Great Men’: Sufism Understood from the Side of the People” panel. This group’s business meeting was presided over by Omid Safi. Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst presented on the Religion and Colonialism Group’s “Defining Religion in Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial Contexts” panel. Megan Goodwin presented on the North American Religions Section’s “Rethinking Key Paradigms in American Religion: ‘Black Church’, ‘Queering Religion’, ‘Nature Religion’ and ‘Material Culture’.” panel.

David Lambert presented on a Biblical Lexicography panel themed “50 Years of Barr’s Semantics in Biblical Language.” Matthew J. Grey presented on a Levites and Priests in History and Tradition panel. Benjamin White presided over a panel on Teaching Biblical Studies in an Undergraduate Liberal Arts Context, on which Jason A. Staples was a panelist.

Sunday, 20 November

In the morning session, Juliane Hammer responded to the Study of Islam Section’s panel on “Islamic/Muslim Marriage in Discourse and Practice.” Brandi Denison presented on the Religion in the American West Seminar’s “Land, Identity, and Transnational Wests” panel. Jill Peterfeso presented on the Religion and Sexuality Group’s “Contesting Bodies, Configuring Sexuality” panel. Rose Aslan presented on the Space, Place, and Religious Meaning Group’s “Spatial Theory and Religion” panel. And David Lambert presented on the Book of Job for a panel on Wisdom in Israelite and Cognate Traditions.

In the afternoon, Jenna Tiitsman presided over the Religion, Media, and Culture Group’s “Production of Religion: Making Nations, Technologies, Ideologies, and Other Spectacles” panel. Barbara Ambros presided over the Japanese Religions Group’s “Recontextualizing Japanese Religions in Popular Culture” panel. And Bart Ehrman presented on a panel titled: “What is the Future of Biblical Studies in Academia? Questions, Challenges, Visions.”

In the evening, Bart Ehrman presented on a panel on Believers, Scholars, and Culture: Assessing the Impact of Two Centuries of Critical Biblical Scholarship.

Monday, 21 November

In the morning session, Matthew Hotham presented on the Comparative Studies in Religion Section’s “Comparative Grammars of Ineffability” panel. Carl Ernst presided over a joint panel between the Study of Islam Section and the Islamic Mysticism Group, themed: “Sufism after the ‘Linguistic Turn’.” Yaakov Ariel presented on the Study of Judaism Section’s panel on “American Judaisms.” Shannon Harvey presented on the New Religious Movements Group’s panel on “Religious Appropriation of Secular Culture.” John-Charles Duffy presented on a joint panel between the Death, Dying, and Beyond Group and the Mormon Studies Group, themed: “Death and Beyond in the Mormon Tradition.”

In the afternoon, Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst presented on the Comparative Studies of Religion Section’s panel “Other People’s Scriptures: The Use of Sacred Texts across Religious Boundaries.” Kathleen Foody presented on a panel called “Pious Publics/Critical Publics: Theologies of Self and State in Contemporary Islam,” co-sponsored by the Contemporary Islam and Liberal Theologies Groups. Jenna Tiitsman presented on the Philosophy of Religion Section’s panel on “Affect, Passion, and Rationality.” Bart Ehrman was respondent to a paper on a panel about the Extent of Theological Diversity in Earliest Christianity themed “Gospels in the Second Century.”

Carl Ernst presented on a panel titled “Mughal Bhakti: Devotees, Sufis, Yogis, and Literati in Early Modern North India,” cosponsored by the Religion in South Asia Section and the Hinduism Group. David Lambert presented on the Cultural History of the Study of Religion Group’s “‘Religion’: Contexts for Its Emergence” panel, and the following business meeting was presided over by Randall Styers.

Shenandoah Nieuwsma presented on the Religion, Medicines, and Healing Group’s “Spirituality and the Medicalization of Religion in Mental Health Care” panel. And Barbara Ambros presided over the business meeting for the Japanese Religions Group.

Tuesday, 22 November

During the last session of the conference, Anne Blankenship presented on the History of Christianity Section’s panel on “Interreligious Conflict in the History of Christianity: Modern Examples.” Randal Styers presided over the North American Religions Section’s panel on “Industrial Effervescence: Manufacturing Economic Selves and Producing Religious Collectivity in American Religious History.” Jason C. Bivins (adjunct) was the respondent for this panel. And Jessica Boon presented on the Queer Studies in Religion Group’s panel on “Queerly Rereading Texts and Traditions.”

Japanese new religions’ role in disaster response

Dr. Barbara Ambros, associate professor of Religious Studies and president of the Society for the Study of Japanese Religions contributed an opinion piece to CNN’s Belief Blog on the responses of Japanese new religions to the recent crises.

“Since this month’s earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, other types of organized aid networks have…largely been neglected by the news media, including the Japanese news: those managed by religious organizations,” Ambros said.  “Since the March 11 earthquake and the resulting tsunami, many new religions have mounted extensive aid campaigns.”

Ambros further noted that “a characteristic feature of Japan’s new religions is having well-organized lay organizations and networks, making them effective channels for providing aid.”

Read more here.

Rep. King misreads UNC Terrorism Study

Photo by Jason SmithDr. Charles Kurzman, UNC Professor of Sociology and Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, recently clarified the findings of his February 2011 study, “Muslim-American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting.”

Kurzman responded to the remarks of US Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, who questioned the impartiality of Kurzman’s study during an appearance on the 9 March edition of CBS’ Early Show.

Kurzman’s statement, featured on the College of Arts & Sciences‘ website, highlights at some length Rep. King’s misreading of the study’s findings.  Kurzman insisted that his study was neither skewed nor biased, noting: “[the study] was the product of a good-faith, scholarly research project to list all Muslim-American terrorism suspects and perpetrators from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2010. No cases were included or excluded on the basis of ideological criteria.”

Kurzman will appear on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” tomorrow, 10 March 2011, to respond further to the controversial congressional hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims.

Read Kurzman’s full response to Rep. King here.

“The Diane Rehm Show” is available streaming via WUNC here.

Reactions to congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in America,

UNC Religious Studies at the AAR

Members of the Religious Studies department facilitated, presented, and received awards at this year’s national meeting of the American Academy of Religion.

Friday, 29 October

Jenna Tiitsman presided over the Religion and Media Workshop, “Religion Counts: Demographic Technologies and the Politics of Surveillance.”  Brannon Ingram served as a panelist.

Carl Ernst presided over the “Rethinking Islamic Studies” Workshop; Charles Kurzman (adjunct) served as a panelist.

Saturday, 30 October

In the first session, Brandi Denison presented on the Religion, Memory, History Consultation’s “Remembering Loss: The Work of Memory in Facing the Violence of the Past” panel.  Andrew Aghapour presented on the Cognitive Science of Religion Consultation’s “Reductionism in the Cognitive Science of Religion” panel.

In the afternoon, Omid Safi responded to the Study of Islam Section’s “Rethinking History, Reimagining Community” panel; Jenna Tiitsman presided over and Vincent Gonzalez presented on the Religion, Media, and Culture Group’s “Authenticity and the Real” panel.

In the evening, Barbara Ambros presented on the Japanese Religions Group/Cultural History of the Study of Religion Group’s “Revisiting Religious Freedom in Modern Japan” panel.  Stanley Thayne presented on the Death, Dying, and Beyond Consultation/Comparative Studies in Religion Section’s panel, “From Life to Death and Back Again.”

Sunday, 31 October

Randall Styers presided over the Cultural History of the Study of Religion Group’s panel, “’Religion’ in the Making: Social, National, and Global Formations,” as well as the Group’s following business meeting.  Barbara Ambros likewise presided over the Japanese Religions Group’s business meeting.

Brannon Ingram presented on the “Educating Muslims” panel for the Study of Islam Section.  Omid Safi presided over the business meeting of the Islamic Mysticism Group.  Randall Styers responded to the “Bodies and Law: Torture, Sex Change, and Same-Sex Marriage” panel for the Law, Religion, and Culture Group.

Abdallah Lipton presented on the “Tolerance in Colonial and Imperial Contexts” panel of the Religion and Colonialism Consultation.  Tehseen Thaver presented to the “Prophecy, Knowledge, and Performance in Sufism” panel of the Islamic Mysticism Group and the “Negotiating Practice and Authority in Contemporary Islam” panel of the Contemporary Islam Group.

UNC hosted its annual reception that evening.

Kathleen Foody and Ilyse Morgenstein-Fuerst were honored at AAR Awards Ceremony as recipients of two of the AAR’s three inaugural International Dissertation Research Grants. Foody accepted a $5,000 grant for students working in any sub-discipline within religious studies; Morgenstein-Fuerst won the Selva J. Raj Endowed International Dissertation Research Fellowship. Congratulations to both students!

Morgenstein-Fuerst and Foody

image courtesy of Dr. Carl Ernst

Monday, 1 November

Megan Goodwin presented on the Popular Culture Group’s  “2-D Hierophanies: Religious Creativity and Cultural Critique in Comic Books, Manga, Anime, and Graphic Novels” panel.  Jonathan Boyarin presided over the Religion, Media, and Culture Group’s response to Jeremy Stolow’s Orthodox by Design. Anne Blankenship presented on the “Aesthetics, Cultural Production, and Religious History in Asian Pacific America” panel of the Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society Group.  John-Charles Duffy presented on the “Religious Experience/Persecution” panel of the Gay Men and Religion Group.

Finally, Brandi Denison, Jenna Tiitsman, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, and Randall Styers presented on the North American Religions Section’s “Rhetorics of Progress: Science and Technology in the Making of American Religions” panel.

Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Graven ImagesThe contributions of two graduate students, Anne Blankenship and Megan Goodwin, appear in Continuum Publishing’s recently released Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels. Edited by A. David Lewis and Christine Hoff Kraemer, Graven Images details the role of serial art in exploring innovative religious thought.

Blankenship’s essay, “Catholic American Citizenship Prescriptions for Children from Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact (1946-1963),” discusses the publication’s attempts to reconcile religiosity and patriotism in mid-twentieth century Roman Catholic children.  Blankenship’s research interests include religion in the American west, Japanese American internment, and evangelicalism.

Goodwin’s “Conversion to Narrative: Magic as Religious Language in Grant Morrison’s Invisibles” used Webb Keane’s understanding of religious language to theorize Morrison’s illustration of Chaos Magic.  Goodwin works on cultural constructions of religious and bodily difference in American culture.

More information about Graven Images is available via press release.

Ben White’s “How to Read a Book”

Doctoral candidate Ben White’s article, “How to Read a Book: Irenaeus and the Pastoral Epistles Reconsidered,” will appear in this fall’s Vigiliae Christianae.

White is a doctoral candidate in Ancient Mediterranean Religions.  His 2009 article “Reclaiming Paul?: Reconfiguration as Reclamation in 3 Corinthians,” which appeared in the Journal of Early Christian Studies, also won the North American Patristics Society’s “Best First Article” Award.

Steven Werlin Wins Hershel Shanks Prize

Steven H. Werlin received the Biblical Archaeology Society’s 2010 Hershel Shanks Prize for his paper, “Appetite for Destruction? The Archaeological Evidence for Jewish Iconoclasm.”

The Biblical Archaeology Society awards the Hershel Shanks Prize to the author of the paper judged best on the archaeology of late antique Judaism and the Talmudic period.  Werlin’s paper addresses the challenges of identifying iconoclasm in late-antique Palestinian synagogues.  He will receive the $2500 prize, supported by a contribution from Sami Rohr of Bal Harbour, FL, at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research or at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Werlin is a doctoral candidate in Ancient Mediterranean Religions and an adjunct instructor at the University of Arizona.  Congratulations, Steve!

Honoring Bill McLester (1936-2010)

The University of North Carolina and our department lost a very good friend last month with the passing of William D. McLester. Bill McLester was born October 18, 1936 in Lumberton, NC, son of the late James Dumas and Pattie Price McLester. He graduated from the UNC School of Medicine in 1965 and received his Doctorate of Philosophy in experimental pathology from UNC in 1967. After serving his country in the US Army in Korea, Bill devoted several years to research at UNC, practiced Pathology in Fayetteville, then attended the Medical College of Virginia with a Residency in Ophthalmology and returned to Fayetteville to practice until his retirement in 1999.

We will remember Bill best as a devoted father, grandfather, brother, and uncle, a man of wide ranging interests and intellectual curiosity, and a devoted supporter of UNC. Several years ago Bill discovered an interest in Religious Studies, and set out to provide support for faculty research in the department. Although he had not taken courses in the field during his time at UNC, he saw it as a way to help a smaller department that did not have the support of endowments held by larger units. He knew he could make a difference here, and he did. Through the establishment of the William D. McLester Fund for Faculty Excellence, our faculty have conducted fieldwork, purchased equipment vital to their research, attended conferences, and published important scholarship in a wide range of areas. Bill never wanted to occupy the spotlight for his contributions, but his unwavering and generous support made possible many things that otherwise would not have happened.

Just a year ago Bill moved to Chapel Hill so that he could be nearer to the intellectual vitality of the university he loved so much. It was our great pleasure to see more of him for occasional lunches and dinners, and to talk with him over coffee about his abiding interest in religious toleration and understanding. Bill really understood, in a deep and personal way, the importance of the teaching and research we do in Religious Studies. Always curious, engaged, and supportive, Bill’s legacy will continue to inspire and motivate us to reach out. His example reminds us of the transformative power of critical inquiry and intellectual engagement to reach learners in many places and stages of life.

Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp
Chair

AAR Dissertation Research Grant Winners

Congratulations to Kathleen Foody and Ilyse Morgenstein-Fuerst!

Excerpted from the American Academy of Religion’s press release:

The American Academy of Religion is pleased to announce the recipients of its inaugural International Dissertation Research Grants program: Kathleen Foody…and Ilyse Morgenstein-Fuerst.

The annual grants, designed to support AAR student members whose dissertation research requires them to travel outside of the country in which their school or university is located, are intended to help candidates complete their doctoral degrees by offsetting costs of travel, lodging, and other dissertation research-related expenses.

Foody, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, won the $5,000 grant for students working in any sub-discipline within religious studies. She will travel to Iran for research at the Iranian Institute of Philosophy.

Morgenstein-Fuerst, a Ph.D. candidate at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, won the Selva J. Raj Endowed International Dissertation Research Fellowship.  [She]  receives $2,500 and will travel to London to research an original manuscript held by the British Library.

The grants are awarded on a competitive basis by a panel of senior AAR members selected by the AAR President.