Fall 2014

September 3 Bryan Turner. Introduction to the Program. Commentary on The Religious and the Political (CUP, 2013).

September 10 Lydia Wilson Conflicts in Contemporary Lebanon

September 17 Amelia Johns (ACU,Melbourne) ‘Muslim religiosity in the city: From private reflection to public and political engagement’.

Abstract: This talk engages with debates that centre on the question of whether Muslims living in the West have the capacity to be fully active citizens without betraying their religious and spiritual obligations (Turner 2008). It also engages with the question of how Muslims themselves negotiate often crude representations of Muslim piety as having a transcendent orientation which conflicts with immanent citizenship practices and forms of engagement. These debates have been amplified since September 11 with Muslims living in the West being turned into ‘suspect citizens’ who must prove their citizenship credentials in light of events that are often far removed from themselves, their religious beliefs and commitments. This experience has contributed to feelings of marginalisation and denial of basic civil rights and freedoms. Furthermore, links between Muslim religiosity and a presumed civics deficit have been publicly made without fully examining how Muslim religiosity shapes civic relationships and practices. Addressing this gap this paper draws upon empirical research conducted in Melbourne, Australia to examine the interrelated concepts, relationships and practices that connect Muslim religiosity with forms of active citizenship, civic and community engagement. We argue that these interrelated concepts shape religiosities that are situated in and influenced by the environments and social contexts in which they are practiced, producing what we refer to as ‘grounded religiosities’. In particular, we argue that the interaction of Islamic conceptions of morality, justice, rights and responsibility and normative and non-normative ideas of active citizenship nourish new Muslim subjectivities and religiosities that are dynamic, engaged and which importantly do not require Muslims to betray their, in some cases, primary responsibility to their faith.

Bio: Amelia Johns is an early career researcher and research fellow at the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University. Her research engages with themes of youth identity and intercultural relations, ethnicity, racism, religiosity, new media and social media citizenship. Her PhD research and other project-based research has been published in Continuum: Journal of Media and Culture, Fibreculture, Social Inclusion, Media International Australia, and will be appearing in a forthcoming book, to be published by Melbourne University Press (forthcoming 2015). She is currently working on an ARC Discovery project examining ‘Islamic Religiosity and the challenges of political engagement and National Belonging in Multicultural Western cities’.


September 19 Jose Casanova ‘Jesuits, Connectivity, and the Uneven Development of Global Consciousness since the Sixteenth Century’

October 1 Sarah Covington ‘The Legacy of Oliver Cromwell’

Sarah Covington will talk about her ongoing historical research on the impact of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland and the enduring consequences of violence in the political history of Ireland

Sarah Covington is Professor of History, specializing in early modern Britain and Ireland. She earned her PhD in history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and is the author of two books: The Trail of Martyrdom: Persecution and Resistance in Sixteenth-Century England (University of Notre Dame Press, 2004) and Wounds, Flesh, and Metaphor in Seventeenth-Century England (Palgrave-McMillan, 2009)

October 8 Anna Akasoy ‘The Critique of “world religions’ and medieval Islam’

October 15 Chris Rominger **new title** “Mukhtar al-Ayari, Josephine Planter, and Alternative Voices in Tunisia, 1912-1925”

Abstract: From the outbreak of the First World War until about 1925, how did an elite, moderate Tunisian reform movement evolve into a diverse field of new, radical, competing visions for Tunisia’s future? Exploratory research on the life and writings of Mukhtar al-Ayari, a veteran and communist activist, and of Josephine Planter, an Austrian-American Pentecostal missionary in Tunis, suggests that the war experience stretched the limits of both the practice of French colonial rule, on the one hand, and of Tunisian expectations for the future, on the other. The result was the opening up of a brief yet momentous window of opportunity, one which carved out spaces for the emergence of alternative voices which did not always intersect with the nationalism of Tunisia’s elite.

Bio: Chris Rominger graduated from Middlebury College before serving as Associate Director of the Arab American Association of New York from 2008 to 2011. Rominger then joined the CUNY Graduate Center’s doctoral program in History, where he is a student fellow on the Committee for the Study of Religion and the Advanced Research Collaborative. Rominger studies early 20th century reformist and anti-colonial movements in the Middle East and North Africa. In particular, his research focuses on the dislocations experienced by Tunisian veterans, families, dissidents and activists during the First World War and its aftermath.


October 22 Yaakov Ariel “An Unexpected Fascination: The Strange Case of Christian Zionism”

Abstract: Christian Zionism is an unusual phenomenon with no other like it in the history of interactions between religious traditions. In no other case have adherents of one community of faith looked upon members of another ethnic-religious group as chosen by God to play a decisive role in bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth. Conservative Christians who insist that only those born again in Christ are justified before God and promised eternal lives, view the Jews and the Land of Israel as embodying a promise of redemption as the soldiers and ground zero, respectively, of the events that would lead to the arrival of the Messiah.

In the last decade, journalists, scholars and statespersons have paid much attention to Christian Zionism and its political implications. The movement, however, has a long history and has promoted other goals besides support for Zionism and Israel. The presentation wishes to offer a comprehensive analysis of Christian Zionism, its theological premises, historical development, political ramifications and its significance for Christian-Jewish relations.

Bio: A graduate of the Hebrew University and the University of Chicago, Ariel is a professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research focuses on Christian-Jewish relations in the modern era, on Christian attitudes towards Palestine and Israel and on the Jewish movements of modernity and post-modernity. His book, Evangelizing the Chosen People, won the Outler Prize of the American Society of Church History. His latest book, An Unusual Relationship: Evangelical Christians and Jews, was published by New York University Press.



October 29 Kyle Francis **new title** “Civilizing Settlers: Faith, Foreigners, and Contesting French Identity in Colonial Algeria, 1867-1883.”


Abstract: This paper examines the contested space occupied by Catholic missionaries in the French government’s attempt to mold a cohesive community out of a heterogeneous group of European settlers in Algeria between 1867 and 1883. It argues that this effort constituted an alternate civilizing mission in which the aim was not to assimilate indigenous colonial subjects, but rather to spread French values to a heterogeneous settler population composed largely of Spanish, Italian, and Maltese immigrants. Whereas many colonial officials hoped to assimilate foreign settlers to their own secular sensibilities and to eradicate their religious difference altogether, Catholic missionaries sought to capitalize on foreigners’ religiosity in order to create a Catholic society they saw as increasingly foreclosed in a secularizing France. For both sides, Algeria served not as a laboratory of modernity whose findings could be grafted back on to metropolitan society, but as a site in which to forge a more radical national identity than the one then emerging in France itself.


Bio: Kyle Francis recently defended his doctoral dissertation in history at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The dissertation is entitled “Civilizing Settlers: Catholic Missionaries and the Colonial State in French Algeria, 1830-1914.” Kyle has received numerous academic awards and fellowships, including a Dissertation Writing Fellowship and an Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellowship from the Graduate Center, CUNY. He currently teaches in the history department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. His research interests include French religion and culture, European imperialism and decolonization, and the theory and history of gender and sexuality.




November 5 Marcin Wodzinski “Space and Belief: The Case of Hasidism”


Abstract: The aim of this lecture is to suggest potential sources, approaches and conceptual frames in which one could research chrono-spatial aspects of Hasidism and, more generally, any modern religious movement. Is it true that Hasidism dominated most of East European Jewry already by the end of the eighteenth century? How could we measure it? What were the borders of Hasidic influence? When, how and why did they change? Which Hasidic dynasties were strongest? These and other questions will inform the lecture.


Bio: Marcin Wodziński is professor of Jewish history and literature at the University of Wrocław, Poland. His special field of interest is social history of Jews in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe. His books include: Hebrew Inscriptions in Silesia 13th-18th c. (Pol., 1996), Haskalah and Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland: A History of Conflict (2005), and Hasidism and Politics: The Kingdom of Poland, 1815-1864 (2013).



November 12 Helen Lindberg “Nikah Mut’ah as Feminist Social Contract- Justifying Burdens and Benefits in an Islamic Sexual Contract”


Abstract: Islam, in its many diverse forms, can conventionally be understood as holding a positive view on human sexuality. And in the same time, in many Muslim communities there are strong regulations of sexuality in general, and of female sexuality in particular. Nikah, the Islamic marriage contract, is often depicted as subordinating women in a sexual contract made legitimate by a patriarchal gender order which ensures men’s far reaching rights over women´s bodies within marriage.


In this presentation I discuss the possibility of a Feminist moral justification of the practice of Nikah Mut´ah, a specific form of temporary marriage mostly practiced among Muslims mostly belonging to the Twelver branch of Shia Islam. More specifically I examine if the idea of Nikah Mut´ah might be morally justified within a Feminist Contractarian framework where Contract Theory can be applied on Mut’ah as an affective and duty based contract between consenting adults as equals. Departing from an understanding of Mut´ah as a sexual contract, I focus on how we can evaluate the moral burdens and benefits with assumptions of consent, integrity, reciprocity and reasonableness, rights and obligations in the Nika Mut’ah marriage contract. I also argue that Mut’ah might hold an emancipatory potential for reformist change and expansion of choice for Muslim women.




November 19 Peter Gottschalk “Globalized Islamophobia: Nonsense, Commonsense, or Imperial Origins?”


Abstract: Despite historical and geographical variations, similar sentiments toward Muslims and Islam have become evident in Anglophone cultures over four centuries. During their empire, Britons developed domestically and abroad tropes of Muslim invasion and Islamic tyranny, Muslim valor and Islamic piety. Officials, missionaries, colonists, and their descendants have referenced “the Muslim” as a foil and extreme by which to gauge social maladies and ponder toleration’s limits. Have these sentiments outlived the empire that globally proliferated them in places such as India, Australia, and the United States, as well as in Britain?


Bio: Peter Gottschalk is Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University.  His research on American attitudes toward Islam and Muslims led him to author American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerance (2013) and co-author Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy (2007).  As a scholar of Hindu and Muslim cultures in India, he has authored Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying British India (2012) and Beyond Hindu and Muslim: Multiple Identity in Narratives from Village India (2000), and also co-created the website “A Virtual Village” (http://virtualvillage.wesleyan.edu).



December 3: Joanna Tice- Learning to Feel God: The Experience of Subjectivity in 21st Century Evangelical Political Thought


Abstract: What is the political thought of early 21st century evangelicalism? Political scientists have written about evangelical influences on Christian right policy in the late 20th century, but how has the movement shifted in the new millennium? This paper focuses on a revival that began among evangelicals in the late 1990’s and continues today, seeking to reestablish evangelicals as primarily spiritual – rather than political – beings. Looking at the political thought underpinning the revival, I analyze the experience of subjectivity in contemporary evangelicalism – locating that experience through socialization processes and the establishment of norms, as well as the slippage between sensations, perceptions, emotions, and epistemological thought. In other words, this paper explores the ways affect operates in the spaces between theology, epistemology, and born-again experience. One of my chief considerations in the paper is the way evangelical thinkers promote an “open receptivity” to experiences with the divine. I suggest this receptivity is likely to effect the epistemological approach their readers take to other questions in their lives, such as career and relationship choices, voting, or assessing their own lifeworld. Furthermore, in stark contrast to the hell and apocalypse-oriented emotional appeals of the 20th century Christian right, this new vanguard promotes a style of evangelicalism wherein the individual is capable of attaining heaven-on-earth through an affective-spiritual relationship with God. I argue that this move is part of a larger theoretical transformation, wherein the evangelical movement has shifted from a policy-driven politics to an ontologically driven politics. Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s political theory of emotion, Michel Foucault’s ethical consideration of “the cultivation of the self,” and theories of belief from Talal Asad and Tanya Luhrmann, among others, this study seriously considers the role of affect in the political thought of contemporary evangelicalism.


Bio: Joanna Tice works at the intersection of political theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. Her dissertation project describes the political thought of contemporary evangelicalism as it pivots away from the Christian right. Previous projects include the study of “fundamentalist feminisms,” and analysis of the U.S. discourse around undocumented immigration. Joanna’s research has been supported by the Advanced Research Collaborative, and she is currently a Dissertation Fellow with The Mellon Committee for the Study of Religion at the CUNY Graduate Center. She has taught political theory and American politics at Brooklyn College, and currently works as a Writing Across the Curriculum Consultant at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she trains faculty in writing pedagogies. Joanna holds a B.A. in Government and Philosophy from Wesleyan University and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center.



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