The 2009-2010 Marty Center Junior Fellow Profiles
"What do you hope to accomplish this year as a Martin Marty Junior Fellow, and how does the MMC look as a place to do your work?"
Megan Doherty, Philosophy of Religions, will be working on a project titled "Living with Understanding: Subjectivity and Metaphysics in Kant, Apel, and the Neoclassical Alternative"
Having returned to Hyde Park after a year doing dissertation research and writing in Frankfurt, Germany, I'm primarily looking forward to the intellectual comradery and moral support available through this group of scholars. Being a Fellow of the MMC is a wonderful way to re-acclimate myself to the wider academic community after many months flying solo auf Deutsch. My research goals for this year are twofold: one, to thoroughly revise the chapter I have already written, in order to make it more accessible to my audience, and two, to write the introductory chapter that is to precede it in the finished work. If these complementary goals are accomplished with the constructive feedback I anticipate from my colleagues at the MMC, I will be in a prime position to proceed further, building upon a solidly vetted foundation. Additionally, the teaching requirement of the Fellowship, while unspeakably time-consuming, is an education in its own right. The challenges of this task, and its hard-earned joys, have confirmed the saying that you don't really know the material until you can teach it to others. I have benefited tremendously from the wisdom and experiences passed along by my teaching "mentor" and a fellow colleague. In this vein, the challenge of presenting my work to not only the MMC Fellows, but to interested non-academics at the close of the seminar, will take that pedagogical adage to the next level.
Debra Erickson, Religious Ethics, will be working on a project titled "A World for People and People for the World: A Casuistic Approach to Environmental Decision-Making"
My receipt of a Marty Fellowship for 2009-2010 is allowing me to focus the majority of my time on completing my dissertation, which develops a casuistic approach to doing environmental ethics. In particular, I'll be working on two chapters that form my constructive argument and apply it to a few real-world cases. My work aims to be of practical significance and useful to non-academics. Two aspects of the Marty Fellowship should be helpful to me in this regard: the opportunity to present a chapter-in-progress to the interdisciplinary fellows seminar in the winter and to give an overview of my work at the public interlocutors session in the spring. It will be a beneficial challenge to think about how to present my work to those two different kinds of audiences, and to receive feedback from them. I am also looking forward to the professionalization components of the seminar, including the opening discussions of the state of the discipline and the end-of-year session on teaching. These conversations should assist me in planning my post-graduation future.
Stephanie Frank, History of Religions, will be working on a project titled "Liens Spirituels: Rereading Mauss, Reorienting 'The Gift'"
In my year as a Martin Marty Junior Fellow, I am looking forward to incorporating into my dissertation the bounty I have found in the archives: I have been fortunate enough to spend the summer near Caen, France, working at l'Institut Mémoires de l'édition contemporaine--where the Fonds Hubert- Mauss is held. I have been able to corroborate what I have already written about the Essai sur le don with evidence from Mauss' unpublished philosophical writings, but I have also uncovered evidence which will substantiate a a very exciting new argument for my claim that Mauss was subverting Christian theology in proposing a new ethic for the French Third Republic.
Loren Goldman, Political Science, will be working on a project titled "The Sources of Political Hope: Will, World and Democracy"
As a Marty Fellow, I look forward to completing my dissertation on the nature and grounds of hope in modern Western political thought. Its recent presence in popular politics aside, thinking critically about hope raises fundamental questions concerning the nature of autonomy, political motivation, identity and the rationality of action. Distilled in a nutshell, while hope appears a necessary condition for goal-oriented action, its articulation has traditionally relied on outmoded progressivist philosophies of history. Hope of some sort is then an essential characteristic of politics, yet the loss of conviction in teleological history leaves post-Enlightenment thinkers with the question of how to comprehend hope without a metaphysical ground for progress. My dissertation approaches this question through the work of Immanuel Kant, Ernst Bloch, Charles Peirce, William James and John Dewey. Since this project stands at an intersection of religion and politics, I expect to benefit tremendously from my time at the Marty Center.
Jeffrey Jay, Biblical Studies, will be working on a project titled "Heremeneutics of Tragic Understanding: Early Jewish and Christian Accommodations of Theatrical Culture"
For three years I've lived in the heart of the rust belt. Here I've been working through the Ph.D., publishing some writings, and composing my dissertation about understanding forms of Jewish and Christian tragedy. Here my wife and I recently adopted our eleven-year old son William. The people here don't speak academic languages, but their hard work, their sweat, tears, hopes, struggles and strength have instructed me nevertheless. They've helped me to comprehend the Real - the way Žižek interprets it - and to fathom how deep it cuts you.
Writing my dissertation in this context makes two things strikingly apparent. The first is the rarity of the give and take of hard conversation. I've known its value theoretically since reading Plato and Gadamer, yet by its absence I have come to appreciate viscerally the dialogue to which participants from all intellectual disciplines come, ready to allow it to shape their work at its most fundamental levels. The second gift of this context is that it provides a daily challenge to those of us whose livelihoods engage us in this dialogue not to be entirely closed to those who live outside of our academic languages. The GM laborer who is my friend is a provocation to practice and learn new ways of communicating and working that can make my critical theories and intellectual formulations relevant and alive enough to cut to the Real.
The Marty Center creates a place where interdisciplinary dialogue flourishes and where the challenge of relevancy is taken seriously. While writing here, I hope that my work on tragedy takes on the many refinements and depths those two things can provide.
Heather Miller Rubens, History of Judaism, will be working on a project titled "Also Other: Lucien Wolf, Roman Catholics and Jewish Identity in the British Isles"
Having returned from my most recent research trip abroad, I am happy to say that I successfully gathered all my primary source materials from England, Israel and New York for my dissertation. I am in an excellent position to synthesize the materials and write two key chapters of my project in 2009-2010. In my dissertation I wish to expand the field of inquiry in the arena of Diaspora Jewish identity to include how the Jewish understanding of other religious minority groups, identified as having similar experiences, affects the construction of a ‘hyphenated’ Jewish identity. I am looking at interactions between the Jewish and Roman Catholic communities in early 20th century England and I use the life and writings of Lucien Wolf (1857-1930) as an entrée into these larger questions of social identity construction. I explore how Wolf, in his domestic newspaper writings, utilized the struggles and successes of English Catholics in defining and defending the existence of Anglo-Jewry. The Martin Marty Center Junior Fellowship provides me with both financial and intellectual support during this crucial year of work. The ability to meet regularly with colleagues in the seminar, to present my work publically, and to teach a course related to my project, will certainly invigorate my thinking. I am honored and grateful to receive the fellowship.
Kristen Tobey, Anthropology and Sociology of Religions, will be working on a project titled "Performing Marginality: Identity and Efficacy in the Plowshares Nuclear Disarmament Movement"
As a Junior Fellow I look forward to some external motivation for writing my final dissertation chapter, and as the project moves toward completion I'm eager to think through its wider implications with a diverse group of conversation partners who will see the work through lenses other than my own. I also look forward to the exposure to new subject matter as I hear about my colleagues' projects. Because my dissertation deals with issues of religion in public life, the MMC feels like a very appropriate place to do the work, and I'm grateful for the Center's support.
For more information on these fellowships, please visit http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/fellows/.