James Redfield, Assistant Professor of Biblical and Talmudic Literatures, Saint Louis University, and Visiting Assistant Professor, Divinity School, University of Chicago, will present a paper for a joint meeting of the Hebrew Bible and Early Jewish Reception Workshop and the Jewish Studies Workshop. This is an online event via Zoom. For information and the zoom link, please contact workshop coordinators, Tyler Harris, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jaeseok Heo, email@example.com.
Date: January 24, 2022
Time: 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Join us for a public lecture by Matthew W. Harris (University of California Santa Barbara entitled "Black Metaphysical Religion and the Art of Being Somewhere Else"
Drawing on the archive of the avant-garde musician Sun Ra, this talk brings into focus the intellectual and institutional outlines of Black Chicago’s metaphysical religious culture. I ground Sun Ra’s celebrated outer space aesthetics in the traffic in the occult. I show that his “music of the space age” emerged from and extended Black Chicago’s metaphysical cultures, mobilizing its sources and infrastructures into a distinct, otherworldly aesthetic idiom. While gospel would emerge as the vernacular sound of Black sacred music in the wake of the Great Migration (and thus in the popular and historical imagination), I attend to Sun Ra’s brand of grassroots religious utopianism outside of the churches, in nightclubs, and offer a different sense of Black religious study, space, and sound. And, ultimately, given this history and Sun Ra’s simultaneous iconic place in the Black Radical Tradition, I argue for a rethinking of the relationship between Black religion, religious studies, and the refusal to take one’s place.
Matthew M. Harris is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research is situated at the intersection of African American religious history, Black radical traditions, and the politics of culture. His current project is a religious history of how outer space became the place of Black freedom dreams in the twentieth century and has been supported by the Ford Foundation; the UC Consortium for Black Studies in California; and Columbia University’s African-American Center on Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice.
Date: January 27, 2022
Time: 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
Join us for a public lecture by Adeana McNicholl (Vanderbilt University), entitled “Black Buddhism Plan”: Buddhism, Race, and Surveillance in the Early Twentieth Century
Monday, January 31, 4:30pm, Swift Hall Common Room (title forthcoming)
This talk traces the life and memory of Sufi Abdul Hamid to illustrate the generative possibilities of creating new histories of American Buddhism that center Black Americans and race. Sufi Abdul Hamid’s life and memory lie at the intersection of the racialization of Buddhism and the deployment of US intelligence against new Black religio-racial movements in the early twentieth century. This talk will first trace how Hamid innovatively constructed his own religio-racial identity within the United States, and the role that Buddhism played for Hamid’s own thinking. It then turns to how others constructed his memory after his death in 1938. By examining the publication of a conspiracy theory called the “Black Buddhism Plan,” this talk illustrates the importance situating Buddhism within the history of state surveillance of religio-racial Others in the United States.
Adeana McNicholl is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses both on Buddhism in South Asia and in the United States.
Date: January 31, 2022
Time: 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Ranana Dine, PhD student in the Divinity School, will present a paper for the Jewish Studies Workshop. The meeting will be virtual and the paper will be available on the workshop website https://voices.uchicago.edu/jst_hb/ (forthcoming). For the link to the Zoom meeting or other information, contact the workshop coordinators Benjamin Arenstein firstname.lastname@example.org and Ido Telem email@example.com.
Date: February 7, 2022
Time: 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Join us for a public lecture by Vaughn Booker of Dartmouth College.
From the Back of the Church: Irreverent Religion in African American History
What is happening when Black people, who express their commitments to the sacred, also treat their sacred beliefs, spaces, rituals, histories, and institutions as a foundation for humor, comedy, or satire? What explains both the sustained presence of African American religious life and the proliferation of humor about African American religion? And how much does it matter to these Black folks that their religious humor is visible to the broader society, given its history of surveilling and subjugating them based on perceptions of African American religious, moral, and cultural inferiority? This talk showcases the concept of irreverent religion in African American history from Emancipation to the present through religious orientations that create, embrace, and extend humor about the sacred. Offering a distinctive register of religious skepticism in Black American life, irreverence in this research project helps to define how African American Christianity now exists in its Protestant/Pentecostal/Catholic/nondenominational forms with strong “toleration” of religious humor.
Vaughn A. Booker is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion and the Program in African and African American Studies at Dartmouth College. As a historian of African American religions, he focuses on American subjects who engage in practices of (re)making simultaneously religious and racial identities, communities, and forms of authority. His first book, Lift Every Voice and Swing: Black Musicians and Religious Culture in the Jazz Century (New York University Press, 2020), explores the role of jazz celebrities like Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Mary Lou Williams as representatives of African American religion in the twentieth century. Vaughn’s next book project, a history of irreverent religious humor in African American Christianity, was recently award a National Endowment for the Humanities yearlong fellowship.
Date: February 8, 2022
Time: 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
Public Confessions: An Evening with Rebecca Davis in conversation with Will Schultz, Assistant Professor and historian of American religion.
This event will be in-person and livestreamed.
Rebecca L. Davis is the Miller Family Endowed Early Career Professor of History at the University of Delaware, where she holds a joint appointment in the Department of Women and Gender Studies. Her research focuses on the intersecting histories of sexuality, religion, and twentieth-century American culture. She is co-editor of Heterosexual Histories and the author of two other books: More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss, and Public Confessions: The Religious Conversions that Changed American Politics.
The new faiths of notable figures including Clare Boothe Luce, Whittaker Chambers, Sammy Davis Jr., Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, Chuck Colson, and others riveted the American public in the decades after World War II. Unconventional religious choices charted new ways of declaring an “authentic” identity amid escalating Cold War fears of brainwashing and coercion. They additionally provoked wide-ranging conversations about sexual normalcy, racial imposture, and the very nature of identity. Facing pressure to celebrate a specific vision of Americanism, these religious converts variously attracted and repelled members of the American public. Whether the act of changing religions was viewed as selfish, reckless, or even unpatriotic, it provoked controversies that ultimately transformed American politics.
Date: February 10, 2022
Time: 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Join us for a public lecture by Rachel Schine (NYU Abu Dhabi), entitled "Racing Time: Chronologies of Black Muslim Belonging in Arabic Epics"
Monday, February 14, 4:30pm, Swift Hall Common Room (1st floor)
How do racialized icons of popular culture index Muslim ideas of history and belonging? Several Arabic epics (siyar sha‘biyya), contain Black protagonists who are assigned unique origin stories and legacies of involvement in Islam’s expansion. This talk will analyze their roles in the racial imaginaries of popular tales that proliferated from the 12th century onward across the Middle East and North Africa through oral and written traditions. In particular, it will consider the (re)production of race as a function of narrative time. Using the famed frontier narrative Sīrat Dhāt al-Himma, I explore how techniques of racialization are bound up with chronology, marking the transition between the pre-Islamic period and the coming of Islam to the communities in the text and paving the way for the emergence of new modes of social mobility, kinship, relationality, and ultimately new heroic visages. In assessing the progression of racialized time in popular epic, I demonstrate how emergent legal and social systems that crystallized in Islam’s early centuries are used in Arabic storytelling to imagine the ummah, or Muslim world-community, as well as to reify divisions within it. These storytelling patterns weave aspirational histories of Islam in which visibilized others are always already being assimilated into religiopolitical structures within the world of the text, and are thus able to be so in the everyday.
Rachel Schine earned her PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the humanities at NYU, Abu Dhabi. She previously served as a postdoctoral associate and instructor of Arabic literature and culture at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations. Her current book project explores the origins, literary functions, and social histories of Black protagonists in Arab-Islamic popular literature. She has published on topics relating to racialization and kinship in Muslim storytelling practices in, among others, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature, the Journal of Arabic Literature, and al-‘Uṣūr al-Wusṭā: The Journal of Middle East Medievalists, and on pedagogies of premodern race in a variety of anthologies and public-facing forums.
Date: February 14, 2022
Time: 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Allison Schachter, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and English at Vanderbilt University, will discuss her new book, "Women Writing Jewish Modernity, 1919–1939" (Northwestern UP, 2021) at the Jewish Studies Workshop. In conversation with Prof. Schachter will be Kenneth Moss, Harriet and Ulrich E. Meyer Professor of Jewish History, University of Chicago, and Jessica Kirzane, Assistant Instructional Professor in Yiddish, University of Chicago. This is a virtual event via Zoom. To register for the zoom link, go to https://forms.gle/qHcJLg4kgs7nFL649. For other information, contact the workshop coordinator, Ido Telem, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date: February 21, 2022
Time: 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Sunwoo Lee, PhD candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, will present a paper for the Hebrew Bible and Early Jewish Reception Workshop. This is an online event via Zoom. For information and the zoom link, please contact workshop coordinators, Tyler Harris, email@example.com, or Jaeseok Heo, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date: February 22, 2022
Time: 5:15 PM - 6:45 PM
Join us for a public lecture by Samah Choudhury: Caricatures of Religious Difference, Black Aesthetics, and the Case of Hasan Minhaj.
Thursday, February 24, 5:00pm, public lecture in the Common Room (1st floor)
Our contemporary moment has witnessed a precipitous rise in the presence of American Muslim comedians in pop culture - on television, movies, and on the stage. Choudhury maps their unprecedented popularity to the contemporary moment when American “Muslim” humor is named as such, as well as the complications that arise from imposing a religious referent interchangeably with terms like “racial” or “ethnic” as they relate to the constitution of the 21st-century Western subject. This gendering, racialization, and a growing progressive consensus on issues of intersectionality have come to provide a common language for comedians to identify as Muslim over strictly racial and ethnic nomenclature. Yet this humor replicates a subjugating racialized, religionized, and "masculine" vision of Islam – outside of themselves – by limiting its articulation to normative Sunni ideals and injunctions. For comedians like Hasan Minhaj, there is an inconsistent stepping in and out in of language that names him as Muslim, Indian, Desi, or simply “brown” that relies on aesthetics of American Blackness to register an opposition to white secularity.
Samah Choudhury is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Ithaca College. Her research surrounds Islam, humor, and the politics of social legibility in the United States. Her current book manuscript looks at the ways that Islam and Muslims are articulated through standup comedy and how they speak back to broader transnational practices and discourses of race, masculinity, and secularism. She holds a PhD from UNC Chapel Hill in Religious Studies.
Date: February 24, 2022
Time: 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM