Advancing creative and critical scholarship on religion in the world


NOT a Theology of the New Testament

For the past two centuries, scholars have attempted to derive orthodox Christian theology by reading the New Testament. They have, however, insisted that any contemporary theology be based on historical-critical exegesis of the ancient text, taking the meaning relevant for today from what scholars decide was the meaning intended by the original author or understood […]

Vernacular Theologies | Day One

The notion of “vernacular theology” has developed in reference to a body of Christian texts in vernacular languages that emerged during the late middle ages in lay or semi-lay circles. These texts and artifacts (music, images) address questions and practices of devotion, as well as theological issues and problems. They articulate positions outside of, and […]

Vernacular Theologies | Day Two

The notion of “vernacular theology” has developed in reference to a body of Christian texts in vernacular languages that emerged during the late middle ages in lay or semi-lay circles. These texts and artifacts (music, images) address questions and practices of devotion, as well as theological issues and problems. They articulate positions outside of, and […]

Religious Realignments in the Trump Era

The success of populist movements in Western Europe and the United States has created conditions for the formation of new coalitions between religious groups and political ideologies that once stood hostile to each other. We are now experiencing a convergence between the political views of conservative Evangelicals in the United States and so called traditionalists […]

God, Sex and Gender: a Conversation on Adrian Thatcher's Redeeming Gender

Thatcher’s recently-published Redeeming Gender draws on Laqueur’s Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud in an attempt to offer a distinctive Christian theology of gender. In this lunchtime conversation, Thatcher will provide a brief overview of his recent work before discussing its principle arguments with Laqueur. The conversation will then be opened […]

Why Non-Christians Should Study Christian Theology

By now most universities recognize that the religious dimensions of culture and experience are too important, and potentially too dangerous, either to be neglected by our educational institutions or to be consigned exclusively to religious institutions to study. But should the study of religion in universities include theology, which, after all, is rightly regarded as […]

The Prison Church: Historical, Theological, and Ethnographic Perspectives

The modern penitentiary has both religious and theological impulses that have contributed to its current shape. In historical accounts from inception to the present, the structure has been meant, in various ways, to provide both punishment and rehabilitation for crimes. While we know that many prisoners have religious experiences in prison, there has not been […]

Pseudo-Arabic as a Marker of Christian Identity in Middle Byzantine Art and Architecture

“Things” can help us understand social identities, relationships, and practices in the medieval world, especially in situations where textual documentation is minimal or completely absent. This paper explores how pseudo-Arabic motifs on medieval Christian buildings and objects materialized social identities and spiritual authority among monastic communities across the eastern Mediterranean, thereby attesting to an interconnectedness […]

Spinoza's Tragic Resources

Russ Leo will present his research on the intersections between poetic and philosophical experiments in Anglo-Dutch contexts across the 1650s, 60s, and 70s, particularly the ways one might place Milton and Spinoza in conversation. This involves attention to Spinoza’s contributions to literary culture in Amsterdam and the Netherlands at large, as well as his debts […]

Mecca's Perspective as Symbolic Form

The “Sacred” and the “Holy” (haram in Arabic and, to some extent, al-quds or al-muqaddas), are Semitic words (see Herem and Kadosh in Hebrew) denoting the act of separation, parting, or setting aside, and imply the apparent human faculty of setting distinctive borders between holy and profane zones. Constrained to time, these spaces become chronotopes. […]

The Study of Contacts Between Cultures: The Case of Sino-European Encounters in the Seventeenth Century

This is the keynote lecture of the multi-day workshop Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia: East to West. This presentation takes theories of communication and philosophy of alterity as a starting point to study the methodology of the history of contact between cultures. It first discusses three different frameworks that have been employed […]

Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia: East to West

Please visit the Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia: East to West special event page for the complete workshop program. “Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia: East to West” is a three-day workshop (March 22-24) on the European reception of knowledge about East Asian thought, and most importantly how this reception […]

Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia: East to West

Please visit the Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia: East to West special event page for the complete workshop program. “Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia: East to West” is a three-day workshop (March 22-24) on the European reception of knowledge about East Asian thought, and most importantly how this reception […]

Dangerous Belief? Xin 信 in Occult Anecdotes in Tang and Song China

In recent research on the concept of 信, “belief,” in Song dynasty (960-1279) China, I have discovered a surprising pattern in twelfth-century occult anecdotes (narratives told as true, recording human interactions with gods, ghosts, and other spirits): it appears that both “believing” and “disbelieving” a proposition or representation from another being, human or spiritual, were […]

What Comes After the Critique of Secularism?

This workshop gathers scholars who are interested in the myriad recent critiques of secularism spanning a variety of academic fields: history, political science, anthropology, comparative literature, etc. Our aim is to discuss the various motives for these critiques, their implications, and what alternatives, if any, they put forward. What implications, for instance, does the critique […]

Making Religious Peace: A Historical Perspective

Between 1529 and 1651 six major clusters of religious war engulfed Europe. Most of these wars ended in some form of political compromise, but even in the exceptional cases religious war eventually yielded to religious peace. Though historians traditionally focus on the wars, this presentation will focus on the broad and durable pattern of religious […]

Living with Difference: Shared Religious Sanctuaries in the Ottoman Lands

Note: This lecture will be held in the Banatao Auditorium, 310 Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley. In this talk, I will discuss the sharing of sacred sanctuaries by the three great monotheistic religions across the Mediterranean, with particular examples from the history of the Ottoman Empire. At first sight, sharing the same sacred sites would […]

Rites of Preservation

Video Showing and Discussion, with an Introduction and Response by Robert Alter In my talk I will discuss ways in which religious rituals affect civilian protocols in Israel and Palestine. To explore this link between ritual and routine, I will conduct a chronological overview of my work, which, in examining the connections between religious codes […]

Myths and Manuscripts: Rethinking the Place of Timbuktu in the Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa

“The Malian town of Timbuktu is widely understood as the epicenter of Muslim intellectual history in West Africa. The ever-expanding numbers of Arabic manuscripts which are claimed as extant in Timbuktu has only further cemented the idea of the town as the font of a late-medieval high intellectual culture which rivaled other famous Muslim intellectual […]

The famous Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) occupies a central role in our intellectual imagination. He was “the creator of an intellectual discipline,” according to Martin Buber, and is discussed by historians, literary scholars, and philosophers. Yet despite his charismatic personality and the many books and articles he wrote, there is something about him that […]

Abbess as Alter Christus: Delineating Female Sanctity in Spain and Spanish America

Art history has approached female monastic culture in New Spain through the lens of crowned-nun portraiture, a late colonial genre that reaffirmed a nun’s position as a mystical Bride of Christ. This has led to scholarly neglect of female imitatio Christi and the ecclesiastical pretense exhibited by several early modern holy women in Spain and […]

Ecumenical Protestantism and Post-Protestantism in Modern America

This multi-day workshop brings together 25 scholars from across the country to discuss newly recognized opportunities in the study of modern American Protestantism. The focus is on how the so-called “mainline” Protestants became increasingly ecumenical, separating themselves from evangelical Protestants while influencing the lives and careers of many men and women who left the churches. […]

Ecumenical Protestantism and Post-Protestantism in Modern America

This multi-day workshop brings together 25 scholars from across the country to discuss newly recognized opportunities in the study of modern American Protestantism. The focus is on how the so-called “mainline” Protestants became increasingly ecumenical, separating themselves from evangelical Protestants while influencing the lives and careers of many men and women who left the churches. […]

American Philosophy: The Spiritual and the Real

Philosophy professor John Kaag will discuss his recent American Philosophy: A Love Story, a book that traces his deeply personal engagement with the American philosophical tradition. Covering philosophers from Ralph Waldo Emerson to William James, American Philosophy raises compelling questions about immanence and transcendence, and how one lives a life worth living in a so-called […]

Foucault's Enlightenment: Islamic Revolution and the Perils of Universal History

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi examines Foucault’s writings on the Iranian Revolution as an attempt to write the history of the present without binding commitments to a teleological historiography. Is it possible for a people to envision and desire futures uncharted by already existing schemata of history? Is it possible to think of dignity, justice, and liberty outside […]

Senses and Religion: Ontologies and Secularism Workshop | Day One

This is the first day of a multi-day event. This workshop aims at staging an interdisciplinary dialogue on the relation between the senses and forms of acting, knowing, and becoming that are framed within religious traditions and ethical frameworks. The workshop will consider questions of sensory perception and the cultivation of senses with the goal […]

Senses and Religion: Ontologies and Secularism Workshop | Day Two

This is the second day of a multi-day event. This workshop aims at staging an interdisciplinary dialogue on the relation between the senses and forms of acting, knowing, and becoming that are framed within religious traditions and ethical frameworks. The workshop will consider questions of sensory perception and the cultivation of senses with the goal […]

Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy Across the Political Divide

In the wake of the Great Recession and amid rising discontent with government responsiveness to ordinary citizens, Braunstein followed participants in two very different groups—a progressive faith-based community organization and a conservative Tea Party group—as they set out to become active and informed citizens, put their faith into action, and hold government accountable. Both groups […]

On the History of Religions and the Study of Islam

Islam plays a powerful role in American public discourse. Across this often contentious landscape, numerous voices can be heard defining and contesting the nature of Islam. These definitional problems also shape academic debates, where the seemingly basic question of what is Islam has received renewed attention. This lecture addresses the place and history of Islam […]