Advancing creative and critical scholarship on religion in the world


The Invention of Religion: Jews in Babylon and the Evidence of Language and Literature

An RSVP is requested. At some time after the end of the First Temple period, the religion of ancient Israel became independent of the nation. Language and texts are key to this change. Hebrew turned into a sacred language, not one learned from one’s parents, but from the study of ancient texts. The process didn’t […]

From Bat-Mitzvah to the Bar: How Religion Shapes Women's Educational Aspirations and Attainment

An RSVP is requested. It is well known that educational attainment in the United States is stratified based on race, class, and gender. But many people are surprised to learn that educational attainment rates also vary according to religious denomination. For example, American Jews are among the most highly educated religious groups, with 31% earning […]

Sanskrit Reading Workshop

This two-day workshop will offer Sanskrit scholars across the Bay Area the opportunity to engage deeply with Mīmāṃsā, the preeminent school of Indian hermeneutics, while thinking more broadly about the state of philology in the field of South Asian Studies. Organized by Lisa Brooks, Kashi Gomez, Priya Kothari, and Janet Um, the workshop will take […]

Tarrying with the Irreparable: Trauma and Kader Attia's Arts of Repair

This workshop is conceived in conversation with Algerian-French artist Kader Attia, and in relation to his exhibition on view at BAMPFA. It will engage with many primary themes of Attia’s work, reflecting on trauma and loss, war, colonization, madness and possession, the dead and ghostly, and, the contemporary, virtual form of haunting. It takes its point […]

Hatred Old and New: The Roots and Resurgence of Antisemitism

Note: An RSVP for this event is requested. Panelists: Robert Braun, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology. Expertise: Jewish-Christian relationships in the Low Countries John Efron, Koret Professor, Department of History.Expertise: Cultural and social history of German Jewry Ethan Katz, Associate Professor, Department of History.Expertise: Jewish-Muslim relations and the Jews of modern France and its empire […]

Religion and Reproductive Health Care in 2019

Bishops and Bodies: Religion and Reproductive Health Care in 2019 Panelists: Amy Littlefield (Rewire.News), Arthurine Zakama (UCSF), Karen Scott (UCSF), Lisa Ikemoto (UC Davis) and Olga Smith (UCSF) Moderators: Lori Freedman (UCSF) & Ronit Stahl (UCB)   In Spring, 2019, the UC Regents deliberated a proposed affiliation between UCSF and Dignity Health, a Catholic hospital […]

"Doing" Political Theology Today: Promises and Pitfalls

The dramatic resurgence of religion across the globe has prompted a critical reappraisal of the relationship between the religious and the political. Under the rubric of “political theology,” these inquiries have brought to light a question, or a field of inquiry, that both the doctrine of secularism and liberal political theory have obscured: the persistence […]

Conversation - Seminar with Vicki Spencer: Toleration in Comparative Perspective - After Christchurch

Discussants include: Vicki A Spencer+ (Otago University, New Zealand), Purushottama Bilimoria (Moderator) (GTU & UC Berkeley), Christopher Ocker (GTU, Berkeley, Chair Historical and Cultural Studies), Alexander von Rospatt (UC Berkeley), Aaron Grizzell (GTU & Nor Cal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Foundation), Munis Faruqui (UC Berkeley), Dan Blanton (UC Berkeley) The idea that toleration is a uniquely modern Western concept based […]

Politics of Desecularization: Law and the Minority Question in Pakistan

Talk by Sociologist Sadia Saeed on her new book, Politics of Desecularization: Law and the Minority Question in Pakistan, an examination of how the contentious relationship between Islam, nationalism, and rights of religious minorities has been debated and institutionalized in colonial India and Pakistan. The movement away from secularist practices and toward political Islam is a prominent trend across […]

Subjunctive Explorations - Fictive Sufi Tales of Early Modern Bengal: The 2nd ISAS-VSB Lecture on Religion in the Modern World

Tony Stewart is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in Humanities and Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is a specialist in the religions and literatures of the Bengali-speaking world. His work on Vaisnava traditions of Hindu Bengal was titled The Final Word: the Caitanya Caritamrta and the Grammar of Religious […]

The Creative Repercussions of Counterculture

Haroon Mirza, Artist Haroon Mirza will examine how ideas seeded in the counterculture movement of the 1960s are now solidifying in contemporary culture and the influence that has had on his work. A London-based artist with a diverse multimedia practice, Mirza will touch on subjects that resonate with his broad interest in the creative history […]

What’s Theology Got to Do with It? An Eighteenth-Century Chinese Emperor Debating Religions and Christianity

In his Lettres chinoises, indiennes et tartares, Voltaire republished “a note by the good Kangxi Emperor to the Peking Jesuits” as follows: “The emperor is surprised to see you so stubborn in your ideas. Why would you worry so much about a world where you have not been yet? Enjoy the present. Your God must […]

Critical Public Theology: How to Use and Not to Use the Bible in Contemporary Public Issues

The Bible sometimes plays a major role in current, political discourses, especially in the United States. As a project, public theology supports efforts to let the Bible speak to contemporary, public concerns. But using the Bible in this way involves many potential traps. How can a 2000 year old book provide guidance for social and […]

Captivated by the Mediterranean: Early Modern Spain and the Political Economy of Ransom

This talk explores the entangled experience of Muslim and Christian captives and by extension the connected histories of the Spanish Empire, Morocco, and Ottoman Algiers in the 17th-century. It argues that piracy, captivity, and redemption shaped the Mediterranean as an integrated region—at the social, political, and economic levels. The history that emerges of the captivities of […]

Dealing With Infinity: Art and the Transformation of the Symbolic Order

This is a multi-day, interdisciplinary workshop. Presentations on Friday, March 1st will run from 10:00am-4:30pm., and from 10:00am-2:00pm on Saturday, March 2nd. A genealogy of the historical forms of imagination or of attentiveness in literature and the other arts traces these forms back to epistemological realms that predate aesthetic experience: to the medieval formation of […]

Writing Freedom - and Its Constraints

Maggie Nelson, the 2018-19 Una’s Lecturer, is joined in conversation by UC Berkeley faculty member Nadia Ellis (English). A 2016 MacArthur Fellow, Nelson is professor of English at the University of Southern California. A poet, critic, and nonfiction writer, she is the author of The Argonauts, which won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Her […]

The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary

Robert Alter’s lecture will consider several different challenges to a translator of the bible with illustrations from specific Biblical texts and comments on how the modern English versions have failed to meet these challenges. 4:30 pm – Roundtable on Bible Translation featuring Profs. Robert Hass, Ron Hendel, and Jonathan Sheehan 5:30 pm – Robert Alter […]

Public University, Public Values |  The Politics of Truth: A Way Forward

To truly understand the current political landscape, we may need new ways — and a new willingness — to confront the question of “values.” How can scholars in the humanities and social sciences contribute to these efforts? If humanistic study is to make a contribution to public life, do academics need to confront the subject of […]