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The Bible is a constant in Jewish life, in all the varied forms it has taken around the world and across history. Biblical texts stand at the center of the Jewish experience. Jews keep biblical time, cultivate biblical bodies, and build and imagine biblical spaces. Living by The Book brings together scrolls, ritual objects, clothing, furniture, and tourist memorabilia from The Magnes Collection. The exhibit expresses culture in biblical terms with remarkable diversity and creativity, showcasing the ways that text can serve as an archive of possibilities and a powerful platform for shaping everyday life.

Francesco Spagnolo, Curator
Daniel Fisher, Ph.D. Candidate, Near Eastern Studies

Presented by The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. Co-sponsored by The Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program, and Digital Humanities at Berkeley.

Exhibit on view Thursday, August 27, 2015 – Friday, June 24, 2016

Image: Jonah and the Whale in Haifa Port. Courtesy of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life.

Toni Greaves, Photographer

Toni Greaves discusses her long-term project photographing within a community of cloistered nuns, her personal journey along the way, and the just-published monograph of this seven-year body of work.

Toni Greaves is a documentary, commercial, and editorial photographer based in Portland, Oregon, and working worldwide. Born and raised in Australia, she earned her MA in Visual Communication Design prior to graduating from the International Center of Photography in New York City. She is the recipient of many awards and honors, including Pictures of the Year International (POYi), Visa Pour l’Image, Palm Springs Photo Festival, PDN’s 30, Communication Arts, American Photography, Review Santa Fe, and Critical Mass’ top 50, among many others. Her photographs have been featured in magazines and publications internationally, including the New York Times Magazine, Time, Al Jazeera America, Le Monde, Marie Claire, and the Wall Street Journal, among many others, and her work has been exhibited around the globe. Her first photographic monograph, Radical Love, is scheduled for a September release from Chronicle Books.

Photo: Toni Greaves

Lamia Balafrej, Assistant Professor of Art, Wellesley College

In the fifteenth century, Persian book painting becomes filled with extra-textual figures, deviating from and subverting the textual story they supposedly illustrate. Through a careful analysis of aspects of facture and composition, combined with an exploration of primary art historiographical sources, this talk suggests that this departure from illustration transformed the painting into a reflexive medium commenting on art itself, its function and its status, and above all, its relationship to God’s creation. Through the proliferation of forms and its polished appearance, the painting becomes a catalog of ideal, primordial forms, paradoxically emphasizing both its unmade aspect and the Demiurgic talent of the painter.

Lamia Balafrej is an Assistant Professor of Art at Wellesley College working on the Islamic world. Her current book project examines the visual culture of late Timurid painting (c. 1470-1500) and its intersection with shifting paradigms of authorship and issues of reception. She has degrees from the Sorbonne, the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and the University of Aix-Marseille, and held a number of research fellowships in France, Turkey and the United States.

Birgit Meyer, Professor of Religious Studies, Utrecht University

Trained as a cultural anthropologist and working on lived religion in Ghana for more than 20 years, Birgit Meyer studies religion from a global and post-secular perspective. Her research is driven by an urge to make sense of the shifting place and role of religion in our time, and to show that scholarly work in the field of religion is of eminent concern to understanding the shape of our world in the early 21st century. In so doing, she seeks to synthesize grounded fieldwork and theoretical reflection in a broad multidisciplinary setting. Her main research foci are the rise and popularity of global Pentecostalism; religion, popular culture and heritage; religion and media; religion and the public sphere; religious visual culture, the senses and aesthetics.

Noreen Khawaja, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University

Noreen Khawaja specializes in 19th and 20th century European intellectual history, and particularly on the shifting status of religious ideas in late modern Western philosophy and culture. Her research examines the collapse of metaphysics both historically and philosophically. She looks at this issue in relation to secularity, the retrieval of theological traditions, and the rise of critical discourses on religion. She is currently working on a book that studies how Christian models of conversion formed the basis of the ideal of personal authenticity in existential thought, focusing on Søren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger. She completed her Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2012. In 2010 she was a DAAD Research Fellow in the Philosophy Faculty of Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. She has recently published an article on the problem of individuality in Kierkegaard and Karl Löwith. At Yale, she teaches courses on modern Christian thought, phenomenology, existentialism, and on a variety of topics in the philosophy of religion.

Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology at the Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Johns Hopkins University in 2000, she taught at the Delhi School of Economics for more than thirty years and also held a joint appointment at the New School for Social Research from 1997- 2000. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Academy of Scientists from Developing Countries. She was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009 and the Anders Retzius Award of the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography in 1995 and the Ghurye Award in 1977. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago in 2000 and from the University of Edinburgh in 2014. Most recently she was awarded the Nessim Habif Prize by the University of Geneva.

Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology at the Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Johns Hopkins University in 2000, she taught at the Delhi School of Economics for more than thirty years and also held a joint appointment at the New School for Social Research from 1997- 2000. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Academy of Scientists from Developing Countries. She was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009 and the Anders Retzius Award of the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography in 1995 and the Ghurye Award in 1977. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago in 2000 and from the University of Edinburgh in 2014. Most recently she was awarded the Nessim Habif Prize by the University of Geneva.

Joel Walker, Jon Bridgman Endowed Associate Professor of History, University of Washington

Recent scholarship has drawn renewed attention to the prominence of Nestorian Christians in the Mongol Empire (1206-1368). Drawing upon a broad range of primary sources in Syriac, Latin, Turkish and other languages, this lecture explores the role of the Ongut Turks of Inner Mongolia in the articulation of religious identity in the Mongol world.

Vincent Goossaert, Directeur d'études, Sciences religieuses, École pratique des Hautes Etudes

Vincent Goossaert is a historian, professor at EPHE. He was guest professor at Geneva University and Chinese University of Hong Kong. He works on the social history of modern Chinese religion, and has focused on Daoism, on religious specialists as professionals and social roles, on the politics of religion, and on the production of moral norms. He has directed an international project on “Temples, Urban Society, and Taoists” (grants from CCKF, Taiwan and ANR, France), and is now co-directing the international project on “Chinese Religions in France” (grants from CCKF, Taiwan and ANR, France).

Andrew Johnson, Filmmaker and Co-Director
Laura Graham, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Iowa

Film Screening and Discussion

The documentary If I Give My Soul began the day that co-director Andrew Johnson checked into a Brazilian prison, where he would spend two weeks living as an inmate. He ate the same food, slept in the same cells and went through the routines as if he were incarcerated in an effort to see prison from an inmate’s perspective. During this process, Andrew was brought face-to-face with two powerful forces in the prisons: narco-trafficking gangs, and Pentecostal Christianity.