Message from the Directors, 2016

Rita Lindahl-Lynch

June 3, 2016

Dear Friend of BCSR,

2015-16 has been an extraordinary year for the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion. We’d like to give you a sense of our activities, current and future, and thank you for helping to make our year such a success.

The biggest news came in April 2015, when we were notified that BCSR had been awarded a $1 million grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The grant supports our long term Religion in the World initiative by establishing a Berkeley Public Theology Program. Since then, we have been working to set in motion all the activities supported by this grant while also continuing with our regular program.

Luce-related events began in March 2016, with the BCSR-hosted workshop on Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia: West to East, which included a keynote-lecture by Vincent Goossaert (École Pratique des Hautes Études) on “Bureaucracy and Salvation: Chinese Ways to Divinization.” More recently, we conducted a successful recruitment for our first Berkeley Postdoctoral Fellowship in Pubic Theology. Our new postdoc will join the program in 2016-17. More details to come. We have also selected a wonderful group of early-stage graduate students for the New Directions in Theology Graduate Student Grants who will participate in a year-long seminar starting Fall 2016. They are Max Brandstadt (Group in Asian Studies); Aaron Eldridge (Anthropology); Brent Eng (Anthropology); Shterna Friedman (Political Science); Mohamad Jarada (Anthropology); Landon Reitz (German); Max Stevenson (English); Madeline Wyse (Near Eastern Studies).

Regular BCSR programming continued energetically in 2015-16. The BCSR Seminars in Art and Religion brought photographer Toni Greaves, sociologist and filmmaker Andrew Johnson, and art historian Lamia Balafrej to campus. Veena Das, Krieger Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology (Johns Hopkins) delivered the Berkeley Lecture on Religious Tolerance, entitled “More than Religious Tolerance: Self, Other, and Mysteries of Erotics.” The Berkeley Public Forum on Religion hosted Noreen Khawaja (Yale), Birgit Meyer (Utrecht), and Joel Walker (University of Washington).

Our Summer Research Grant program continued to support excellence in graduate research. This year we awarded grants to Melissa Cradic, a Ph.D. candidate in Ancient History & Mediterranean Archaeology and Jason Price, a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology. Melissa Cradic is working on a dissertation entitled Transformations in Death: Funerary Practices and Personhood in the Bronze Age Levant which investigates the role of ancestor veneration in the Canaanite funerary religion of the 2nd millennium B.C.E. Jason Price will complete the ethnographic research for his dissertation, Holy Ghost Inc: Inside a Malawian Ministry of Deliverance, tracing how health and healing, identity formation and political commentary are enacted at a Pentecostal ministry on the outskirts of a populous Malawian town.

We also initiated a more informal BCSR colloquium series, which hosted, among others, Alba Fedeli (Birmingham), who spoke on the so-called Birmingham Quran. The colloquium will continue next year, and feature Andrea Vestrucci (Monash) on Luther.

The 2015-16 academic year is now over, but we’ve already begun to set next year’s events into motion. Our slate of speakers includes Nilüfer Göle (EHESS, Paris), who will deliver the Berkeley Lecture on Religious Tolerance. Finbarr Barry Flood (NYU) and Avinoam Shalem (Columbia) will be giving the Berkeley Seminars in Art and Religion. Leora Batnitzky (Princeton), Robert Hymes (Columbia), Dale Martin (Yale), and Mary-Jane Rubenstein (Wesleyan) will join us for the new Berkeley Lectures in Public Theology series.

We will also be hosting two Luce-supported workshops in 2016-17. Vernacular Theologies will inaugurate a series of workshops on theology in the public university, and we will hold the second of our Translating Religion and Theology in Europe and Asia workshops. Finally, we are already planning for a major conference on theology and American politics in the twentieth century, tentatively scheduled for Fall 2017.

Along with our programming, BCSR only gets more dynamic as a campus center. We are delighted to welcome as affiliated faculty: Benjamin Brinner, Lara Buchak, Rita Lucarelli, Sara Magrin, Angela Marino, Manuel Duarte de Oliveira, Christine Philliou, and Ivonne del Valle.

None of this would have been possible without tremendous support from others. Our faculty advisory board—Beate Fricke (History of Art), Charles Hirschkind (Anthropology), Saba Mahmood (Anthropology), David Marno (English), Robert Sharf (East Asian Languages and Cultures), and Francesco Spagnolo (Music)—were unstinting with their time, creativity, and guidance. The Consortium for Interdisciplinary Research (CIR) has provided a magnificent administrative home for BCSR. Under the leadership of associate director Susan Miller (now directing organizational strategy for the Berkeley Arts and Design initiative), its staff provided wonderful support and guidance. Program coordinator Rita Lindahl-Lynch, program coordinator Breanna George, office coordinator Jordan Mursinna and student assistants Diana Kingsbury, Fiona Morrison-Fleming and Aria Pipp worked on every event that we organized this year. This summer, we are delighted to welcome Khai Thu Nguyen as the new CIR associate director.

Thanks to the support of the deans of Humanities and Social Sciences, and to the immense generosity of our donors, rigorous, creative, and trans-disciplinary scholarship on religion is flourishing at Berkeley. We hope you will continue joining us next year, and consider a contribution to BCSR through Give To Cal now or in the future.

Jonathan, Mark, and Susanna

PS: As always, you can stay abreast of BCSR happenings by looking at our website and/or by following us on Facebook, where we regularly post on religious topics relevant to Berkeley and beyond.