Religious Studies Faculty Present Research

Members of the Religious Studies department participated in and presented their research at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta, GA, Nov. 20-23.

Members of the Religious Studies department spent the week before Thanksgiving at a conference of over 10,000 international scholars of religion and theology. The conference was a joint meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), the two main professional organizations dedicated to the study of religion and theology.

Emilia Bachrach, a specialist in the field of South Asian religions, presented a paper titled “(Re)constructing Krishna’s Home: Changing Temple Spaces in Gujarat and Rajasthan,” which 
exmained recent debates over temple (re)construction in the Vaishnav community known as the Pushtimarg in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Sarah Bloesch, who teaches part-time in Religious Studies, presented in a section devoted to Feminist-Lesbian Issues in Religion. Her paper, “Lesbians in Space and Out of Time: Sexuality on Display from Museums to Prisons,” explored the impulse to categorize, contain, and make ‘other’ in early 19th/20th century museums and 20th/21st century prisons in the US, especially regarding racialized interpretations of lesbians and same-sex sexulaity.

In an AAR section on Scriptural Reasoning, Geoffrey Claussen presented a paper titled
“Socrates and the Golden Calf: Being “Stiff-Necked” and the Formation of Torah Scholars.” In it he discussed debates among modern Jews regarding the formation of scholars, focusing on competing approaches to the Golden Calf narrative in the biblical book of Exodus. Among other things he considered how certain critical reading practices might nurture virtues and also be of value to contemporary academic scholars.

Jennifer Hart, who teaches in Religious Studies and in the CORE Curriculum, presented “Fixing Ritual to Fix Community: Using Orthopraxy to Define ‘True’ Mandaeism.” Mandaeism, a religious tradition with ancient connections to Christianity and Islam, is rooted in Iran and Iraq. In her paper on the tradition, Hart argued that examples of concern for ritual and efforts to correct ritual mistakes in various forms of ancient Mandaean literature are manifestations of the community’s efforts to delineate what constitutes ‘true’ Mandaeism in contrast to competing theologies and ideologies.

Chair of the department, Lynn Huber presented a paper on “Making Men in Revelation 2-3: Reading the Seven Messages in the Bath-Gymnasiums of Asia Minor.” In this, she explored how attention to the bath-gymansium complexes of ancient Turkey help us understand the way the Book of Revelation participates in the construction of an ideal masculinity. Huber also served as a respondent to papers on “Queer Approaches to the Pauline Epistles.”

Ken Olson, a part-time instructor in religious studies, presented a paper titled “The Anti-Canonical Gospel of Thomas” in a SBL section devoted to the Apocryphal and Psedepigraphal writings of Ancient Judaism and Christianity. In it, Olson argued that text resists the notion of a canon, depicting Jesus as one who makes scriptural traditions irrelevant.

In addition, Jeffrey Pugh participated in a live podcast marking the first release of Homebrewed Christanity’s new series of books in which Pugh has contributed a volume titled Theology after You’ve Been Left BehindHomebrewed Christianity is a popular podcast that engages theologians, religious studies scholars, and philosophers on questions of contemporary relevance and interest. 

Other religious studies faculty who attended the meeting, participating in a variety of leadership roles, include Amy Allocco, Brian Pennington, Toddie Peters, and LD Russell.