On November 1st, 2023, Dr. Abdulbasit Kassim delivered the first lecture in the two-part Race & Religion Speaker Series co-sponsored by the Religious Studies Department and Program in Africana Studies. Dr. Kassim is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Africa and the African Diaspora at New York University and an interdisciplinary historian engaged with the histories and cultures of Muslim societies in West Africa and the African Diaspora.
On October 17, 2023, Dr. Bharat Ranganathan delivered the annual Hans Tiefel Lecture on Religion and Ethics. Dr. Ranganathan is the Rabbi Sidney and Jane Brooks Assistant Professor of Social Justice and Religion at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In his lecture, Dr. Ranganathan identified some of the moral, political, and religious dimensions of severe poverty and presented various ways to respond to poverty.
The Religious Studies department is honored to present Dr. Andrew Tobolowsky, associate professor of religious studies at William & Mary, who has been awarded the Robert & Sarah Boyd Distinguished Associate Professorship for 2023-2026.
This year, Religious Studies Faculty were awarded several prestigious research fellowships and grants. The wide array of projects and accolades attest to the inherent interdisciplinary nature and continued necessity of Religious Studies and the Humanities in academia.
This semester the Department of Religious Studies was honored to have one of its faculty, Dr. Mark McLaughlin, featured on the Wellness Center's podcast "Ways to Flourish". Dr. McLaughlin discussed his research on sacred space in the Vedic traditions and his experience in yogic pratice, as well as the genesis of his course Meditation and Wellness.
Professor Mary Kirsh presented her lecture “Witnessing the Recovery: Storytelling and Family Building, from Belsen to Ireland.” An article of the same name is forthcoming. For this lecture Professor Kirsh focused on a nurse, an administrator, and a pediatrician, all of whom acted in caregiving roles to victims of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Recently, students in Professor Semiha Topal’s “Introduction to Islam” class enjoyed a guest lecture over Zoom from Deniz Öktem-Bekta?, a calligraphy artist from Istanbul, Turkey. Professor Topal’s students have been learning about the role of art and architecture in Islamic history, and this lecture illustrated how Islamic artistic traditions remain signifcant today.
Dr. Christopher Silver gave a lecture Wednesday, March 22 on the early-to-mid-20th-century recording industry in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, and the ways that this dynamic industry reflected the similarly dynamic relationship between Jews, Muslims, and their communities in the North African cultural milieu.
What are William & Mary students gaining from their classes in Religious Studies? What kinds of questions have courses in the department introduced, and how are students seeking answers? Niche, upper-level courses serve as one avenue for young scholars to do so. But beyond that, for driven students aiming to truly curate their educations there is also the option of independent study.
On Thursday, February 9, 2023, the Wren Building was proud to welcome several representatives of the Hampton Roads-based organization Campus757, a program of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council. Campus757 works with local universities and employers to keep college graduates in the Hampton Roads region, and connect them to internships and employment opportunities that fit their interests and career paths.
The Department of Religious Studies is proud to be the home of two program-specific undergraduate research journals: The Judaic Studies Review: An Undergraduate Journal in Topics Across the Field and Noetica: Journal of Global Premodern Studies. The former is affiliated with the Program in Judaic Studies, and the latter with the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program. Both journals are excellent ways for students to embrace the strong tradition of undergraduate research that is so essential to the academic community at William & Mary.
What have the Religious Studies faculty been up to? Read on to learn about their recent work and what they're looking forward to in the new year.
This November, Religious Studies hosted a viewing of Ngawang Choephel’s 2019 film Ganden: A Joyful Land, and a subsequent Q&A with the director.
Milton & Shirley Salasky Lecture: "Where are David and Solomon Buried?"
On Monday, November 7th, Dr. Michael Berkowitz gave a lecture in the Great Hall of the Wren Building on “New Approaches to American Jews and Moviemaking during WWII”. Dr. Berkowitz particularly discussed the role of Leo Rosten and his position as head of the motion picture division of the U.S. Office of Facts and Figures.
Daniel Vaca (William & Mary '02) gave a lecture Thursday, October 27, on the ways in which capitalism and religion intertwine and have intertwined in America, particularly regarding the rise of evangelicalism and the role that market segmentation played in this.
The English-language term emotions, as it is used today, is only about one hundred and fifty years old. Before it came into use, English speakers used words like passions, humors, affections, or sentiments, none of which exactly capture the meaning of emotions as we conceive of the word today.
Religious Studies Faculty Updates Fall 2022
Announcement! Religious Studies alumni and students are invited to a reception in the Wren for Homecoming Weekend.
The Department of Religious Studies is excited to welcome Visiting Assistant Professor Akshay Gupta.
Dr. Joshua Fishbein showcased his five movement cantata recounting his maternal grandmother’s survival story as a seven-year-old Greek Jew living during the Holocaust, and the family who saved her.
Rabbi Esther Lederman, the Union for Reform Judaism's Director of congregational innovation, discussed her work with the Central Conference of American Rabbis' task force on the experience of women in the rabbinate.
On Wednesday, April 13th, Professor Ben Williams of Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, delivered a speech on Naropa's unique history and the role of contemplative practice in the future of higher education.
Professor Annette Yoshiko Reed visited from the Skirball Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies and the Department of Religious Studies at New York University.
Professor Sarah Cramsey of Leiden University in the Netherlands and a W&M alumna visited campus.
Professors Cavan Concannon and Jill Hicks-Keeton sat down with students to discuss their upcoming book: "Does Scripture Speak for Itself? The Museum of the Bible and the Politics of Interpretation" (Cambridge University Press, Oct 2022).
Dr. Azzan Yadin-Israel from the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University delivered a lecture on how Rabbis, a staple in modern Judaism, were far from expected in the direct aftermath of the Second Temple.
On Friday, April 1st at 4pm in Blow Memorial Hall, Professor Geoffrey Goble delivered a lecture about his book on Chinese Esoteric Buddhism.
Professor Leora Batnitzky of Princeton University discussed Judaism's shift towards a more modern notion of "religion."
Professor Rashkover joined the Religious Studies faculty in the fall of 2020. She is the Director of Judaic Studies and the Sophia and Nathan S. Gumenick Associate Professor of Judaic Studies. She specializes in Jewish philosophy, Jewish-Christian comparative theology, and Jewish political thought.
Religious Studies Faculty Updates January 2022
Professor McLaughlin teaches an exciting course this spring that centers on the agency of female goddesses, poets, and gurus from the Early Vedic period, all the way to the post-colonial era.
On Monday night in the Tucker Theater, Dr. Nicole C. Kirk gave a talk about American religion and the circus in the early twentieth century. While Protestant churches opposed the “questionable moral activities” associated with the circus, performers and workers cultivated a rich spiritual life all their own.
Barbette Spaeth, professor of classical studies at William & Mary, teaches and researches in the areas of ancient religion and magic. Her classes are quite popular and draw a cross-section of students across all disciplines and systems of values and beliefs.
The Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture (OI) will be doing its part to support humanities posts for underemployed scholars through a new fellowship program aimed at non-tenure-eligible scholars who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic.