Center for Religion and Media Fellows and Visiting Scholars, by year:
Simran Jeet Sing, the 2017-2018 Henry R. Luce Initiative in Religion in International Affairs Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Religion and Media at NYU, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Trinity University. He is the Senior Religion Fellow for the Sikh Coalition and a Truman National Security Fellow for the Truman National Security Project. Simran holds graduate degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University, and for the 2017-2018 academic year will be the Henry R. Luce Post-doctoral Fellow of Religion and International Affairs at the NYU Center for Religion and Media.
Simran is a prolific writer who contributes frequently to various news outlets and digital platforms. He has become a consistent expert for reporters and news outlets around the world in television, radio, and print media. Dr. Singh also serves on the board for the Religion Newswriters Association, the premiere organization for religion journalists in the country.
Simran’s academic expertise focuses on the history of religious communities in South Asia, and he has taught at Columbia University and Trinity University on Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, and Sikh traditions. Simran’s recent scholarship and public engagement examines xenophobia, racial profiling and hate violence in post 9/11 America. He is currently working on two books for publication – one explores the intersections of race and religion in modern Islamophobia, and the other historicizes the formation of the Sikh tradition around the earliest memories of its founder, Guru Nanak.
In addition to his academic and media commitments, Simran speaks regularly on a variety of topics related to diversity, inclusion, civil rights, religion, and hate violence. His thought leadership extends to a number of audiences, including educational institutions, religious communities, and public venues like the White House and Pentagon.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Simran is a diehard Spurs fan and avid marathon runner. He currently lives with his wife and daughter in Manhattan, New York, where his wife, Dr. Gunisha Kaur, teaches and works as an anesthesiologist specializing in global health at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Patrick Blanchfield, the 2016-2017 Henry R. Luce Initiative in Religion in International Affairs Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Religion and Media at NYU, holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Emory University and is a graduate of the Emory University Psychoanalytic Institute. He writes about gun violence, trauma, religion, and masculinity. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The New York Daily News, n+1, The New Inquiry, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @patblanchfield.
Noa Hazan (Ph.D., 2012, Hermeneutics and Culture Department, Bar Ilan University, Israel) will be conducting further research based on her dissertation, Race and Visual Culture in Israel (Indiana University Press, forthcoming) and to present to the Center for Religion and Media and Media, Culture and History on her current work with the Minerva Center in Tel Aviv University leading the critical project on visual representations of Temple Mount in Zionists Archives.
Alison Cool received her PhD in Cultural Anthropology in 2013. She has also completed NYU’s certificate program in Culture and Media, and produced a short documentary about being an identical twin (Separation Anxiety, 2009). She is currently a Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at NYU. In 2014-2015 she will join Harvey Mudd College as a Hixon-Riggs Early Career Fellow in Science and Technology Studies.
She is currently working on a book manuscript based on her dissertation, Translating Twins: Twin Research and the Production of Economic and Genetic Knowledge in the Swedish Welfare State, an ethnographic study of a group of Swedish economists, behavior geneticists, and psychologists who conduct twin studies or use data on twins to investigate genetic and environmental influences on social and economic behavior. http://anthropology.as.nyu.edu/object/io_coolalison.html
Josef Sorett is a member of the faculty at Columbia University, where he is an Assistant Professor of Religion and African-American Studies and Associate Director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life (IRCPL). Josef is also the founding director of the Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS), which is located within Columbia’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS).
Sorett spent his time as a visiting scholar at CRM working on his current book project, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2015), which illumines how religion has figured in debates about black art and culture. He is also editing an anthology that is tentatively titled, The Sexual Politics of Black Churches. As an interdisciplinary scholar of religion and race in the Americas, Sorett employs primarily historical and literary approaches to the study of religion in black communities and cultures in the United States. He has a special interest in how ideas about religion inform broader conversations about culture and society, and how such ideas emerge and take shape in (discursive and physical) spaces typically assumed to be outside the provenance of “religion.” His current research addresses two central themes: 1) how ideas about religion have animated histories of African American literature, arts and popular culture, and 2) the relationship between the cultural politics of religious institutions (especially black churches) and American public life.
Sorett received his Ph.D. in African American Studies from Harvard University; and he holds a B.S. from Oral Roberts University, and an M.Div. from Boston University.
Sorett’s writing and commentary have appeared in a range of popular media outlets, including ABC News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, as well as on the BBC and NPR. He is also a member of American Academy of Religion’s Committee for the Public Understanding of Religion.
Australian Endeavor fellowship recipient and Aboriginal film scholar Suzi Hutchings (University of Adelaide) was a visiting scholar at CRM for the summer and fall of 2013.
Dr Suzi Hutchings is a Central Arrernte woman. Her mother’s family is from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Central Australia. She gained her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Adelaide in 1995. For 18 years she has been working as a consultant anthropologist and expert witness in native title cases across Australia.
Hutchings has been the recipient of research grants, the most recent being a successful 2013 Endeavour Research Fellowship for Indigenous Australians (awarded in December 2012). As part of this award Dr. Hutchings undertook 4.5 months post doctoral research at New York University investigating the history, messages and styles of Hip Hop music, art and dance among Indigenous and minority groups in Australia, North America and Canada. http://anthropology.as.nyu.edu/object/suzihutchings.html
Professor B. Ruby Rich (UC Santa Cruz, Film & Digital Media), author of the recently release New Queer Cinema (Duke University Press, 2013) spent her fall 2013 sabbatical with us working on her new project on feminist film history. http://film.ucsc.edu/faculty/b_ruby_rich
Natasja Sheriff, was the international editor at The Revealer and Luce Research Fellow at the Center for Religion and Media. Before joining the Center, Natasja spent more than a decade working with international non-profit research organizations, specializing in small-scale fish culture and fisheries research for food security. Based in Thailand and Malaysia, her work took her to Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Mali, and Senegal. She moved to New York in 2010 to pursue a career in journalism. Her international experience continues to inform her work as a writer and editor.
Natasja holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism, and a PhD from the University of Stirling, Scotland, UK. She writes about politics, religion and media around the world, with an emphasis on South and Southeast Asia. As the Luce Research Fellow at the Center for Religion and Media, her research focuses on citizen journalism, video media and religion in Malaysia. Her work has appeared in The Nation, Reuters, WNYC, Malaysiakini, Hyperallergic and The Revealer.
Pre-doctoral Fellow Robert Chang was in residence, working on his dissertation on Global Buddhism. http://www.robertchang.net/
Professor Rachel Wagner (Ithaca College, Religious Studies), spent her fall sabbatical with us working on her new project on religion online. Wagner is Associate Professor of Religion in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Rachel’s work centers on the study of religion and culture, including especially religion and film and religion and virtual reality.
Professor Ayala Fader (Fordham University, Associate Professor of Anthropology) was in residence to do research on Hasidic bloggers. Her research interests include Jewish ethnography, religion, language and culture, gender, childhood, and urban anthropology.
Professor Roswitha Skare (Professor of Documentation Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway) was in residence to do research on ethnographic/indigenous films for a project, “Narrating the High North”.
Chinese filmmaker Lina was a visiting fellow whose stay with the Center for Religion & Media was facilitated by major funding granted for Yang Lina to participate in the biannual Reel China film program. Yang is a self-education independent filmmaker whose films include Old Men (1999) and The Love Story of Lao An (2008), both of which screened at international festivals. She was one of the lead actors in Jia Zhangke’s Platform (2000). Longing for the Rain was her first feature film. https://www.iffr.com/professionals/persons/yang-lina/
Laura Coppens (University of Zurich), a recipient of the Swiss National Science Foundation and Film Reviews Editor for Visual Anthropology, was in residence with us writing her dissertation on gender politics in urban Java, Indonesia through summer, 2013.
In the spring, we hosted Arang Keshavarzian, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies while he was on sabbatical.
Keshavarzian’s general fields of research and teaching are comparative politics of the Middle East with a focus on issues related to political economy, authoritarianism, and social movements. His research has revolves around questions of change and continuity as reflected and produced by socio-economic economic hierarchies, political imperatives, and collective solidarities.http://meis.as.nyu.edu/object/Arang_Keshavarzian.html
CRM co-hosted the Chinese independent documentary filmmaker Du Haibin, in collaboration with Cinema Studies and the Asian Cultural Council. Du Haibin was born in Baoji City in Shanxi Province in China, and studied painting since childhood. Du Haibin has made numerous feature documentaries and two fiction films. He was co-hosted at the Center for Religion and Media along with Cinema Studies and the Asian Cultural Council. http://dgeneratefilms.com/filmmakers/du-haibin
Australian artist Jennifer Deger is an anthropologist and experimental filmmaker with a longstanding interest in visual cultures and media aesthetics. She has undertaken practice-based research with Aboriginal people in northeast Arnhem Land over the past two decades.http://jamescook.academia.edu/JenniferDeger
Anthropologist and lawyer Jonathan Boyarin (The Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, Carolina Center for Jewish Studies) received a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1998, after receiving his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York in 1984. His research and writing combine his backgrounds in anthropology and Yiddish culture to point toward new pathways in the study of Jewish culture.
Omri Elisha (Queens College; author, Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches) is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Queens College, CUNY. Elisha’s first book, Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches (University of California, 2011) examines the aspirations and frustrations of socially engaged evangelicals affiliated with megachurches and faith-based organizations in East Tennessee, and the historical, cultural, institutional factors that both fuel and constrain their efforts to promote evangelistic ministries focused on issues of social welfare and urban renewal. His current work explores the uses of the performing arts in charismatic ministries of worship and spiritual warfare.http://anthropology.as.nyu.edu/object/anthroalumi.omrielisha
Nora Connor was our 2011-12 Luce Fellow (funded by Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs). Nora Connor is a multimedia journalist with a background in labor and human rights organizing. She holds a BA from Columbia University (religion, anthropology) and an MA from NYU (journalism). http://www.guernicamag.com/daily/nora-connor-learning-to-fly
Chinese scholar Beth Liu (Anthropology, East China Normal University, Shanghai) worked on Online Ethical Subjectivities in Chinese Dynastic TV Drama Fandom.
Chinese scholar Sun Hongyun (Media Department, Beijing Communications University) worked for American Documentary, producers of the award-winning PBS documentary series, “POV.”
Senior Research Scholar Patricia Spyer (Leiden University) spent her year at CRM working on her book, Orphaned Landscapes, based on ethnographic research in Indonesia on the religiously defined conflict that broke out in Ambon city, the Moluccas, in 1999 and the post-conflict situation since 2002. The book is shaped by a number of related concerns, including the impact of mass and alternative media in the sedimentation of violence and the creation of the grounds for reconciliation and peace, the rhetorics and politics of the mediations of violence and postviolence, and the transformations in religious sensibility during and since the war.
During her time as Senior Fellow, Spyer gave invited lectures at NYU’s Anthropology Department and the Kevorkian Center, the New School Social for Social Science Research, Yale University, the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and Johns Hopkins University. Spyer also completed several article manuscripts, including “Blind Faith: Painting Christianity in Post-conflict Ambon, Indonesia” (under review), and “Christ at Large: Iconography and Territoriality in Postwar Ambon, Indonesia,” which will appear in Religion: Beyond a Concept, edited by Hent de Vries (2007, Fordham University Press).
With colleagues from CRM, NYU’s Anthropology Department, NYU School of Law, and others, Spyer helped organize and curate CRM’s annual conference, Signs of Crisis: Religious Conflict, Human Rights and the New Documentary Film in Southern Asia (May 17-19). She also helped organize and curate two follow-ups to this event: Circulating Culture: New Works from Indonesia and India, held on May 20th at New York’s Asia Society, and Transparansi: New Documentary Films from Indonesia, held from May 22-23 at Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.
Post-doctoral Fellow Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi (Princeton University) continued to develop his research project investigating imageries, motivations, and justifications associated with the anti- Muslim violence that broke out in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002. He completed three articles that have been submitted for publication: “About Prayer: Abjection and Repetition in an American Holiness Church;” “The Gujarat Pogrom: Sacrifice, Ahimsa, and Vegetarianism;” and “The Hyperbolic Vegetarian: Notes on a Fragile Subject in Gujarat.” In addition, Ghassem-Fachandi produced a photo-essay entitled “Word and Image in the Mimesis of Violence: Transgression and Circulation in Anti-Muslim violence.” While a Fellow, Ghassem- Fachandi was also offered, and accepted, a tenure-track position in Anthropology at Rutgers University.
Post-doctoral Fellow Rafael Sánchez (Amsterdam School of Social Science Research) made considerable progress revising the manuscript of his first book, Dancing Jacobins: A Genealogy of Latin American Populism (Venezuela), currently under advanced contract with Stanford University Press. Focused on Venezuela, Sánchez’s book traces the genealogy of the present Latin American predicament through a historical/anthropological analysis of what he calls “monumental governmentality,” or the form of government corresponding to populism as an experience constitutive of Latin American modernity. Addressing these populist traditions of government, which draw on a Jacobin Political Theology while relying on intensely mediatized forms of publicity, is crucial for understanding Latin America today, where such populist traditions are instantiated albeit in highly globalized contexts that modify the tradition by exposing it to novel circumstances.
Sánchez also wrote an essay entitled “Seized by the Spirit: The Mystical Foundation of Squatting Among Pentecostals in Caracas (Venezuela) Today,” based on fieldwork conducted in Caracas under the present Chavez regime, and he completed a book-length essay on “populism and the status of the community today.”
While a Fellow, Sánchez gave invited lectures in the Anthropology Departments of New York University, Columbia University (Franz Boas Seminar), and John Hopkins University, as well as the Graduate Workshop of Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean (WALAC) at the University of Chicago. Sánchez participated as an invited speaker in the conference Living Together organized by Fordham University Press, in celebration of the launching of several new publications, including the collection Political Theologies, which contains an essay by him. He was also a panelist for a screening of the documentary film, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (see next page).
Finally, Sanchez was recently appointed to the position of Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
Visiting Scholars: Alexandra Boutros, Jonathan Boyarin, Jeffrey Schandler
Senior Research Fellow Ann Burlein (Associate Professor, Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Charlotte) spent her year at CRM developing a new project on religion and science for a book tentatively entitled Religion, Science and Memory. Burlein’s research explores how developments in molecular medicine might change the ways that we think about our bodies, intimacy, belonging, and memory. The project, already well underway, involves a number of ethnographic case studies framed within a larger theoretical investigation that foregrounds the dialogue of religion and science, as well as issues of race and class.
The theoretical themes and interdisciplinary scope of Burlein’s current project have been powerfully shaped by her involvement in the Center’s working group on Body, Belief, and Bioethics. Among her case studies, Burlein is actively pursuing two of them as a direct result of discussions at CRM; appropriately, she has designed both case studies to put issues of pluralist dialogue at their heart.
Burlein completed several article manuscripts as a fellow, including an extension of her paper, “No Longer a Revolving Door: Death in the Science of Life,” which she presented at the Body Counts/Bodies Count conference in May. She also completed a paper entitled “Putting Together the Body We Do: Genetics, Religion, and the Secular Soul,” which is currently under peer review and will be presented as a public lecture at the Center for Applied Ethics at UNC-Charlotte, directed by Rosie Tong.
Post-doctoral fellow Vincent-Antonin Lepinay (MIT) has pursued his research on “The Media Production of Stem Cells,” comparing two regimes of demonstration—science and bioethics—around the question of life in the current stem cell controversy. By examining scientific and biomedical publications, as well as other media, Lepinay has begun to analyze the growing recognition by scientists and bioethicists of one another’s existence, a recognition that appears to bring the two disciplines closer together while confronting each party with high stakes and risky compromises. In addition, Lepinay is studying emerging stem cell theories that have strong political implications, thus linking his research to larger issues regarding the body and its politicization.
During his fellowship, Lepinay completed three articles for publication: “Accumulation and Capital in Gabriel Tarde’s Psychologie Economique” in Economy and Society (Summer 2006); “Les promesses des cellules souches. Scientifiques, familles et santé publique dans la controverse autour des stem cells aux USA” in Sociologie du Travail (June 2006); and “L’Economie Infinie de Gabriel Tarde” (co-authored with Bruno Latour), the preface for the new edition of Psychologie Economique by Gabriel Tarde (forthcoming, Fall 2006, Les Empecheurs de
Penser en Rond).
In April 2006, Lepinay was appointed Assistant Professor in the Science, Technology and Society Program at MIT.
While a post-doctoral fellow, Molly McGarry (Assistant Professor, History, University of California, Riverside) completed her first book, Ghosts of Futures Past: Spiritualism and the Cultural Politics of Nineteenth-Century America (forthcoming, University of California Press). The book examines 19th-century American Spiritualism, a popular religious movement conducted through communication with the spirits of the dead. Spiritualists re-enchanted technologies of modernity for spiritual contact, transforming new media into such phenomena as automatic writing, spiritual telegraphy, and spectral photography.
During her fellowship, McGarry began work on a new book manuscript entitled Sexual Sedition, in which she traces a genealogy of the current “war on terror” to the early years of the last century when the legal term “national emergency” was first invoked in the Espionage and Sedition Acts (1917-1918) and the Immigration Act (1917) in the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution. Through an analysis of a series of legal cases and deportation hearings from these years, McGarry explores how sexuality, reproduction, and racial politics of the state intertwined with national security during wartime, particularly around representations of moral purity and secular sciences of the body.
McGarry also completed work on A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies (LGBT/Q Studies) (forthcoming, Blackwell Publishing Inc.), a volume she co-edited with George Haggerty.
Among other activities over the last year, McGarry gave an invited lecture at the CUNY Graduate Center entitled “Sexual Sedition: From the Espionage Laws to the War on Terror.” She contributed to invited panels at New York University (“Body Counts/Bodies Count”) and the American Social History Project (“New Work on Gender, Sexuality, and the National Security State”).
Visiting Scholars: Gregg Bordowitz, Alisa Lebow
At The Center, post-doctoral fellow Greg Grieve completed a book entitled Retheorizing Religion in Nepal (2006, Palgrave Macmillan). The book uses an ethnographic account of prosaic religious practices in Bhaktapur, Nepal, to invite new ways of rethinking and rewriting such key categories in the study of religion as tradition, divinity, personhood, worship, experience, and agency. Grieve argues that these categories are intrinsically political since they are linked with colonial and postcolonial discourses about what constitutes legiti- mate and authentic religion.
Grieve published “Forging Mandalic Space: Bhaktapur, Nepal’s Cow Procession and the Improvisation of Tradition,” in Numen 2005, 51 (1): 1-45. He also completed a video project entitled “Ganesh Ratha Yatra: A Hindu Festival in Queens, New York (2004),” based on an annual chariot procession that celebrates Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-headed god, by parading him through a neighborhood in Flushing.
Grieve is also editing, Historicizing Tradition, with Steven Engler, which will be published in 2006 by Mouton de Gruyter of Berlin. Using a critical comparative framework, the goal of the volume is to historicize and critique “tradition” as a category in the historical and comparative study of religion. He has written the introduction and a chapter entitled “Histories of Tradition in Bhaktapur, Nepal: Or How to Compile a Contemporary Hindu Medieval City.”
Grieve continues work on two projects. The first, “Faithful History: Kamas, Utah’s Pioneer Day,” includes an academic article, website, and video documentary about a commemorative parade that has always acted as a barometer of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), and the Mormon cultural sphere more broadly. The second project, “Mandala: Mediating Asian Religion and the Mystic East,” will become a book-length manuscript and documentary video that will trace how mandalas and Nepalese paintings have been used in the West to re-signify Asian religions as uniquely mystical and otherworldly.
Senior Research Scholar Heather Hendershot’s new book project on right-wing Cold War broadcasting focuses on the fundamentalist radio broadcaster Carl McIntire.
Hendershot spent much of her year at the Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, researching McIntire and other figures such as H.L. Hunt, Dan Smoot, and the Rev. Billy James Hargis. She traveled to the National Archives in College Park, MD, to read the lengthy transcript of McIntire’s FCC hearing, and to Chicago to view television programs by Smoot and Hunt, as well as John Birch Society recruitment films. She presented a paper entitled “Panic, Paranoia, and Policy: Problematizing FCC Neutrality and Fundamentalist Irrationality,” at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference.
In fall 2004, at the American Academy of Religion meetings, Hendershot introduced the film Hell House and led a panel discussion after the screening hosted by CRM. In spring 2005, she presented a paper entitled “Deciphering The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Holy War vs. Evangelical Modes of Representation” at the “Rhetorics of Holy War” conference at the University of California, Berkeley. Her essay “His Pain, Your Gain: Jesus, Masculinity, and Evangelical Support for The Passion of the Christ” was solicited for Passion Stories, a book to be edited by Lowell Gallagher and Alice Dailey.
In addition to writing book reviews for the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and Film Quarterly, Hendershot wrote three essays for the on-line TV Studies journal Flow. She also gave invited seminar presentations at Columbia University and New York University. Finally, she recently learned that her acclaimed book on evangelical Christian media—Shaking the World for Jesus—will be translated into Turkish.
Post-doctoral fellow Jane Iwamura completed revisions for her book, The Oriental Monk in American Popular Culture: Race, Religion, and Representation in the Age of Virtual Orientalism. She included additional research key in establishing an audio-visual “library” of images and clips that will be used for a companion website.
Iwamura also spent her year at CRM getting two new projects off the ground. The first,“Altared States: The Japanese American Home Shrine,” has received a start-up grant from the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC. The second project, “The Flesh Made Word: Reading Religion in the Literatures of Asian America,” is a volume co-edited with James Kyung-Jin Lee (UC Santa Barbara). During the past year, Iwamura and Dr. Lee have organized two panels—one for the Association for Asian American Studies (April 2005) and the other for the Modern Literary Association (December 2005)—whose papers will comprise the collection.
Iwamura is co-authoring a paper with Janelle Wong (Political Science, USC) entitled “Religion as a Group-Based Political Resource for Asian Americans.” Based on recent data from the Pilot National Asian American Political Survey, it explores the nexus of religion and conservative politics in the Asian American community. It will be published in the volume, Religion and Social Justice for Immigrants, edited by Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo.
During the fellowship year, Iwamura submitted a new course for approval at USC entitled “Religion and Popular Culture in America,” and she is developing with Nancy Lutkehaus (Anthropology, USC) a graduate course, “Picturing Paradise: Western Visions of Hawai’i and the South Seas,” for consideration under the Literary, Visual, and Material Cultures Initiative in the spring of 2006.
Finally, Iwamura will also be collaborating with fellow CRM post-doctoral fellow Greg Grieve on a chapter for a volume on teaching religion and film (edited by Gregory Watkins at Stanford University). The piece, “Mediating Liberation: Keanu Reeves and the Ideology of the Middle Way,” will look at the ways in which the popular star and his films (The Matrix, Little Buddha, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Constantine) mediate contemporary views of spiritual and political liberation, while tapping into romantic notions of Eastern spirituality and ethnic primitivism.
Senior research scholar Elizabeth A. Castelli began a new project, “The Persecuted Church: Toward a Genealogy of a Political Program,” which explores contemporary U.S. Christian activism around religious persecution world-wide and the impact of that activism on U.S. foreign policy, human rights discourses, and first-world Christian self-understanding. Articles on this project will soon appear in an issue of The Journal of Human Rights devoted to the persecution of Christians in the contemporary world, and in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. “Shockwave! New Media Warriors Try to Shake the World,” an online article on Christian youth activism appeared in The Revealer on March 4, 2004.
During her residency, Castelli also completed two books: Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making (Columbia University Press, September 2004), and an edited volume, Interventions: Activists and Academics Respond to Violence (Palgrave, November 2004). She guest-edited a volume of The Scholar and Feminist Online, the electronic journal of the Center for Research on Women at Barnard (www.barnard.edu/sfonline/reverb). She also inaugurated a new journal, Postscripts: Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds, which she will edit with Equinox Publishers (UK); the first issue is scheduled to appear in Spring 2005. Several CRM scholars will serve on the journal’s editorial board, and a special issue of the journal will feature work developed from discussions in the Religion, Human Rights, and Media working group.
Castelli lectured on Christian martyrdom and the politics of persecution at Ohio State University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Texas, and Brown University. She also gave public presentations on Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, in both academic and community settings. In September 2004, Castelli returns to the Religion Department at Barnard College, where she is an associate professor.
Post-doctoral fellow Mazyar Lotfalian’s research on Iranian artists and Islam focuses on “visual artistic representation of war, martyrdom, and the reconstruction of post-trauma society.” During his fellowship year, Lotfalian helped curate the Arteast Middle East film festival and made presentations on Ta’ziyeh (an Islamic passion play) and Iranian media at the Visual Anthropology Workshop of the German Association for Anthropology, and the Center for Religion and Media workshop on “War, Religion, & Spectacles of Suffering.” He organized a panel, “A New Landscape for Iranian Cultural Studies: Material Culture, Technologies, Discourses, Figures, and Poetics of Utopia,” for the conference for Iranian Studies in Bethesda, Maryland.
Lotfalian’s book, Islam, Technoscientific Identities, and the Culture of Curiosity (University Press of America) will be published this year. In 2004-2005, he will be a visiting lecturer at Yale University.
Post-doctoral fellow Jeremy Stolow explored the cultural politics of Jewish Orthodox print media, with a focus on ArtScroll Publications, a major English-language Judaica publishing house. Stolow’s New York fieldwork built upon extensive research done in London and Toronto. His book manuscript is provisionally entitled “Orthodox By Design.”
Forthcoming articles include “Transnationalism and the New Religio-Politics: Reflections on a Jewish Orthodox Case,” in Theory, Culture and Society (April 2004) and “Communicating Authority, Consuming Tradition: Jewish Orthodox Outreach Literature and its Reading Public,” in Religion, Media and the Public Sphere, edited by Birgit Meyer and Annelies Moors (forthcoming, Indiana University Press).
Stolow has begun work on relationships between the invention of the telegraph and the rise of the modern Spiritualist movement. In connection with this project, he and Mazyar Lotfalian are co-editing an anthology on religion and technology. For the interactive curriculum website developed by the working group on Jews, Religion, and Media (see p. 7), Stolow is creating a module on Jewish Texts and Reading Practices.
In September 2004, Stolow returns to Canada as assistant professor of sociology and communication studies at McMaster University. In the summer of 2005, he will take up a fellowship in Amsterdam to participate in a project entitled “Modern Mass Media, Religion, and the Imagination of Communities,” directed by Birgit Meyer.
Somewhere along the way, Jeremy discovered that he will be a new parent. He and his partner, Danielle Filion, are adopting a baby girl from Armenia!