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March 2020

News:
  • Grad Student Spotlight: Madeline Lesser
  • Recent Alumni Spotlight: Basit Iqbal
Events:
  • March 10 | Catholics, Protestants, and the Origins of Europe’s Harsh Religious Pluralism | Udi Greenberg
  • March 11 | Jews Out of the Question: A Critique of Anti-Anti-Semitism | Elad Lapidot
  • March 16 | The Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union Annual Conference 2020: Storytelling and the Making of Jewish Culture
  • March 17 | Educating Conscience in Mid-Nineteenth Century British India | Seth Koven
  • March 18 | Health, Conscience, and the State | Seth Koven
  • April 3 & 4 | Vyākaraṇa Reading Workshop | Madhav Deshpande
  • April 3 & 4 | Toleration in Comparative Perspective: Concepts, Practices and Documents 
  • April 6 | Tolerance in an Age of Intolerance | Denis Lacorne
  • April 15 | Lucy Hutchinson and John Milton: Puritanism and Theology | David Norbrook
  • April 15 | Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War | David Como
  • April 28 | Signs of the Times: Sufi Shrines and Multireligious Devotion in Modi’s India | Anna Bigelow
  • May 20 | Social Justice in Antiquity and Late Antiquity and its Relation to Philosophical Asceticism | Illaria Ramelli
N E W S
Grad Student Spotlight: Madeline Lesser

As part of our series spotlighting UC Berkeley graduate student research, BCSR recently had the opportunity to sit down with Madeline Lesser, a PhD student in English. Her dissertation is titled “Bad Prophets: the Aesthetics of Uncertainty in Revolutionary England.”

"My dissertation explores the writing of “bad” prophets in the English civil wars. While scholars looking back on this time period tend to the figure of the prophet as a sovereign, inspired individual, speaking God’s word in his own mouth, the prophets and prophetic poets at the center of my project emphasize “the uncertainty of knowledge in this life.” I argue that they turn to literary form to convey an experience of the divine that could be felt in the ongoing transformation of the present, but never confined to a singular, authoritative articulation. That is, literary form, through its capacity to hold together seeming contradiction, becomes for them a means of expressing the infinite, incomprehensible workings of God..."(more)
Recent Alumni Spotlight: Basit Iqbal

As part of our ongoing interview series, BCSR recently caught up with Basit Iqbal, who was a 2018 recipient of a BCSR summer research grant. He is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. He received his PhD from the UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology with a designated emphasis in critical theory in December 2019. His dissertation,“Tribulation and Repair: Islamic Humanitarianism after the Syrian War,” is an ethnography of religion and refuge in the aftermath of violence and dispossession. Based on fifteen months of fieldwork in Jordan and Canada, it elaborates how refugees and aid workers relate to each other and to the ongoing catastrophe in Syria through inhabiting the tradition of Islam. His publications have appeared in the journals Qui Parle (26:1), Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (31:3), Anthropological Theory (forthcoming), and The Journal of Religion (forthcoming). In Fall 2020, he will join McMaster University as Assistant Professor of Social-Cultural Anthropology... (more)
E V E N T S

Catholics, Protestants, and the Origins of Europe’s Harsh Religious Pluralism


Udi Greenberg, Associate Professor of European History, Dartmouth College, and Visiting Scholar at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion

March 10, 5-6:30 pm
201 Moses Hall, Berkeley, CA

The Institute of European Studies presents their public lecture with Udi Greenberg, “Catholics, Protestants, and the Origins of Europe’s Harsh Religious Pluralism.”

A series of recent controversies has raised many questions about Europe’s treatment of its religious minorities. Why do societies that claim to respect religious freedom and tolerance so routinely discriminate against Muslims, Jews, and others? Udi Greenberg will explore the origins of Europe’s contemporary thinking about religious pluralism to the recent peace between Catholics and Protestants and will show how this development, which unfolded between the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and the era of decolonization in the 1960s, helped shape both the scope and rigid limits of the continent’s religious landscape.

Jews Out of the Question: A Critique of Anti-Anti-Semitism


Professor Elad Lapidot, Senior Lecturer, Philosophy and the Talmud, University of Bern

March 11, 6:30 pm
Dinner Board Room, Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA

The talk will reflect on the role that opposition to anti-Semitism has been playing in shaping political philosophy after the Holocaust, in authors such as Adorno, Horkheimer, Jean-Paul Sartre and Hannah Arendt, to Alain Badiou and most recently Jean-Luc Nancy. The basic critical observation concerns the way in which post-Holocaust philosophy has identified the fundamental, epistemological evil of anti-Semitic thought not in thinking against Jews, but in thinking of Jews. In other words, so the claim, what philosophy has been denouncing as anti-Semitic is the figure of “the Jew” in thought. It is paradoxically the opposition to anti-Semitism that has been generating in post-Holocaust philosophy a rejection of Jewish thought, which in some respects is more radical than previous historical forms of anti-Judaism.

There will be a reception with light refreshments at 6:30 pm, followed by the lecture at 7 pm.
The Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union Annual Conference 2020: Storytelling and the Making of Jewish Culture

March 16, 9 am-7 pm
Dinner Board Room, Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA

The Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union presents their Annual Conference: Storytelling and the Making of Jewish Culture.


Storytelling is a primary engine of culture. An inherently interpersonal practice, stories describe and disrupt, educate and enrapture, galvanize and tranquilize. This conference brings together leading scholars to reflect on how storytelling has generated and transformed Jewish culture from ancient through contemporary times. Join us for this daylong event in which speakers will reflect on the subject of storytelling as a mechanism of cultural production and disruption in Jewish life... (more)
Educating Conscience in Mid-Nineteenth Century British India 

Seth Koven, G.E. Lessing Distinguished Professor of History and Poetics, Rutgers University

Comments by James Vernon, Professor of History and Janaki Bakhle, Associate Professor of History, UC Berkeley


March 17, 4-6 pm
3401 Dwinelle, Berkeley, CA

Advanced registration is required. To prepare, interested participants are asked to review the readings in advance of the event. Please email info.bcsr@berkeley.edu to register and receive readings.

The colonial state’s meddling in the marriage between the Brahmin Luxmeebae and her Christian convert husband, Narayen Ramchundur, unleashed potent political emotions across mid-19th century Britain and India. Their broken marriage became a flashpoint for a cataclysmic crisis about the place of “conscience” in the relationship between “secularism” and “religion,” Church and state in Britain and India. 
Health, Conscience, and the State

Seth Koven, G.E. Lessing Distinguished Professor of History and Poetics, Rutgers University, and Ronit Stahl, Department of History, UC Berkeley

Comment by Thomas Laqueur, Hellen Fawcett Professor of History Emeritus.


March 18, 4-6 pm
3335 Dwinelle, Berkeley, CA 

A discussion of claims of conscientious objection to state-mandated public health measures based on case studies of religious hospitals in twentieth-century United States and of disputes over compulsory vaccination in Victorian England.
Vyākaraṇa Reading Workshop

Madhav Deshpande, Professor Emeritus of Sanskrit and Hindu Studies, University of Michigan

April 3, 3-6:30 pm
April 4, 9 am-4pm
341 Dwinelle Hall, Berkeley, CA

The “South Asia Studies: Theories and Methods” Townsend Working Group presents their Vyākaraṇa Reading Workshop.

This two-day workshop brings together scholars across the Bay Area to engage with longstanding debates in the Sanskrit grammatical tradition and the historical role of Sanskrit grammar in the development of ‘American philology.’ This workshop reflects on how Sanskrit grammar can shape new directions for scholarship on South Asia. In this two-day workshop, renowned Sanskrit grammarian and Emeritus Professor Madhav Deshpande will lead three seminar-length lecture and reading sessions... (more)

Toleration in Comparative Perspective: Concepts, Practices and Documents

April 3-4, all day
Social Science Matrix, 820 Barrows, Berkeley, CA

The Center for Democracy, Religion and Toleration (CDTR), The Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion (BCSR) at the University of California Berkeley, and ResetDOC, Dialogue of Civilizations have undertaken a new project on toleration from different traditions around the world.

Following a comparative workshop on April 3rd and 4th 2020, we plan to prepare a volume with selected materials on toleration, brief analytic essays that situate the writings within their particular geographic and temporal sites and relate them comparatively to ideas and practices of toleration in other parts of the world.

This volume promises to provide an important selection of materials on toleration across time and space with a comparative frame that will reveal the highly diverse origins of the concept of toleration. We hope to historicize the concept of toleration, thereby also putting into question the often-uncritical assumption that the articulation of the ideal is primarily an intellectual achievement of a strand of thought in Europe or, more generally, the West.

Keynote speaker: Denis Lacorne (Directeur de recherche, Senior research fellow, SciencesPo, Centre De Recherches Internationales)

Participants include: Robert Alter (Professor, Hebrew and Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley), Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Director of the Institute of African Studies; Professor of French and Philosophy, Columbia University), Karen Barkey (Haas Distinguished Chair of Religious Diversity and Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley; Director, Center for Democracy, Toleration and Religion (CDTR); Co-director, Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion), Rajeev Bhargava (Director of the Institute of Indian Thought, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi), Noah Dauber (Associate Professor of Political Science; Director, Jewish Studies Program, Colgate University), Elizabeth Digeser (Professor, Department of History, UC Santa Barbara), Elaine Fisher (Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, Stanford University), Charlotte Fonrobert (Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University), Sudipta Kaviraj (Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University), Jonathan Laurence (Professor, Political Science, Boston College), Eugenio Menegon (Associate Professor, Department of History, Boston University), Fabio Rambelli (Professor, Department of Religious Studies, UC Santa Barbara), Jonathan Sheehan (Professor, History, UC Berkeley), Sam Shonkoff (Assistant Professor, Jewish Studies, Graduate Theological Union), Francesco Spagnolo (Curator, Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life; Associate Adjunct Professor, Department of Music, UC Berkeley), Eric Weitz (Professor, History, City College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York), Hamza Zafer (Assistant Professor, Arabic and Early Islam, University of Washington).

The program will be updated here

Tolerance in an Age of Intolerance

Denis Lacorne, Directeur de recherche, Senior research fellow, SciencesPo, Centre De Recherches Internationales

April 6, 5-7 pm
Social Science Matrix, 820 Barrows, Berkeley, CA

As part of the annual Berkeley Lecture on Religious Tolerance, Denis Lacorne will address how tolerance is necessarily linked to freedom of expression and religious pluralism. Expressions of bigotry, racism and xenophobia, which would constitute prohibited hate speech in Europe, are tolerated in the United States, provided that they do not constitute “true threats” of violence. In Europe, there is no agreement on the ultimate limits of tolerance. Some states prohibit blasphemy, others permit vulgar, satirical or even insulting forms of speech, as long as they are part of a robust public debate. But, overall, European courts are less permissive than American courts regarding the regulation of free speech. No one knows exactly how to draw the line between hate speech that is acceptable and hate speech that is not acceptable. Context and cultural traditions matter, more than anything else. And yet, Popper’s paradox remains a working principle: in the name of tolerance, there is a right not to tolerate the intolerant.
Lucy Hutchinson and John Milton: Puritanism and Theology

David Norbrook, Emeritus Merton Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford

March 15, 12-1:30 pm
300 Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley, CA

Details forthcoming

David Norbrook is Emeritus Merton Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford. He specializes in literature, politics and historiography in the early modern period, and early modern women’s writing. His publications include Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance (1984), Writing the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric and Politics 1629-1660 (1999), and Lucretius and the Early Modern (ed. 2015). He is general editor of the first collected edition of the works of Lucy Hutchinson, published by Oxford University Press: vol. 1, The Translation of Lucretius (ed. with Reid Barbour), and vol. 2, Theological Writings and Translations (ed. with Elizabeth Clarke and Jane Stevenson).
Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War

David Como, Professor of Early Modern British History, Stanford University

March 15, 5-7:30 pm
300 Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley, CA

Details forthcoming

David R. Como is Professor of History at Stanford University. His publications include Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in pre-Civil-War England (2004) and Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War, which won the Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Book Prize (2019), the North American Conference on British Studies John Ben Snow Prize (2019), and the Samuel Pepys Award (2019).
Signs of the Times: Sufi Shrines and Multireligious Devotion in Modi’s India

Anna Bigelow, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University

April 28, 5-7 pm
Social Science Matrix, 820 Barrows, UC Berkeley, CA

India’s Sufi tomb shrines are famously accessible to visitors and pilgrims of all religions and none. In some cases, this open-door policy produces sites of deliberate, intentional mixing where the shared space is taken as emblematic of an idealized form of India’s secular principles. In other cases, the ownership and use of the shrine are contested and the fractures of secularism become readily apparent. Both conditions are intensified in the current environment in which the status of India’s Muslim citizens—here read through Muslim sites—is in question and crisis. This talk will examine the effects of numerous recent developments (the rescinding of Article 370 on Kashmir, the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya decision, the CAA, the NRC, and the NPR) on spaces of interreligious devotion in India and what that can tell us about the shifting terrain of secularism.
Social Justice in Antiquity and Late Antiquity and its Relation to Philosophical Asceticism

Illaria Ramelli, Durham University; Sacred Heart University, Angelicum; Erfurt MWK; Oxford

May 20, 5-7 pm 
470 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley, CA

This lecture—based on a larger investigation expounded in a monograph (OUP 2016/2017) and some articles, and ongoing—will consider the relation of social justice and slavery to asceticism and philosophical asceticism in antiquity and especially late antiquity. Here I shall first take into account late antique and early Byzantine sources concerning individuals or couples who emancipated their slaves and gave up their possessions in favor of the poor upon embracing the ascetic life, as well as monastic groups who liberated all the slaves who joined their communities, and the institutional reaction of the ‘Church of the Empire’ to this destabilizing practice... (more)
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