September 2019 

Featured | Karen Barkey Named New Co-Director of BCSR | New Directions in Theology Grant Winners Announced 

Events Religious Freedom and Religious Restrictions in Health Care, 2019 | The Invention of Religion: Jews in Babylon


Karen Barkey Named New
Co-Director of BCSR

BCSR is proud to announce that Karen Barkey has joined David Marno as Co-director for the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion. Karen succeeds Co-founder Jonathan Sheehan, whose leadership has been pivotal in establishing BCSR and ensuring the success of the $1M grant in Public Theology from the Henry Luce Foundation, now in its final year. Jonathan will continue to serve on BCSR's advisory board as the unit furthers its initiatives and expands its presence on the Berkeley campus. 

Karen Barkey is the Haas Distinguished Chair of Religious Diversity and Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. She also is the director of the Center for Democracy, Toleration and Religion (CDTR), located at Matrix Social Science, UC Berkeley.
Karen has written and edited books which have won awards and were translated into Greek and Turkish. Her first book, Bandits and Bureaucrats was awarded the Allan Sharlin Memorial Award in Social Science History, and her second book, Empire of Difference (Cambridge UP, 2008), was awarded the 2009 Barrington Moore Award from the American Sociology Association and the 2009 J. David Greenstone Book Prize from the Political Science Association. She has also edited After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building (with Mark Von Hagen). Another edited book, Choreography of Sacred Spaces: State, Religion and Conflict Resolution (with Elazar Barkan), explores the history of shared religious spaces in the Balkans, Anatolia and Palestine/Israel, all three regions once under Ottoman rule. For more on her work, see her website:

Karen is one of the curators of the traveling Shared Sacred Sites exhibition. She has worked on the exhibition in the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Museum of Photography and the Yeni Cami in Thessaloniki (2017) and the New York exhibition at the NYPL, Morgan Library and Museum and CUNY Graduate Center (2018). She also runs a website on this topic which brings international participants and expertise on many shared sites around the world. She started this project to promote awareness and understanding of coexistence among religions. You can see more on the site:

New Directions in Theology Grant Winners Announced

For the fourth consecutive year, and with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, BCSR faculty will mentor an intellectually diverse set of graduate students in the 2019-20 academic year. Representing seven disciplines, with interests ranging from antiquity to the present, the incoming New Directions in Theology students will meet bi-weekly with BCSR faculty to discuss contemporary religious research and to refine their academic projects. The New Directions in Theology grants, part of the Berkeley Public Theology Program, support such work with $5000 in supplemental funding for these promising Ph.D. students.

With this most recent cohort, the Berkeley Public Theology Program will have cumulatively invested $160,000 in 32 young scholars of religion.

The incoming New Directions students and their respective fields are listed below. BCSR welcomes them and looks forward to working with them this year, and beyond.

Joshua Benjamins, Classics

Simon Brown, History

Aaron Eldridge, Anthropology

Nesma Gewily, Near Eastern Studies

Ashwak Hauter, Medical Anthropology

Maddie Lesser, English

Allyson Tang, Chinese Language

Alexander Ullman, English


Religious Freedom,
Religious Restrictions

Bishops and Bodies: Religion & Reproductive Health Care in 2019
September 5, 5-7 pm
Maude Fife Room, Wheeler Hall

A panel discussion with Amy Littlefield (, Arthurine Zakama (UCSF), Karen Scott (UCSF) Lisa Ikemoto (UC Davis), and Olga Smith (UCSF).

Moderated by Lori Freedman (UCSF) and Ronit Stahl (UCB).

In Spring, 2019, the UC Regents deliberated a proposed affiliation between UCSF and Dignity Health, a Catholic hospital network. As one op-ed stated, “UC’s governing board is flummoxed by the intricate ramifications of this proposal.” 
One out of every five hospital beds in the US lies within a religious hospital. Yet many Americans are unaware of the impact religious doctrine and religiously informed policy can have on the information and care they receive, and even their capacity to make decisions in line with their values. While the projected collaboration did not occur, the acceleration of mergers and partnerships between religious and non-religious institutions requires more attention to the “intricate ramifications” of religious health care and the conflicts between religious freedom and religious discrimination that arise in their wake.

Co-Sponsored by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society (HIFIS), Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, (ANSIRH), UCSF and the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.

The Invention of Religion:
Jews in Babylon and the Evidence of Language and Literature

November 19, 5-7 pm
Social Science Matrix, Barrows Hall

Jan Joosman, Regius Professor of Hebrew, University of Oxford

At some time after the end of the First Temple period, the religion of ancient Israel became independent of the nation.  Language and texts are key to this change.  Hebrew turned into a sacred language, not one learned from one's parents, but from the study of ancient texts. The process didn't come to full fruition until after the fall of the Second Temple. But its earliest effects can be traced already in writings of the exilic period. This linguistic development is rooted in a profound change affecting Judean religion. Before the fall of Jerusalem, the cult of the God of Israel was part and parcel of a national existence with strong territorial and cultural components. In exile, worship of this same God was motivated differently, with the reference to ancient texts—history, law, and prophecy—taking on a new and ever-increasing role.  The result was a new phenomenon in the ancient world.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies and the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.
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