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Religion &

“Religion &”: Center Conversations on the State of Religion and the Current Moment

2020 has been a year of significant changes that have impacted the climate and conversation of the American and global public. The COVID-19 pandemic and the current protests associated with the long struggle for racial justice in the United States have informed every aspect of American culture, from politics to music to religious communities. The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture is uniquely positioned to facilitate conversations on the relationship between these cultural shifts and the category of religion. For over 30 years, CSR&AC has brought together scholars and practitioners to engage religion and its relationship to the most important questions in our fields, on our campuses, and throughout our society. “Religion &” is a series of monthly conversations between leading academics and thinkers in multiple fields hosted by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture to continue these critically important interventions.

Every third Thursday at 3:00 ET via Zoom and Facebook, young and emerging scholars alongside established thinkers will engage the pressing issues of this current moment, their impact on our fields of study, and the groundbreaking work and engaged research taking place across the country. This is our opportunity, as thinkers of religion and American culture, to assess and respond to this current moment and create a culture of sustained conversation on “Religion &” the pressing issues of the day.


Stay tuned for more episodes coming Fall 2021!



Religion & Teaching In and Beyond the Classroom

May 20th at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Caleb Elfenbein, Grinnell College; Gerardo Marti, Davidson College
Cohosts: Kate Bowler, Duke Divinity School; Philip Goff, IUPUI

Given the renewed attention to teaching–including public teaching and online learning–that emerged during the pandemic, we want to end this yearlong series of discussions with the topic of teaching and public engagement. How are our fields thinking about re-imagining teaching in light of the pandemic/racial reckoning and how are faculty and universities preparing for the fall? This topic, of course, goes beyond the pandemic and we want to think about the role and impact of public teaching and how creative and thoughtful scholars are shaping the classroom, the blogsphere, and podcasts to better reach their core audiences.

Religion & Grief

April 15th at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Candi Cann, Baylor University; Michael Brandon McCormack, University of Louisville
Cohosts: Laura Levitt, Temple University; Brian Steensland, IUPUI

Given the year we’ve been through—the multiple types of losses and “sadnesses” people have struggled with—it is fitting that we consider the roles of religion in all of this. “Religion & Grief,” however, extends beyond the pandemic, and this discussion will explore the ways scholars of religion and American Studies are theorizing grief, death, suffering, and the rituals that attend to these moments. Have our understandings of grief changed or expanded in this current moment? Do new religious movements or the deeper engagement of groups (like the nones, women of color, victims of racialized or sexual violence) complicate our analysis and narration of grief? Is grief an adequately compelling and capacious term to address the loss and sadness that we theorize in our work?  Join humanities and social science scholars as they explore these questions and the larger relationships between religion, ritual, and various types of grief and loss.

Religion & Climate Change

March 18th at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Amanda J. Baugh, California State University, Northridge; Evan Berry, Arizona State University
Cohosts: Lisa H. Sideris, Indiana University, Bloomington; Peter J. Thuesen, IUPUI

As the pandemic dominated Americans’ attention in 2020, another crisis—climate change—worsened with alarming speed. The year 2020 brought the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever, the West Coast’s worst fire season, and the hottest global temperatures (tied with 2016). All of this unfolded even as the Trump administration, in alliance with evangelical climate-change deniers, continued to thwart policies that would combat global warming. Now, with the election of Joe Biden, the U.S. has rejoined the Paris climate accord and environmentalism is regaining political momentum. What is religion’s role in this new environment, and how does it shape Americans’ understanding of climate change? What questions should scholars be pursuing on religion and climate? Join our expert panelists as they reflect on these and related questions.

Religion & Reimagining Black Futures

February 18th at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Corey Miles, Morgan State University; Melanie L. Harris, Texas Christian University
Cohosts: Joseph L. Tucker Edmonds, IUPUI; Sylvester Johnson, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The field of Africana Religious Studies has undergone significant reappraisal in the last 10 years.  Specifically, the field has begun to actively and from an interdisciplinary perspective engage the idea of futurity and Afro-diasporic futures. Scholars from across the spectrum are advancing new approaches to understanding the human condition and social institutions in an age of intelligent machines, social media and technological innovation. In this panel, we will look at the emerging approaches to Black futures in the fields of religious studies and American studies and how approaches from new media, social sciences and brain sciences have opened new models for studying Black religious futures.  Join humanities and social science scholars for a conversation at the intersection of religion, technological innovation and Black futures.

Religion & Memorializing the State

January 21st at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Elaine Peña, The George Washington University; Nichole R. Phillips, Emory University
Cohosts: Kristina Horn Sheeler, IUPUI; Raymond Haberski, Jr., IUPUI

The United States is an idea, one that, for better and for worse, has been contested and affirmed for generations through the practice of voting. And while democracy is far more than a presidential election, that contest captures both the popular imagination of what the nation is while also quite directly designating who will run the country. Therefore, Presidents inherit a popular faith as well as an office; they assume a role that is often seen as much sacred as it is political; and they perform duties not unfamiliar to leaders of religious communities throughout the country. Thus the presidential inauguration every four years serves as perhaps the key ceremony in the memorialization of the state—offering Americans a singular opportunity to reflect upon the purpose of their country and their quasi-mystical relationship to it. Join social science and humanities scholars for a conversation about the relationship between religion and memorializing the state.

Religion & Pandemics, Vaccines, and Public Policy

December 17th at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Ryon Cobb, University of Georgia; Philippa Koch, Missouri State
Cohosts: Richard Gunderman, IUPUI; Krista Hoffmann-Longtin, IUPUI

2020 has been dominated by a variety of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, from outright fear to blatant disregard to interventions sanctioned by local, state, and federal organizations.  With a vaccine on the horizon, scholars, public health officials and the greater public are asking how do we approach and communicate a thoughtful and ethical model for the distribution and safe implementation of a vaccine protocol.  In this panel, we will look at the history of pandemics and vaccine protocols; discuss the role that religious organizations and leaders played during  these historic moments; and outline the tools our fields offer to deal with the thorny ethical issues that emerge in the midst of surviving and responding during a global health crisis.  Join social science, medicine and humanities scholars for a conversation about Pandemics, Vaccines, and Public Policy.

Religion & the 2020 Election

November 19th at 3:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Jamil W. Drake, Florida State University; Janelle Wong, University of Maryland
Cohosts: Amanda Friesen, IUPUI; Andrew Whitehead, IUPUI

Religion and politics are intimately intertwined in American civic life, especially when it comes to presidential elections. In this “Religion &” panel, we’ll unpack the 2020 Election focusing on questions like: What role did religion play in the U.S. election? Which candidates and campaigns reflected religious themes? How did religious Americans vote? Join social science and humanities scholars for a conversation about election results and the aftermath.

Religion & Gender and Race in the 2020 Political Landscape

October 15 at 3:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Melissa Borja, University of Michigan; Grace Yukich, Quinnipiac University
Cohosts: Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania; Philip Goff, IUPUI

100 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment and at this moment of racial reckoning, the American political climate is still dominated by the unequal representation of women, especially women of color, in local, state, and electoral politics. For the inaugural session of “Religion &”, we will explore the intersection of gender, race, politics, and the role of religion. Specifically, this panel will analyze the role that religious traditions play in sustaining or mitigating  new models of engagement, political formation, and social change. How do current works on the intersection of gender, race, religion, and political participation help us frame and anticipate this current electoral season? Furthermore, have our theoretical focus on certain groups, like white Evangelicals, and insistence on traditional constructions of topics, like climate change from the perspective of nation-states and the corporate elite, adversely impacted our ability to tell a compelling story of the American religious landscape and its resistances to the current moment? How might we tell a more comprehensive story of the American electorate and its relationship to gender, race, religion, and belonging?



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