Guest Speakers and Conferences
The following speakers and events were sponsored by the Religious Studies Department this year:
As part of the 125th, academic departments were asked to invite a distinguished alum to return to campus to give a lecture. The Religious Studies Department was honored to host a lecture by former Oxy Professor, Dr. Karen King (now at Harvard Divinity School), who has made a splash recently for her work on an ancient papyrus in which Jesus mentions his "wife." To see an image of the papyrus, as well as an english translation, go to: http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife
For a NY Times article on the find, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
At her talk, Prof. King situated the find within early Christian debates on marriage and sexuality. She argued that, though the most reliable sources for reconstructing the life of the historical Jesus are entirely silent on the question of whether he was married, the earliest literature indicates that his followers were vociferously debating whether life in Christ meant it was better—or even required—to give up marriage and sexual relations altogether, or whether marriage was ordained by God and even necessary for salvation. Finally, she discussed why this little fragment has caused such a stir and what is at stake even in contemporary Christian and scholarly views.
In fall semester, Prof. Laury Silvers (University of Toronto) visited the department to participate in Professor Moazzam-Doulat's seminar on Islamic mysticism and to lecture about her research on the social history of the life of the early pietist Hafsa bint Sirin. Her research is grounded analysis of the efforts of biographers–Sufi biographers and authors in particular–to construct silence and seclusion as the ideal of female piety. This lecture emerges out of her broader social historical analysis of depictions of early pious and Sufi women’s sexuality and bodies in the biographical literature.
In the spring of 2013, Sara El-Amine '07, who was the National Director for Training for the Obama for America in 2012 and is now the Organizing Director for President Obama's Organizing for America, returned to her alma mater to conduct a lecture and workshop at the invitation of Religious Studies, DWA and Politics departments. In her lecture, Ms. El-Amine described her path from recent graduate, to joining President Obama's 2008 campaign as a volunteer, to her role as one the key figures in two campaigns that revolutionized grass-roots political organizing. During the workshop (Persuasion: Entrepreneurialism in Politics), Ms. El-Amine described and then demonstrated a crucial discovery she and other top campaign advisors made about how to significantly improve the effectiveness of the campaign's vast volunteer corps. Ms. El-Amine also spent an afternoon meeting with and advising students interested in pursuing politics after graduation.
As part of the Jewish Chautauqua Society lecture series (funded by the George and Bessie Meyer Endowment), the Department also hosted the following two speakers:
- Candice Levy (UCLA), "Jewish Concepts of Unjust Suffering in Late Antiquity"
- Lynn R. Kaye (Hebrew Union College), "Jewish Concepts of Time in Late Antiquity"
During the Fall 2011 semester, well-known Buddhist writers Stephen Batchelor and Martine Batchelor were visitors on the Occidental campus. They gave a joint lecture in Prof. Wright's class, Buddhist Thought from India to Japan, and then an evening lecture to the campus community on Buddhism and Secularity.
Also in the Fall of 2011, Prof. Moazzam-Doulat organized a roundtable discussion called "Islamophobia Now" which invited members of the Muslim, Sikh and local law enforcement agencies to discuss discrimination, cooperation and changing attitudes in the wake of September 11. The event was co-sponsored by Religious Studies and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
In Spring 2012, Professor Moazzam-Doulat organized the Interdisciplinary Symposium VI. This symposium—offered every other year—brings scholars from a number of disciplines to engage with a major thinker in the Continental Philosophical tradition. This year, Professors Sean Kirkland (Depaul, Philosophy), Andrew Mitchell (Emory, Philosophy), Damian Stocking (Occidental, ECLS) and Dale Wright (Occidental, Religious Studies) took up the later work of Martin Heidegger in relation to the idea of the sacred and exposure to the other. Occidental students were involved in the planning and organization of the event and they spent time long after the formal panels working through the themes and arguments with the speakers. (Previous symposia have focused on tragedy and community, Bataille and sacrifice, Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, and Blanchot's 'outside'.)
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