Columbia University Religion Graduate Students Association



Bernard Stiegler is the Director of the Department of Cultural Development at the Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris and the founder of Ars Industrialis. He is a student of Jacques Derrida's, and perhaps most well known for his three-volume project, Technics and Time, which brings together a wide variety of thinkers (including Derrida, Andre Leroi-Gourhan, Gilbert Simondon and Paul Valery) in a global theory of what he calls "techno-bio-politics" (a conscious attempt to expand Michel Foucault's concept of the bio-political to include the technological). He is also one of the stars of David Barison and Daniel Ross' The Ister, a film investigating Martin Heidegger's thoughts on Holderlin. Most recently, he had an entire issue of the philosophy journal, Transformations, devoted to his work.

Mark C. Taylor is the Chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University. A leading figure in debates about post-modernism, Taylor has written on topics ranging from philosophy, religion, literature, art and architecture to education, media, science, technology and economics. His most recent books include Field Notes from Elsewhere and After God. Beyond his scholarly work, Taylor contributes to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and other periodicals.

Brian Larkin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. His research examines the way media technologies shape secular and Muslim modernities in northern Nigeria. He is especially interested in the material culture of technologies and how these shape and are shaped by local religious and social beliefs. He also examines the imaginative worlds made available to Hausa youth by the circulation of transnational media flows, from Indian films to Islamic media, and the connections they create within and between non-Western countries. Third, his work analyzes the way media technologies have become central to the rise of new Islamic movements in the north of Nigeria.

Lydia Liu: W. T. Tam Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature, specializes in modern Chinese literature and culture, critical translation theory, postcolonial empire studies, as well as semiotics and media studies. Professor Liu received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University (1990) and has taught at UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan before joining Columbia University in 2006. Her work has focused on literary modernity in translation, the movement of words, ideas, and artifacts across cultures, sovereign thinking in the nineteenth century, and the evolution of writing, textuality, and technology. Her current research focuses on the relationship between literature and science in general and the interaction between modernism and technology in particular. She has published a number of books in English and Chinese. Her new book The Freudian Robot: Digital Media and the Future of the Unconscious will be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2010.


Peter Awn received his Ph.D. in Islamic religion and comparative religion from Harvard University in 1978. Previously he earned a B.A. in Philosophy and Classical Languages, and an M.Div. in Christian Theology. He is presently Professor of Islamic Religion and Comparative Religion. He has been visiting professor at Princeton University and has lectured widely to academic and business professionals on the role Islamic religion plays in the current political and social development of the Muslim world. Professor Awn was the first recipient of the Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Award for distinguished teaching andresearch. His book, "Satan's Tragedy and Redemption: Iblîs in Sufi Psychology", a study of the devil in Islamic mysticism (Sufism), was the recipient of a book award from the American Council of Learned Societies.

Joshua Dubler's research and teaching focus on American religion and theory of religion. Along with Andrea Sun-Mee Jones, he is the author of Bang! Thud: World Spirit from a Texas School Book Depository. Bang! Thud turns to the figure of the assassin to provide an account of agency in history, one it executes in dialogue with Hegel, Tolstoy, Walter Benjamin and Saba Mahmood among others. Joshua is currently working on developing his dissertation into a book. The manuscript, entitled Seven Weeks of Penitentiary Life, is an ethnographic study of the chapel at Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institutional at Graterford.

Obery Hendricks has been called one of the most provocative and innovative commentators on the intersection of religion, politics and social policy in America today. A widely sought lecturer and media spokesperson, Dr. Hendricks' media appearances include C-SPAN, PBS, National Public Radio, al-Jazeera Television, NHK Japan Television, Air-America, Radio One, Fox News, the Bloomberg Network, among others. He is a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Democratic National Committee, a member of the National Religious Leaders Advisory Committee of the Barack Obama presidential campaign, an Affiliated Scholar at the Center for American Progress (a Washington, DC think-tank) and a featured writer for and He is also an editorial advisor to the award-winning Tikkun magazine, a contributing editor to The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, and a principal commentator in the The Oxford Annotated Bible. "Essential reading for Americans" is what The Washington Post called Dr. Hendricks' most recent book, The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus' Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted. Social critic Michael Eric Dyson describes it as "an instant classic" that "immediately thrusts Dr. Hendricks into the front ranks of American religious thinkers." The Politics of Jesus was the featured subject of the C-SPAN program "Class, Politics and Christianity." The Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation calls Hendricks' postmodern "guerrilla" approach to biblical discourse "the boldest post-colonial writing ever seen in Western biblical studies." A former Wall Street investment executive and past president of Payne Theological Seminary, the oldest African American theological seminary in the United States, Dr. Hendricks is currently Professor of Biblical Interpretation at New York Theological Seminary. He holds the Master of Divinity with academic honors from Princeton Theological Seminary, and both the M.A. and Ph.D. in Religions of Late Antiquity from Princeton University.

Wayne Proudfoot (B.S., Yale, 1961; B.D., Harvard Divinity, 1965; Th.M., Harvard Divinity, 1966; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1972) is a Professor, specializing in the philosophy of religion. His research interests include contemporary philosophy of religion, the ideas of religious experience and mysticism, classical and contemporary pragmatism, and modern Protestant thought. He teaches courses on eighteenth and nineteenth century European religious thought, theories and methods for the study of religion, philosophy of religion, and pragmatism and religion. His publications include "God and the Self" and "Religious Experience". His current research is on pragmatism and American religious thought. He has published articles on Charles Peirce and William James and is working on a book on that topic.

Jonathan Schorsch: My interests are varied and on occasion even intersect. My first book, Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World (Cambridge University Press, 2004), presents a cultural history of early modern Black-Jewish relations. The book was honored with the Salo Wittmayer Baron Book Prize from the American Academy for Jewish Research. My forthcoming book, tentatively titled The Christian Atlantic: Judeoconversos, Afroiberians and Amerindians in the Seventeenth-Century Iberian World (Brill, 2008), delves further into the nexus of religion and "race" in the formation of early modern identity and intergroup relations. In between these books I published "Jewish Ghosts in Germany," Jewish Social Studies 9,3 (Spring/Summer 2003), Disappearing Origins: Sephardic Autobiography Today, Prooftexts 27,1 (2007) and Mosseh Pereyra de Paiva: An Amsterdam Portuguese Jewish Merchant Abroad in the Seventeenthth Century, Proceedings, Conference on Dutch Jewry, Jerusalem, November 2004, ed. Yosef Kaplan (forthcoming, 2007). My more general-interest writing includes pieces on politics, socially responsible investing, environmental issues, Judaism and ecology, and contemporary Jewish music and culture. Pieces have appeared in publications such as Eretz Acheret, European Judaism, Sh'ma, Tikkun, The Jerusalem Post and Zeek. In an earlier life I had time and energy to be an avid capoeirista. I live in Riverdale, the Bronx, a block from where I grew up, with my wife, Gail, and our five children, who keep me honest (or try).

Josef Sorett is an interdisciplinary historian of religion in America, with a particular focus on black communities and cultures in the United States. His research and teaching interests include American religious history, African American religions, hip hop and popular culture, religion in/and the arts, and the role of religion in public life. Josef earned 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. In support of his research, Josef has received fellowships from the Louisville Institute for the Study of American Religion, The Fund for Theological Education, Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for American History and Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies. He has published essays and reviews in Culture and Religion, Callaloo, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and PNEUMA: Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. He is currently at work on a book project that explores the significance of religion and spirituality in debates regarding racial aesthetics.

Paul Weinfield


Jared Alcantara is a PhD candidate in practical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. His main area of concentration is homiletics. His research interests include: African American preaching, Barth studies, the theology of preaching, and sacramental understandings of the sermon. He has experience associate pastoring at churches in Massachusetts and Oregon and hopes to teach homiletics at a seminary or divinity school upon graduation from Princeton.

Seren Gates Amador is a graduate student in New York University's Religious Studies Program. Her research examines popular representations of death and the afterlife, as well as representations of apocalypse, and the ways that religious and secular cultures and meanings interact at these sites.

Christopher Carroll is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University. His current interests include cultural sociology and the sociology of religion. He has currently focused his research around religious (and atheist) institutions as they are embedded in local cultures and circumstances. Related to this, he is particularly interested in studying the mutually constitutive relationship between the Catholic Church and its local and global socio-cultural contexts.

Jessamyn Conrad is a PhD candidate in Art History at Columbia University. As an undergraduate at Harvard she studied Islamic Art History and Social Anthropology, then completed an MPhil at Cambridge on a collection of Islamic art in Florence, and is currently writing her dissertation on issues of narration and the depiction of time and space in trecento Siena under Professor David Rosand. She is also a teacher in the Columbia CORE and is currently working on her second non-fiction book.

Anna Corwin is a PhD student in linguistic and psychological anthropology at UCLA. Her research focuses on aging and prayer among elderly Catholic nuns. She has been focusing on the interactional practices of social and spiritual support among elderly nuns in the Midwestern United states. She is interested specifically in how the nuns' spiritual and social practices impact their experiences of aging.

Matthew Croasmun is a Ph.D. student in Religious Studies at Yale University, concentrating in New Testament studies. He received an M.A.R. in Bible from the Yale Divinity School. He has written on contemporary American liturgical theology and Johannine Eucharistic theology. His current research interests center on the mythology lurking behind the Pauline worldview, the contemporary reception of such in various Western and non-Western cultures, and the role that emergentist ontologies of consciousness and the social "real" may play in allowing Western culture once again to engage imaginatively with this "spiritual," "mythological" worldview.

Kati Curts is a graduate student in religious studies at New York University. Her current research is on the reproduction and transmission of memory and affect through material/visual artifacts and activities in the United States, with particular focus on contemporary evangelical Christianity. Her broader interests include the history of religion in the U.S., critical theories and methods in the study of religion, and histories and cultures of collecting.

Tarek Dika studies phenomenology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of religion at the Johns Hopkins University Humanities Center.

Erin Flewelling is pursuing a Masters in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University, with an emphasis in the teaching of writing.

Phillip Fucella is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a Fellow at the Center for Urban Ethnography and is associated with the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute's Scholars Program. His dissertation examines the effects of community and institutional contexts on the formation of sentiments among military spouses. He has interviewed over one hundred spouses of regular Army and National Guard aviation soldiers who have deployed overseas since 2001. He has also spent six months living on a remote Army installation.

Lynne Gerber is a Research Fellow at the Religion, Politics, and Globalization Program at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include evangelical Christianity and contemporary American culture, Jewish-evangelical relations, and religion and sexuality. She is currently working on a manuscript titled Ruling the Unruly Body: Losing Weight, Becoming Straight and Being Christian in Evangelical America, a study of evangelical weight loss ministries and ex-gay ministries. Lynne holds a Ph.D. in Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School. She has also worked as a consultant for numerous philanthropic foundations.

Jin-heon Jung is a sociocultural anthropologist, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Gšttingen, Germany. His interests lie in Christianity/religions, nationalism, refugee, human rights, multiculturalism, global capitalism, and public anthropology.

A fourth year doctoral student at Princeton Theological Seminary, Nicole Kirk continues the work she began at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri-the exploration of "lived" religion. She received her Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School and completed a Doctor of Ministry the same year she began the Ph.D. program at Princeton Theological in American Religious History. When Nicole is not thinking about the intersections of the visual/material culture and religion of late 19th and early 20th century American department stores, she dabbles in early Christian history for fun.

Matthew Kustenbauder is a Ph.D. student in History at Harvard University. He received an M.Div. and an M.A. in African Studies from Yale University. His research focuses on the intersection of religion and politics in modern African history. He has written on African prophetic movements, Alice Lakwena's Holy Spirit Movement and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, the Legio Maria Church and it's founders in Kenya, and the politics of religious identity among the Sudanese diaspora. Conversant in Swahili and dabbling in Zulu, Matthew has conducted field and archival research in Kenya and in South Africa, where his most recent project examines the legal history of the Nazareth Baptist Church, its internal power struggles, and its interactions with the state.

Jason LaFountain is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. His dissertation, entitled "The Puritan Art World," analyzes the discourse of technical action as formulated in the writings of English and American Puritan intellectuals between 1560 and 1730. During 2009-2011, he is the Wyeth Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Matthew Cole Levine is currently a second-year student in the Master's program of Film Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. He is predominantly concerned with African cinemas and with the conceit of national cinemas in general, as well as in horror film and the American avant-garde. Currently, he is completing his Master's thesis regarding the sociopolitical framework of Louis Feuillade's silent crime serials.

Ross Lipton received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2007 from Eugene Lang College: The New School for Liberal Arts in literature with concentrations in religious studies and continental philosophy. I am currently writing my master's thesis under the tutelage of Professor Stephen Dunning at the University of Pennsylvania on the theological subjectivity of S¿ren Kierkegaard and Martin Buber and its influence on their concepts of interpersonal communication. My academic interests include themes of societal decay in German Modernist literature, literary expressions of sexual deviance in modern World Literature, the history of reductionism in interpersonal communication, and the relationship between the sacred and profane throughout the history of worship in America.

Lerone Martin is a PhD candidate at Emory University in the History of American Religion and Culture. His research interests include: History of 19th and 20th Century American Religion and Culture and African American cultural practices. His forthcoming dissertation, Selling to the Souls of Black Folk: Atlanta, the Phonograph, and the Transformation of American Religion and Culture is a historical analysis of religious commodification in America and its relationship to race, consumer capitalism, and change during the Twentieth Century.

Katie Meier is helping us think about social experimentations in new media and religion. She is generating theories that account for radically hybrid expressions in the twenty-first century, of self, God, technology, and culture. Katie studies concurrently at the Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley, California, and at the University of California, Berkeley.

Monica Mercado is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago with research interests in U.S. women's and gender history. Her dissertation project examines nineteenth-century American Catholic print culture and the role of women readers and writers in sustaining religious publishing movements during an era of intense Protestant-Catholic competition. She has taught courses on American history, feminism, and Catholic studies at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois-Chicago. Monica received her B.A. in History from Barnard College in 2001.

Elliot Mercer has danced professionally with Company C Contemporary Ballet and several other San Francisco-based dance companies, performing principal roles in works by Antony Tudor, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, and Paul Taylor, among others. Elliot is a graduate of the Idyllwild Arts Academy and received his BA summa cum laude from the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals (LEAP) program at St. Mary's College of California. He is currently an MA candidate in Performance Studies at New York University, where his research focuses on the intersection of dance performance and environmental culture.

Jacob Olidort is a Ph.D. Candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and focuses on Islamic law and early Islamic history. He is interested in the development of Islamic legal theory as well as the dynamics between religious law and secular society. Jacob holds an A.M. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and a B.A. in History and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from Brandeis University. From 2007-2008, Jacob studied marriage customs in the United Arab Emirates as a Fulbright Scholar. His research on the UAE Marriage Fund was published by the Middle East Youth Initiative of the Brookings Institution in 2008. Jacob's article on "Political Ritual" will be published in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (Princeton University Press).

I, Amr Osman, am a PhD candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. My dissertation is on the history and doctrine of a defunct medieval school of Islamic law known as the Zahiri madhhab. My interests are Islamic studies, particularly historiography and Islamic legal history.

Seth Perry is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His dissertation explores the creation of religious authority in early-national America, with focus on bible culture and early Mormon rhetoric. His work has appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Journal of Religion, and the Journal of Ecclesiastical History (forthcoming).

Jesse Rainbow is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Kip Richardson is a first year doctoral student in the religion department at Harvard University and a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School and Georgetown University. His focus is on American religious history with research interests in anticlerical and anti-religious movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, religion and the labor movement, and secularization theory.

I, Aaron Rio, am a third year graduate student specializing in the history of Japanese art at Columbia University. My upcoming dissertation research will focus on representations of ancient Chinese poets in late medieval Japanese ink painting. I am particularly interested in the body of painting produced by a group of rather obscure artists and monk-painters active in eastern Japan, the most famous among them being Kenko Shokei.

Elisabeth "Tina" Rivers is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. Her general field is 19th and 20th Century Art, with an emphasis on post-war American art and visual culture; her research focuses on the function of hallucination as a technology of perception in modernist, avant-garde, and popular discourses. In addition to an M.A. in Art History from Columbia, Tina holds an M.A. in Visual Studies from the University of California, Irvine, and a B.A. from Harvard College. She may be reached at

Marwa Abdel Samei, the co-author, is a Lecturer of Political Science at Cairo University and a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University. Her dissertation is on "Public Diplomacy in the Age of Satellite Channels."

Will Schmenner is a first-year graduate student in the History of Art department at University of Pennsylvania and is presenting a selection from a larger project on falling in film.

I, John-Patrick Schultz, am from Philadelphia and a graduate philosophy student at Villanova University. My primary research interests are Marx, Heidegger, and issues of domination, resistance, revolution and liberation.

Judith Scott is a candidate for the Master of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary with a focus in Church History. She retired from the New York City Department of Education after many years as a high school teacher and principal in Manhattan and the Bronx. She holds degrees from Barnard College, Teachers College of Columbia University and Bank Street College of Education.

Jessica M. Smith is a doctoral student in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Currently, her current research project involves re-imagining the angelic as a redemptive epistemology for the transformation of self and community. Other research interests include narrative theory, post-structuralist thought as well as contemporary and historical feminist and womanist theology.

Victoria Smolkin is finishing her Ph.D. dissertation in the Department of History at the University of California-Berkeley. Her dissertation, "'How Gods Are Born, Live, and Die': Soviet Atheism, Rituals, and the Socialist Way of Life (1954-1985)" is a study of Soviet atheist education and socialist rituals that follows two distinct, yet overlapping, life-cycles: that of Soviet citizens, whose lives were ordered and made meaningful by Soviet beliefs and rituals, and that of Marxist-Leninist ideology as it attempted to transform religiosity. This research has been supported by the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, the Fulbright-Hays, the American Councils, and the Social Science Research Council.

Yunus Dogan Telliel is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the CUNY-Graduate Center, holding a Bachelor's degree from Sabanci University, Istanbul. He is interested in the intersections among questions of secularism, language, and religious reform. His current work examines conceptions of the practices of relating to religious and scriptural language among Turkish and Kurdish Muslim citizens of secular Turkey.

Drew Thomases is a PhD student in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His research explores contemporary Hindu practices in North India, focusing especially on Brahma worship in the pilgrimage town of Pushkar. He also examines the processes of religious transmission-from the colonial period on-that have produced the understanding of Hinduism as a religion of three gods.

I, Silvia Tita, am a PhD candidate in the department of History of Art, University of Michigan. My research focuses on European Art in the Early Modern period, with special emphasis on Italy and on the problematic of artistic and religious reforms produced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Brian Trenor is pursuing an MA student in History at NC State University. He was also an undergraduate at NC State in History as well as Communication. His research interests include 20th century American and European foreign policy, religion, and military history. Currently, he is investigating the role of Pope John Paul II in communist Poland and the American perception of it. He and his wife live in Raleigh.

Justine Walden is a Ph.D. graduate student in the Renaissance Studies and History Departments at Yale University. Her areas of specialty are early modern religion with a focus on Italy; the Italian Renaissance; and the history of printing and the book.


Joseph Blankholm

Liane Carlson

Benjamin Fong