Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions
Chicago Divinity School
Wendy Doniger's research and teaching focus on translating, interpreting, and comparing elements of Hinduism through modern contexts of gender, sexuality, and identity. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology.
Among over thirty books published under the name Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty and Wendy Doniger are sixteen interpretative works, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples' Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was; and The Hindus: An Alternative History. Among her nine translations are three Penguin Classics - Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit; The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit; and The Laws of Manu (with Brian K. Smith) - and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). In progress are Hinduism, for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2012); Faking It: Narratives of Circular Jewelry and Deceptive Women; and a novel, Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands.
Kimberley C. Patton
Professor of the Comparative and Historical Study of Religion
Harvard Divinity School
Kimberley Patton specializes in ancient Greek religion and archaeology, with research interests in archaic sanctuaries and in the iconography of sacrifice. She also teaches in the history of world religions, offering courses in cross-cultural religious phenomenology. These comprise ritual studies, the mythology of natural elements, religious art and iconoclasm, the interpretation of dreams, animals in religion and myth, ritual weeping, material holiness, angels and angelology, and funerary cult. She is involved in the ongoing discussion in the academy of the goals and methods of comparative study. In the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, she serves as a member of the Committee on Degrees in Folklore and Mythology, the Standing Committee on Archaeology, and the joint FAS/HDS Standing Committee on the Study of Religion. Her latest book, Religion of the Gods: Ritual, Paradox, and Reflexivity (Oxford, 2009), won the 2010 American Academy of Religion Book Award for Excellence in Religious Studies in the Analytical-Descriptive category. She is also the author of The Sea Can Wash Away All Evils: Modern Marine Pollution and the Ancient Cathartic Ocean (Columbia, 2006). She is co-editor of and contributing author to three other books: with Benjamin Ray, A Magic Still Dwells: Comparative Religion in the Postmodern Age (University of California Press, 2000); with John Stratton Hawley, Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, 2005); and with Paul Waldau, A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics (Columbia, 2006).
Speakers and Discussants
Mark C. Taylor is the Chair of the Department of Religion, Columbia University. His many books include: The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture (2001), Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption (2006), Mystic Bones (2007), and After God (2007). In addition to his writing, Taylor has produced a CD-ROM, Motel Real: Las Vegas, Nevada, and has had an exhibition of the artwork accompanying his book, Grave Matters, at the Mass MOCA. Beyond his scholarly work, he contributes to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other periodicals.
Katherine Pratt Ewing, Professor of Religion, is also Coordinator of the Master of Arts Program in the South Asia Institute. Until 2010, she was Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Religion at Duke University, where she served as the Executive Director of the North Carolina Consortium for South Asian Studies. In 2010-2011 she was Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison before moving to Columbia's Religion Department in 2011. Her research ranges from debates among Muslims about the proper practice of Islam in the modern world to sexualities, gender, and the body in South Asia. She has done ethnographic fieldwork in Pakistan, Turkey and India, and among Muslims in Germany, The Netherlands, and the United States. Professor Ewing received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1980 and took postdoctoral training at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the L. Bryce Boyer Prize of the Society for Psychological Anthropology (1990), a Berlin Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin (1999), a Mellon-Sawyer Seminar grant (2000-2002), and a Residential Fellowship as Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (2006-7). Her books include Arguing Sainthood: Modernity, Psychoanalysis and Islam (1997), Stolen Honor: Stigmatizing Muslim Men in Berlin (2008), and the edited volumes Shariat and Ambiguity in South Asian Islam (1988) and Being and Belonging: Muslim Communities in the US since 9/11 (2008).
Rachel Fell McDermott is Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College and specializes in South Asia, especially India. She received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981, her M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School in 1984, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1993. Her research interests focus on Bengal, in eastern India, and the Hindu-goddess-centered religious traditions from that part of the subcontinent. She is also committed to the study of comparative religion, and teaches comparative courses in which important religious themes are traced across cultures. Professor McDermott's research focuses on the Hindu-goddess-centered religious traditions of the Bengal region of India. Her most recent book - Revelry, Rivalry, and Longing for the Goddesses of Bengal: The Fortunes of Hindu Festivals (2011)--focuses on the Durga, Kali, and Jagaddhatra Pujas and the relation between economics, politics, and religion as seen through the lens of these 300-year-old public festivals.
Courtney Bender is a Professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the social and cultural processes that shape religious practice, experience and interaction in contemporary American life. Professor Bender is the author of "Heaven's Kitchen: Living Religion at God's Love We Deliver" (University of Chicago Press 2003), "The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination" (University of Chicago Press 2010) and the co-editor with Pamela Klassen of "After Pluralism: Reimagining Models of Interreligious Engagement" (Columbia University Press 2010). She currently serves as the co-chair of the Social Science Research Council's initiative on Spirituality, Political Engagement and Public Life, funded by the Ford Foundation.
Wayne Proudfoot is a Professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, 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.
Geoff Barstow is a Ph.D. student in the Religious Studies Department of the University of Virginia. His research is focussed on the history of vegetarianism over the last two hundred years in the eastern Tibetan region of Kham.
Sunder John Boopalan is a Ph.D. student in the Religion and Society program at Princeton Theological Seminary. His academic interests lie in developing a theology of hospitality by looking at issues of identity and conflict.
Caroline DeVane is a Masters student with a focus in Comparative Studies at Harvard Divinity School. She studies African religions and the religions of the Americas, as well as animals in religion and myth.
Radhika Govindrajan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University. Her interests lie in the fields of human-animal studies, environmental anthropology, agrarian history, and ritual studies.
Cengiz Haksoz is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. He studies construction of identity in the borderlands of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.
Andrew Macomber is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. He studies Japanese religion with an emphasis on Buddhism, medical practices, and conceptions of illness.
Gillian Chisom is a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley. She studies the religious culture of Early Modern England, with particular attention to worship, embodiment, and nonhuman nature.
Beatrice Marovich is a PhD candidate at Drew University's Graduate Division of Religion where she specializes in theology & philosophy, particularly the figure of "creaturely life" and its relation to ecological thought and science.
DeVan Ard is a Master's student in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He studies medieval theology and the growth of English literature over the course of the Reformation.
Steven Garfinkle is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. He studies religion in Late Antiquity, and particularly ancient Judaism.
Jesse Rainbow is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, and a graduate fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. His dissertation is on stories of textual loss and recovery in the Hebrew Bible.
Daniel C. Tate holds an MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from New York University. His research focuses on indigenous and popular social movements in Bolivia.