Columbia University Religion Graduate Students Association


Keynote Speaker

Professor Michael D. Jackson
Distinguished Visiting Professor of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School

Michael D. Jackson is a New Zealand poet and anthropologist with ethnographic experience in Sierra Leone and Aboriginal Australia. His work has been strongly influenced by critical theory, American pragmatism, and existential-phenomenological thought. Through a direct engagement with the everyday situations and struggles that characterize human life in any society, irrespective of its specific historical and cultural conditions, the ethnographic method of participant-observation promises not only an extended and deeper understanding of ourselves in relation to others and otherness; it may provide new insights into the limits and possibilities of both comparative analysis and viable coexistence in a multiplex world. He is the author of numerous books of anthropology, including the prize-winning Paths Toward a Clearing and At Home in the World, and has also published three novels, a memoir, and seven volumes of poetry. His most recent books are Life within Limits: Wellbeing in a World of Want (2011), Being of Two Minds (2012), Road Markings: An Anthropologist in the Antipodes (2012), and Between One and One Another (2012). The focus of his current research and writing is ethics and migratory experience.


Professor Michael Como, Columbia University, Department of Religion
Professor Como's recent research has focused on the religious history of the Japanese islands from the Asuka through the early Heian periods. He is the author of several articles on the ritual and political consequences of the introduction of literacy, sericulture and horse-culture from the Asian sub-continent into ancient Japan. His major publications include Shotoku: Ethnicity, Ritual and Violence in the Formation of Japanese Buddhism (Oxford University Press, 2008), Weaving and Binding: Immigrant Gods and Female Immortals in Ancient Japan (University of Hawaii Press, 2009) and Medieval Shinto, a special edition of the Cahiers d'Extreme Asie that he co-edited with Bernard Faure and Iyanaga Nobumi. He is currently working on a new monograph tentatively entitled "Resonant Bodies: Disease and Astrology in the Heian Cultic Revolution."

Professor Jack Hawley, Barnard College, Department of Religion
Professor Hawley joined Barnard's faculty in 1986. His research is focused on the religious life of north India and on the literature that it has spawned in the course of the last 500 years. He is the author or editor of some fifteen books. Most concern Hinduism and the religions of India, but others are broadly comparative. His current major project-a book called India's Real Religion: The Idea of the Bhakti Movement-is devoted to deconstructing and reconstructing one of the principal ways in which Indians have told their religious history. Its focus: bhakti, the religion of song, of radical engagement, and of the heart. He has served as director of Columbia University's South Asia Institute and has received multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian, and the American Institute of Indian Studies. He has also been a Guggenheim Fellow.

Professor Gale Kenny, Barnard College, Department of Religion
Professor Kenny's work focuses on religion, race, and gender in the nineteenth-century United States and the Atlantic World, and in particular, Protestant missionaries' relationship to the antislavery movement and to humanitarian activism. She is currently writing a history of the "missionary sensibility" in relation to Protestant theology, organizations like the American Colonization Society, sentimental literature, and the abolitionist movement. Her publications include Contentious Liberties: American Abolitionists in Post-Emancipation Jamaica (University of Georgia Press, 2010); "Manliness and Manifest Racial Destiny: Jamaica and African American Emigration in the 1850s," Journal of the Civil War Era (June 2012): 151-78; "Reconstructing a Different South: The American Missionary Association in Jamaica," Slavery and Abolition (September 2009): 445-66; and "Mastering Childhood: Reconciling Paternalism and Separate Spheres Ideology in the Children's Literature of Caroline Howard Gilman," Southern Quarterly 44 (Fall 2006): 65-87.

Professor Josef Sorett, Columbia University, Department of Religion
Professor Sorett is an assistant professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Columbia University. He 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, popular culture and the arts; gender and sexuality; 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. Josef's current book project, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (under contract with Oxford University Press) illumines how religion has figured into debates about black art and culture. He is also editing a volume that explores the sexual politics of black churches.


Torang Asadi, Master's candidate, University of Kansas, Department of Religious Studies.

Christopher C. Jones, PhD Candidate, College of William and Mary, Religion in the early American republic and Atlantic world.

Daniel Murray, PhD Student, McGill University, East Asian Studies.

Peter Bernard, PhD Student, Harvard University, East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Kati Curts, PhD Student, Yale University, Religious Studies, American Religious History.

Shari Rabin, PhD Student, Yale University, American Religious History and Judaic Studies.

Joseph W. Ho, PhD Candidate, University of Michigan, History.

Alexandra Kaloyanides, PhD Candidate, Yale University, Religious Studies, Asian Religions & American Religious History.

Kathryn Montalbano, PhD Candidate, Columbia University, Communications.

Suma Ikeuchi, PhD Student, Emory University, Anthropology.

Devaka Premawardhana, PhD Candidate, Harvard University, Anthropology of Religion / Global Christianity / African Studies.

Cara Rock-Singer, PhD Candidate, Columbia University, Department of Religion.