February 27, 2020
Noon, Rita Anne Rollins - Center for Ethics, Room 162

Porosity and Boundedness: How the way we think about thinking changes our sensory experience of gods and spirits.

Tanya Marie Luhrmann is the Watkins University Professor at Stanford University

This talk makes the argument that the way people think about their minds shapes the way they come to know God. I do this by looking at the kinds of people who have more vivid spiritual experiences (they are more likely to get absorbed in their inner worlds), the way prayers train attention to inner experience, and above all at the way that different cultures invite people to think differently about inner life. I see a paradox: the more a culture imagines an inner world as separate from an outer world, the less vividly they experience gods and spirits.

Past Events

November 28, 2019

Roundtable on Theologically Engaged Anthropology

J. Derrick Lemons, Director of the Center for Theologically Engaged Anthropology, University of Georgia

Don Seeman, Associate Professor, Department of Religion

Responses by:

Susan Reynolds, Assistant Professor, Candler School of Theology

Devaka Premawardhana Assistant Professor, Department of Religion

Cara Curtis, Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Division of Religion

October 10, 2019

Doing Fieldwork in Revolutionary Times

Angie Heo is Assistant Professor in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago

In stories from the field, adapting to unexpected conditions is nearly a rite of passage for anthropologists. But what does this celebrated trope of ethnographic authority mean when a country undergoes radical political transformation and against all conventional wisdom? Drawing on materials from Egypt that precede the 2011 revolution and follow the 2013 coup, this talk reflects on the limits and strategies of writing ethnography for the political present.

September 23, 2019

Archives, Urdu Literature, and Stranger Intimacy: A Genealogy of Jinnealogy

Anand V. Taneja is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Islamic Traditions of South Asia at Vanderbilt University

In this session, I will talk about three aspects of the research for my book Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi. One, archival work as ethnography. Anthropologists tend to approach the “archive” and the “field” in methodologically different ways, and also tend to think of them as producing different kinds of knowledge. Here, I will reflect on the insights I gleaned by approaching my quest for archival documents ethnographically. Secondly, I will reflect upon the way in which reading Urdu literature about Delhi—literary memoirs, popular theology, and antiquarian literature—while doing fieldwork, deepened and enriched my ethnographic engagement with place. Finally, I will reflect upon how a great part of the “stranger effect” of anthropological fieldwork might come not from the effect it has on one’s interlocutors, but rather, from the ways that participant-observation can be an act of radical estrangement: defamiliarizing one not just from a landscape one thought was familiar, but also from the habits and pre-conceptions of the self.

March 19, 2014

Strong Structures and Contingent Selves: Learning Femininity and Piety in Indonesian Islamic Boarding Schools for Girls

Claire-Marie Hefner, Department of Anthropology, Emory University

Abstract by the lecturer 

How do Islamic boarding schools teach girls what it means to be a modern, educated Muslim woman?  How do girls experience the socialization process in their schools?  This paper is part of a broader dissertation project which looks at the gender socialization of young Muslim women in two Islamic boarding schools in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  It examines the difficult separation from family, rigorous schedules of daily life, and strict rules regarding dress and social comportment which characterize these schools as “total institutions” and explores what these features tell us about schools’ efforts to craft ethical subjects.  It then asks, how does our view of the socialization process change as we shift our gaze from the “strong structures” of these schools to the experiences of the young women under their tutelage? How do girls react to and interact with these models?  Contrary to popular images of Islamic education, I want to argue that these schools are not simply indoctrinating “docile bodies” and obedient students but instead they are shaping “morally contingent selves.” 


February 5, 2014

The Role of Multi-Sited Fieldwork in the Ethnographic Study of Transnational Tibetan Buddhism

Dr. Abraham Zablocki, Religious Studies, Agnes Scott College

Abraham Zablocki is Associate Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Agnes Scott College. His research focuses on the transnational spread of Tibetan Buddhism and the impact this growth has had on Tibetan refugees' efforts to reestablish their religion in exile. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork among Tibetans in Nepal, India, Taiwan, the United States, and Tibet, spending over eight years living and studying in Asia. He received his BA in anthropology from Amherst College and his MA and PhD in anthropology from Cornell University. He is one of the editors of Trans-Buddhism: Transmission, Translation, Transformation, which was published by University of Massachusetts Press in 2009. His book Global Mandala: The Transformation of Tibetan Buddhism in Exile is forthcoming from University of Hawaii Press.


April 16, 2013

Ritual Failure and Its Ethnographic Implications: Evangelicals in the Holy Land

Dr. Hilary Kaell, Religious Studies, Concordia University

Studies of ritual have shifted from a functionalist bias toward outcome and procedure – how religious specialists perform actions, the formal expectations and goals of ritual – towards a more phenomenological approach that takes into account individuals’ own experiences. By incorporating a multiplicity of interpretations, anthropologists have begun to theorize more fully the link between intention and ritual efficacy, including the ways that contestation or failure may result. This talk takes up these recent concerns, tracing the experiences of three American evangelicals in order to examine how they make sense of their experience in the Holy Land when their stated goals, hopes and prayers did not come to pass. It then turns the lens onto the ethnographer herself. How do we negotiate our role as participant observers if our interlocutors’ failures become fodder for our own ethnographic ‘success’?

Hillary Kaell received her PhD in American Studies from Harvard University in 2011 and is now an assistant professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal. Her first book, Where Jesus Walked, is an ethnographicstudy of American Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It will be published with New York University Press in the North American Religion series. She has worked for PBS television, published in the Journal of Material Culture, the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture and, most recently, Religion & Politics.


March 5, 2013

Colored Television: Black Religion in Global Contexts

Dr. Marla Frederick, Religion and African and African American Studies, Harvard University


November 8, 2012

Lecture on Appalachian Prayer Shawls

Dr. Anderson Blanton, the Center for the Study of the American South, UNC Chapel Hill

AndyDr. Anderson Blanton, University of North Carolina spoke about his ethnographic research on Appalachian Prayer Shawls at Emory University on November 8th, 2012. 

Dr. Anderson was then a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of the American South (UNC, Chapel Hill). Funded through the New Directions in the Study of Prayer Research Initiative (SSRC), he was conducting fieldwork with small Pentecostal and charismatic Christian communities in northwestern Virginia. This ethnographic research explores the relationship between experiences of divine presence and the material objects and media technologies employed during the performance of both individual and communal prayer. His dissertation, Until the Stones Cry Out: Materiality, Technology and Faith in Southern Appalachia, was awarded the mark of distinction in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University, and will soon be published with the University of North Carolina Press (2015). In addition to his work on the materiality of religious presence, he also enjoys gardening and woodworking with traditional hand tools.