Response to Recent Campus Incident and Cultural Climate

April 20, 2018

Dear students and community members,

In light of recent events involving the Theta Tau fraternity, the Department of Religion and the Religion Graduate Organization stand in solidarity with Syracuse University students against racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, settler colonialism, and ableism. In particular, we unequivocally stand with those marginalized students who routinely experience violence too often without community, faculty, and administrative support. In response to the video, we condemn the trivialization of sexual assault, and the use of slurs against disabled, Jewish, Black, LGBTQ2+, Dalit, and Latinx communities. We demand accountability and justice.

Organizations like Theta Tau are created and sustained through ritual – in this case, induction ceremonies for incoming members of the fraternity. Ritual performances of this kind, whether serious or parodic, reaffirm that it is acceptable, commonplace, and even humorous to dehumanize those marginalized in our society. They send a message to others that some people do not belong. These ritual performances normalize forms of violent behavior, including sexual assault, stereotyping, discrimination, dehumanization, exclusion, and physical violence against marginalized peoples.

In response to the proposed actions in Chancellor Syverud’s email on April 19th, 2018, we urge the administration to review the current efficacy of “divisional perspectives requirement” and “critical reflections on ethical and social issues” as curriculum components. Furthermore, while diversity and implicit bias training are important, these are not by themselves sufficient. Such trainings must be rooted in anti-racist, feminist, and decolonial perspectives. We also urge the administration to take swift and decisive action in responding to intolerable behavior. We demand that the administration hold accountable all organizations and individuals found guilty of sexual assault or the use of derogatory statements regarding race, ethnicity, class, gender identity/expression, religion, sexual orientation, and/or disabilities. Such accountability includes disciplinary actions including suspension and/or expulsion, as well as ensuring that those students and organizations actively work to make amends for their actions.

In an effort to acknowledge that this issue is not limited to our campus but is prevalent in communities across the nation, we support sustaining critical dialogue regarding these systemic problems. Training within the Humanities, including within the Department of Religion, encourages students to respect and communicate across differences in cultures, religions, ethnicities, and communities. As a department, we stand in solidarity with students working to bring these issues to light and to find solutions that will truly make campus a safe and welcoming environment.

In Solidarity,

The Religion Graduate Student Organization and The Department of Religion

Download the Joint Statement as a PDF.

Religion Department Faculty to present research at Urban South Asia Writ Small

Aerial view of Jahazpur, India. Photo by Ann G. Gold

April 12, 2018

Thomas J. Watson Professor Ann Grodzins Gold, Professor Joanne Punzo Waghorne, and several Syracuse University colleagues (Carol Babiracki and Emera Bridger Wilson of the South Asia Center) to present at the Cornell University Interdisciplinary Conference: Urban South Asia Writ Small. Dr. Gold will be delievering the keynote address on Friday from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. Her address is titled: "Jahazpur Passages: Thinking through a Rajasthan Market Town"

The conference is organized by Carol Babiracki, Music History and Cultures, director of the South Asia Center, Syracuse University; Ann Grodzins Gold, department of religion and department of anthropology, Syracuse University; Dan Gold, Asian studies, Cornell University; and Neema Kudva, city and regional planning, Cornell University. The organizers describe the conference in the following manner:

"Urban South Asia Writ Small" draws together expertise from anthropology, architecture, economics, the fine arts, history, and religious studies in order to investigate the heart of South Asia's urban development. South Asian urban modernity has mostly been understood through the lifestyles and challenges of globally linked metros. What form is modernity taking in smaller cities and towns that straddle the global as well as the rural-urban divide differently from the metros? Preliminary studies indicate that poverty is deeper and more widespread in smaller towns and that rates of access to services and amenities are considerably lower. Yet, we know little of the dynamic processes that link city size to the prevalence of poverty and, perhaps, inequality.

This conference will examine a range of issues facing ordinary cities and towns in South Asia today. An edited publication will follow, and collaborative research projects explored and taken forward between conference conveners, speakers, and participants.

Holocaust related-themed essay contest

The central image is of a blue tree with green and yellow leaves with the following text wrapped around the tree: Jewish Studies, Syracuse University, The College of Arts and Sciences.

April 10, 2018

Joseph S. Kalina Prize

2017-2018 Holocaust related-themed essay contest

In some sense, we all preserve the memory of the Holocaust. The Jewish Studies Program at Syracuse University is committed to enhancing our knowledge of the Holocaust and the tradition it sought to destroy.

The Joseph S. Kalina Prize is awarded yearly to the best essays on a Holocaust-related theme written by a Syracuse University undergraduate and graduate student. The two prizes carry cash awards of $400 each.

Essays may treat any aspect of the Holocaust and its contemporary implications. Literary, philosophical, historical, sociological, ethical, theological, and psychological themes are appropriate; other multi-disciplinary studies including creative writing projects will also be considered. Entries often originate as course papers.

Undergraduate essays may vary in length from 2-15 pages; graduate essays may vary in length from 10-25 pages. All essays must be submitted before noon on May 9, 2018. Please send electronically to SrAssocDeanCAS@syr.edu

For further information, please contact Zachary Braiterman at zbraiter@syr.edu.

New Faculty Snapshot: Biko Mandela Gray

Biko Mandela Gray

March 28, 2018

Syracuse University News and Kathleen Haley have done a wonderful profile of Dr. Biko Mandela Gray, Assistant Professor of American Religion

Kathleen Haley:What do you want students to understand better in your class #Blacklivesmatter and Religion and the civil rights movement of the last century? What discussions are coming out of the classes? Biko Mandela Gray:My #Blacklivesmatter and Religion course pushes my students to understand two interrelated realities: 1) racism (and sexism, classism, homophobia and transphobia, for that matter) is not limited to or even primarily expressed by people who are intentionally discriminatory. More often than not, the violations and violence that occur on a daily basis happen because people unintentionally live into and perpetuate violent systems. In that class, for example, we consider how the #neveragain movement—which strategically draws from elements of both the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements—is not simply supported, but done so in a way that erases the protests that made it possible. To say that we’ve never seen young people as organized as the young people were for the #marchforourlives is to negate the work that has been done for the last five years by young Black people who were protesting everything from gun control to environmental racism. We discuss these disparities in our class in order to 2) try and further understand how we can move forward without reifying the violence of erasure or delegitimation—especially in our attempts to fight for justice.
Please take a moment and read the full Syracuse University News profile of Biko Mandela Gray.

New book on Hermeneutics by John D. Caputo

Book cover for Hermeneutics by John D. Caputo. {image description: A teal book cover with an abstract white block}

March 8, 2018


Congratulations to Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion Emeritus Professor John D. Caputo on the publication of his new book: Hermeneutics: Facts and Interpretation in the Age of Information (Pelican/Penguin UK: 2018, ISBN: 9780241257852). Professor Caputo continues his research in the Continental Philosophy of Religion with special attention to weak theology, radical hermeneutics, and deconstruction. His new book asks: "Is anything ever not an interpretation?"

Ahmed Abdel-Meguid, summer Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Centre for Ethics, U. Toronto and Forthcoming Publication

Ahmed Abdel-Meguid

March 6, 2018

Professor Ahmed Abdel-Meguid has been accepted for the summer ’18 position of Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Centre of Ethics at the University of Toronto. He will be working closely on his project with Professor James DiCenso, Department of the Study of Religion, a Kant scholar and a Ph.D. alumnus from our department.

Professor Abdel-Meguid also has a forth coming publication in the Oxford Journal of Islamic Studies, entitled: "Al-Kindī's Arugment for the Finitude of Time in His Critique of Aristotle's Theory of the Eternity of the World in the Treatise on First Philosophy: The Role of the Perceiving Soul and the Relation between Sensation and Intellection." Professor Abdel-Meguid writes:

I focus on the work of Abu Ya‘qub al-Kindi (d. 873 C.E.), usually regarded as the first Muslim philosopher, showing how he argued for the finitude of time by demonstrating that time is a subjective category of consciousness rather than an objective measure of motion. I then show the implication of his theory for the millennium long Islamic critique of the natural metaphysics/theology of classical antiquity and its assimilation in Christian theology from Augustine through Aquinas. I articulate this critique by highlighting the way in which al-Kindi’s position on time reflected, in anticipation of Kant and contemporary transcendental phenomenology (Husserl and Heidegger), an epistemic rather than ontological distinction between sensation and intellection. This work may be of interest to those of you who work ancient and medieval Christianity given the importance of Philoponus to medieval eastern Christianity. It should also be of interest to those of you working on philosophy of religion and how theological/religious arguments motivates critiques of key metaphysical and scientific positions on a foundational, epistemological level. The critique of natural metaphysics has been one of the key pillars on which protestant theology and key works in continental philosophy was based in the last two centuries.

Keenan Lewis is one of the recipients of the 2018 Unsung Hero Award

Logo for the 2018 MLK Celebration at Syracuse University

January 29, 2018


Keenan Lewis, a student in the Department of Religion, is one of two student recipients of the 2018 Syracuse University Martin Luther King Celebration Unsung Hero Awards. Keenan has developed and implemented multiple community service activities and events, serving thousands of members of the Syracuse community. Keenan and his wife Maria are the creators of the “I Know I Can” radio program. The program, which airs on 87.7 WVOA radio and wvoaradio.com Thursday evenings at 7 p.m., aims to promote positive discussion on a variety of important topics including mental health, education, job resources, budgeting and important community events. Congratulations, Keenan!

John D. Caputo Anthologized

The book cover of The Essential Caputo, with a headshot of John D. Caputo

January 29, 2018

B. Keith Putt, of Samford University, has edited an anthology of essential writings by Thomas J. Watson Professor Emeritus John D. CaputoThe Essential Caputo places twenty-one of Caputo's most significant works in dialogue with one another and demonstrates Caputo's significant contributions to radical hermeneutics and radical theology. This volume will serve as an excellent introduction to Caputo's writings and continental philosophy of religion. The Essential Caputo also includes an interview with John Caputo by Clayton Crockett (Ph.D. '98).

Putt, B. Keith. The Essnetial Caputo, (IU Press, 2017), ISBN: 9780253032225.

Sara Ann Swenson Receives Fulbright-Hays

Sara Ann Swenson

January 23, 2018
Sara Ann Swenson was recently awarded a 2017 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research abroad grant. This grant will allow her to continue ethnographic research she began in September 2017, with a Buddhist Studies fellowship from the Robert HN Ho Family Foundation. Herdissertation project focuses on Buddhist volunteer organizations in Vietnam. With Vietnam's recent rapid economic development, city infrastructure is struggling to meet the needs of incoming migrants. In response, many religious charity organizations have begun to address social service needs among poor and dependent populations in Vietnam's fastest growing urban area, Ho Chi Minh City. As Buddhism is widespread in Vietnam, a majority of these emerging charities claim Buddhist motivations for mobilizing volunteers. Her work uses affect theory to explore how and why Buddhist charity groups frame their volunteer success less in terms of numbers served and more through the emotional impacts of "alleviating suffering" and "granting happiness."

New Book Review of Shiptown by Ann Gold.

Book cover for Shiptown by Ann G. Gold. The cover shows a young woman shopping for vegetables on a crowded market street.

January 22, 2018

Open Access Nidān International Journal for Indian Studies Vol. 2, No 2, December 2017 (pgs. 78-82) contains a generous and detailed review of Watson Professor Ann Grodzins Gold's book Shiptown. The book review is by P. Pratap Kumar, Emeritus Professor University of KwaZulu-Natal South Africa.

The book is full of ethnographic and methodological insights from an accomplished ethnographer who perfected her art in the course of a long focused career. It is a must read for those who intend doing ethnography not just in India but anywhere. It reveals the spontaneity that is needed by the ethnographer in times of uncertain and unwelcome interviews and how to make sense of the world from the unexpected data that comes your way when you are least expecting. Gold’s book reveals not only the pitfalls but many opportunities that ethnographers encounter on the field.

P. Pratap Kumar, review of Shiptown: Between Rural and Urban North India, by Ann Grodzins Gold, Publication, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2017, pp. 332 [ISBN: 9780812249255], Nidān Vol. 2, No 2, December 2017. https://issuu.com/coh-newsletter-2014/docs/nidan__vol._2__no._2__december_2017/10