For Professor Susan Henking, the question of how and why we mourn loss has resulted in her role as co-editor and contributor to a vanguard anthology on theory and religious studies titled “Mourning Religion.” Henking co-edited the book with William B. Parsons, associate professor of Religious Studies at Rice University, and Diane Jonte-Pace, vice provost for Undergraduate Studies and professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University.
“I’d written a version of the chapter in the mid-90s for an anthology of witness literature. But after the 2004 election and many other social and cultural events, I decided to start over and incorporate these new cultural and theoretic changes,” said Henking.
“I started thinking about the AIDS course I taught with Professor of Chemistry David Craig again as well as the influence of my graduate school mentor Peter Homans,” Henking said. “I began thinking about how loss is fundamental to the making of culture. These were part of the basis for my chapter as it appears in ‘Mourning Religion.'”
Henking joins the anthology’s writers not only in being published in this seminal publication, but they all share the influence and experience of studying under Homans, professor emeritus of psychology and religious studies, at the University of Chicago, Divinity School. It’s through the many different incarnations of his influence that the book’s authors explore topics and questions that they explored with Homans: the role of religion, religious violence, mourning and loss in the wake of late 19th and early-20th century theorist.
In specific, one argument that was central in Homans’ classes and in many of the book’s authors is the significant cultural transformations involved in giving things up and the complicated relationship that has with the new things that individuals take on.
The book’s structure and topical approach reflects the interdisciplinary points of interest as well. As a scholar, it was crucial to Homans to comparatively study psychoanalysis, sociology of knowledge and a combination of religious and psychological studies. By working in the interdisciplinary style and examining the broad, interconnected topics that Homans did, the authors set out to compile their chapters to honor their mentor’s influence and to take up new questions.
“For me, this book is important not only because of the scholarly questions that it examines but because we all mourn. It’s an experience that we all have in common yet we all do differently.”
Henking, a member of the faculty since 1988, holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, and her master’s and doctorate from the University of Chicago. She studies and researches feminist approaches and links between religion and sexuality.
A recipient of the Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award, she is co-editor of and “Que(E)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology,” from the Continuum Publishing Group.