Fisher Center to focus this fall on gender, religion and politics – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Fisher Center to focus this fall on gender, religion and politics

During the 2005-06 academic year, The Fisher Center at Hobart and William Smith Colleges will turn its focus to Gender, Religion and Politics. Lesley Adams will oversee the Center while Betty Bayer is on sabbatical.

Except as noted, each talk will begin at 7:30 p.m. on a Wednesday in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library, with a roundtable discussion with the speaker the next morning.

* The series will begin Sept. 7 with a talk by Janet Jakobsen on “Religion and Sexuality: What's War Got to Do with It?”

Jakobsen is director of the Center for Research on Women and Professor of Women's Studies at Barnard College in New York City, and will consider how issues of religion, gender and sexuality are implicated in the U.S. war in Iraq.

Examining the specific religious genealogy of the type of “freedom” espoused by the Bush administration to legitimate the war, Jakobsen shows how this freedom becomes embodied in particular forms of violence, including that of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

She then shows how this genealogy may be used as a means think about ways to link progressive struggles across issues like peace, justice and gender equality. Jakobsen is the author of Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics (Indiana University Press, 1998), co-author (with Ann Pellegrini) of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (New York University Press, 2002), and co-editor (with Elizabeth Castelli) of Interventions: Activists and Academics Respond to Violence (Palgrave/Macmillan 2004).

She is now working on a book, Sex, Secularism and Social Movements: The Value of Ethics in a Global Economy, and is a former policy analyst and lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

* On Sept. 28, Vasudha Narayanan will speak on “Re-presenting Hindu Women: Texts, Contexts and Realities.”

A professor of Religion at the University of Florida and a past president of the American Academy of Religion (2001-02), Narayanan will discuss how Hindu women have been depicted in a variety of ways by texts, scholars and observers.

She will examine multiple frames of reference of Hindu women, and address issues of cultural and political contexts and agency, including the audiences for these descriptions, both in India and the United States. Narayanan studies temples across Southeast Asia and elsewhere to elaborate Hindu traditions as a global religion.

Her scholarship intervenes in common misunderstandings and misperceptions with the hope that knowledge of different communities, languages, beliefs, ways of life and world views will inspire respect.

Narayanan has written numerous books including Hinduism; The Vernacular Veda: Revelation, Recitation, and Ritual; The Way and the Goal: Expressions of Devotion in the Early Srivaisnava Tradition; as well as chapters and journal articles. Her forthcoming book is Global and Local Hindu Traditions.

* The third speaker, artist Lesley Dill, will address “A Word Made Flesh,” on Oct. 26.

Dill explores what she sees as a risky subject matter: religion and spirituality. Her subject leads her to explore religion and faith's compelling nature and embodiments in our hearts and minds, our bodies and words.

In her photography, printmaking, sculpture and performance, Dill brings her visual work into conversation with literary figures — including Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda and Franz Kafka — to illuminate the relation of words and flesh as indeterminate, as a “moving harmony of effect.”

Dill's work has been called a “meeting of art and poetry – rich in texture and temporal associations,” a meeting where we re-encounter gender, language, corporeality, image and spirituality. Beginning with a short performance piece, she will then turn to two of her community projects, Tongues on Fire: Visions and Ecstasy (in collaboration with Emmanuel Baptist Church Spiritual Choir) and Interviews with a Contemplative Mind.

Her work has been exhibited at the George Adams Gallery, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

* The series concludes with Mark Juergensmeyer on “Why Guys Throw Bombs: The Role of Gender in Religious Violence,” on Nov. 18. His talk is on a Friday evening; no roundtable discussion is planned.

Juergensmeyer is director of Global and International Studies and Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He is an expert on religious violence, conflict resolution and South Asian religion and politics. Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, BBC, NPR, Fox News, ABC's Politically Incorrect, and CNBC's Dennis Miller Show.

His talk will focus on gender in religion and violence, with specific reference given to gender issues in the insurgency in Iraq.

Juergensmeyer's concern is with public acts of violence at the turn of the century for which religion has provided the motivation, the justification, the organization, and the world view. His questions focus on why these acts of violence are often associated with religious causes and what — in this current historical moment — prompts their frequency.

Juergensmeyer is the author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence; The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State; Gandhi's Way: A Handbook of Conflict Resolution; Global Religions: An Introduction; and, Religion in Global Civil Society.