Science, Religion, and Culture Mahindra Humanities Seminar

The "Science, Religion and Culture" seminar, one of the Mahindra Humanities Seminars,  provides an opportunity to critically interrogate the categories of science, religion and culture and the sociocultural and discursive processes that create and transform these categories and the structures of authority attached to them. It sponsors conversations among scholars using anthropological, sociological, historical and philosophical methods with special interest in questions of race, gender and sexuality and different strategies of inclusion and exclusion that transform the production and consumption of knowledge. This seminar series will host several Harvard faculty members as well as scholars from the wider academy who will discuss general themes pertaining to the series focus on science, religion, and culture. 

The first year of the Science, Religion, and Culture Mahindra Humanities Seminar Series was overwhelmingly successful. Andrew Jewett (Harvard) provided our aptly themed inaugural lecture on science and religion by discussing the roles of each discipline in modern America. The audience was representative of the entire semester, with students coming primarily from the Divinity School and the Dept. of the History of Science at GSAS. Regional Studies students were also a frequent presence at the various lectures focusing on Asia and the Middle East. These lectures included: Marcia C. Inhorn (Yale) addressed the influence of Islam on the adoption of new methods of fertilization; TJ Hinrich (Cornell) spoke to the close relationship between religion and the state in Song China; a presentation on the importance of bodily markings in Hindu culture and its relationship to Buddhism and karma from Daud Ali (UPenn); and our closing lecture by Divinity School alumnus Jason Ananda Josephson (Williams) on the coterminous development and fundamental inseparability of science and religion in nineteenth-century Japan. Divinity students and professors were in the overwhelming majority to hear Alison Simmons (Harvard) lecture on Cartesian mind-body dualism, as well as K. Healan Gaston (Harvard Divinity) who addressed the importance of religious thinking to scientific pursuits expounded by the Niebuhr brothers. The quality of all lectures was high, and question and answer periods flowed smoothly. After the lectures, students and professors mingled in a casual atmosphere over wine and cheese, and were given the opportunity to talk directly with the day's presenter. This casual mingling of students and professors from history, divinity, and regional studies programs represents another success of our lecture series.

Seminar Chairs: Ahmed Ragab, Richard T. Watson Assistant Professor of Science and Religion at Harvard Divinity School and Affiliate Assistant Professor at the Department of the History of Science. Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard Divinity School.


Andrew Jewett

Assistant Professor of History and of Social Studies, Harvard University

"I work at the intersection of political and intellectual history, with a focus on the interaction of knowledge production with political culture and institutions in the United States. I am especially interested in how discursive elements have moved between the public sphere and the increasingly specialized academic disciplines, and in the political contexts for this circulation."

Tuesday, Sept 25: 6-7.30 pm (Barker 113)

Panel Discussion: Science, Religion and the Body 

Panelists: Janet Gyatso, Karen King, Ahmed Ragab and Mayra Rivera Rivera

Tuesday, Dec 13: 6-7.30 pm (Barker 114)

Marcia C. InhornWilliam K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, Yale University.

Inhorn’s research interests revolve around science and technology studies (STS), gender and feminist theory (including masculinity studies), religion and bioethics, globalization and global health, cultures of biomedicine and ethnomedicine, stigma and human suffering.

Tuesday, January 29: 6-7.30 pm

TJ HinrichsAssociate Professor, History Department, Cornell University

"A central thread running through my research and teaching is the investigation of connections between intimate experiences such as illness and personal transformation; communal practices such as medical training and religious rites; and broader historical shifts such as the consolidation of the civil service examination system, commercialization and urbanization, the spread of printing, and the development of landscape painting."

Tuesday, Feb 26: 6-7.30 pm

K. Healan GastonLecturer on American Religious Histor, Harvard Divinity School

Her research focuses on the role of religion in American public life, with particular emphasis on the relationship between theology and democratic theory.

Tuesday, March 26: 6-7.30 pm

Alison SimmonsSamuel H. Wolcott Professor of Philosophy at Harvard College

"Being Human: Mind-Body Union and the Limits of Cartesian Metaphysics, or Making Sense of the Mind-Body Union"

Tuesday, Apr 22: 6-7.30 pm

*Note: This event takes place at the Braun Room, Andover Hall, 45 Francis Ave.

Jason Ānanda JosephsonAssistant Professor of Religion, Williams College

"His research explores the contested borderland between “religion” and “science.” He focuses on practices and beliefs often considered “superstitions,” and therefore frequently dismissed as worthy of consideration in the disciplinary formations of science and religion."

Tuesday, Apr 23: 6-7.30 pm