2013 Conference Program

The Science, Religion, and Culture Program at Harvard Divinity School held the Second Annual Graduate Conference on Religion. Following the success of last year's conference, this multi-day event hosted 120 panelists comprising 30 thematic panels that cross religious traditions, academic disciplines, and intellectual and theological commitments. The conference aimed at promoting interdisciplinary discussion of prevailing assumptions (both within and outside the academy) about the differentiation, organization, authorization, and reproduction of various modes of knowing and acting in relation to religion.

The keynote address, titled "Bioethics Rebound: Religion and Science as Social Practice," was delivered by Sherine Hamdy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Kutayba Alghanim Professor of Social Science at Brown University.

The 2013 conference also featured two thematic modules: "Constructions of Autonomy in Early Modern and Modern Contexts" and "Ritual as a Category of Religious Experience." Several panels were devoted to each module. David C. Lamberth, Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Harvard Divinity School presented the module address on autonomy, and Michael James Puett, Chairs of the Committee on the Study of Religion and Professor of Chinese History at Harvard, presented the module address on ritual.

The Ways of Knowing: Graduate Conference on Religion is a major initiative of Science, Religion, and Culture at Harvard Divinity School. The conference was also sponsored by the Northeast/Maritimes Region American Academy of Religion and the HDS Office of Student Life.

Keynote Speaker

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Kutayba Alghanim Professor of Social Science at Brown University

Sherine Hamdy is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University where she also serves on the faculty committee of Science, Technology, and Society and the faculty committee on Middle East Studies. Sherine Hamdy’s first book was published in 2012 with University of California Press, entitled: Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt. In it she calls for a bioethics thoroughly integrated with political and economic realities of disease and medicine, and analyzes a heated debate in Egypt about the ethics of transplantation of body parts that exposes what she calls the “twin crises” of Islamic and medical authority in the context of a brutal political regime. Her current work continues with the theme of bioethics, medicine, and disease in Egypt as she follows the political dramas unfolding there. She is currently collaborating with Professor Soha Bayoumi (Harvard, History of Science) on a project called Doctors of the Revolution, on the role of medics in Cairo’s political uprisings. In 2009, she was named the Kutayba Alghanim Assistant Professor of the Social Sciences. Her article "When the State and Your Kidneys Fail: Political Etiologies in an Egyptian Dialysis Ward" (American Ethnologist 2008) won the 2009 Rudolph Virchow Award from the Society of Medical Anthropology. She was a Member of the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 2011-2012. She is currently a Greenwall Foundation Scholar in Bioethics as she continues to research and teach medical anthropology at Brown.

“Constructions of Autonomy in Early Modern and Modern Contexts" Module Speaker
David C. Lamberth

Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Harvard Divinity School

David Lamberth is Professor of Philosophy and Theology in the Faculty of Divinity, where he teaches a range of courses in Western theology and philosophy of religion that emphasize modern liberal thought and probe the interconnections between theological and philosophical reflection in American and continental thought. He joined the faculty in 1997 as an assistant professor after spending two years at Florida State University, and he served a three-year term as associate dean for academic affairs at HDS from 2000 to 2003. His 1999 William James and the Metaphysics of Experience exhibits his interest in the revival of pragmatism and demonstrates the inherent engagement with religion in James's philosophical system, as well as James's pluralism. He is currently preparing two books: "Religion: A Pragmatic Approach," which analyzes both historical and contemporary treatments of religion in the pragmatic tradition; and the volume on William James for the Routledge Philosophers series. Other research interests include religious experience, and the construction of the field of the philosophy of religion in modernity. 

“Ritual as a Category of Religious Experience” Module Speaker
Michael James Puett
Chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion and Professor of Chinese History at Harvard University

Michael Puett is Chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion and Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and his interests are focused on the inter-relations between religion, anthropology, history, and philosophy. Puett is the author of The Ambivalence of Creation: Debates Concerning Innovation and Artifice in Early China and To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self- Divinization in Early China, as well as the co-author, with Adam Seligman, Robert Weller, and Bennett Simon, of Ritual and its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity.


The conference also hosted two faculty-led lunchtime discussion panels on career development.

Academic Publishing Panel (Friday, October 25)
Discussed preparing and publishing journal articles, turning a thesis into a book, and writing book proposals.The panel included:

Professor Jon Levenson
Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies and Co-Editor of the Harvard Theological Review

Professor Anne Monius
Professor of South Asian Religions and Editor of the AAR/OUP Religion in Translation Series

Laura Morris
Editor, Religious Studies at Cambridge University Press

Academic Jobs Panel (Saturday, October 26)
Discussed job market readiness, writing applications, and preparing for interviews and job talks. The panel included:

Dr. Ann D. Braude
Senior Lecturer on American Religious History and Director of the Women's Studies in Religion Program

Professor Stephanie Paulsell
Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies

Professor Charles Stang
Associate Professor of Early Christian Thought
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