Events in Religion at Otago

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If you are interested in giving a lecture as part of the departments lecture series, or for further information, please contact Joseph Watts.

Religion Seminar Series, 2020



26th February

The Other Conversions: Understanding the Social Impact of Christian Missions

Dr Robert D. Woodberry
Research Associate Professor. Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion.

Abstract:
Missionaries are best known for their efforts to change the religious traditions of others, but they often also engaged in social ‘conversion’ – altering the educational, medical, institutional, political, and economic conditions of societies where they worked. Many academics have strong opinions about the social impact of missions, but until recently few have measured missions’ impact directly. This growing research suggests that missions powerfully influenced the life conditions of people around the world. Both Protestant and Catholic missionaries spread ideas, technology, and education. When missionaries were independent from direct control by both colonial governments and white settlers, they often moderated colonial abuses. For religious reasons Protestant missionaries disproportionately spread mass printing, mass education, and voluntary organizations. In areas where religious competition was not restricted, other religious groups also invested heavily in education, printing, and voluntary organizations. Thus, on average, areas and groups that had earlier religious liberty and stronger exposure to non-state-supported missions grew disproportionately educated, healthy, wealthy, and democratic. The impact of missions on these developments is clear historically and statistically: both between countries and between regions of the same country. The impact of missions is also visible by comparing (1) the changing wealth-hierarchy within societies through time, (2) the conditions on either side of arbitrary borders missionaries were not allowed to cross, and (3) by comparing the long-term economic impact of natural disasters missionaries were allowed to respond to, with those they were not allowed to respond to.


15:00, R1S3 (Te Tumu Te Wānanga) Richardson Building.

26th March

CANCELLED: Social Psychology on the Front Lines: Intellectual Lessons Learned from Researching War Refugees on the Syria-Turkey Border

Professor Raymond F. Paloutzian
Professor Emeritus. Psycholgoy, Westmont College.


Please note that this talk has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.

6th April

CANCELLED: Culture, Evolution, Morality, and the Psychology of Atheism

Co-hosted with the Department of Psychology

Dr Will Gervais
Associate Professor. Psychology, University of Kentucky.


Please note that this talk has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.

16th April

CANCELLED: The functional benefits of ritual in a post-industrialised society: church attendance is associated with more social support, higher fertility, and offspring quality among 13,859 English mothers

Dr John Shaver


Please note that this talk has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.

25th May

CANCELLED: The Psychological and Cultural Origins of Religious Diversity

Co-hosted with the Department of Psychology

Joshua C. Jackson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Please note that this talk has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.

5th June

CANCELLED: Jesuits and Hindu Kings

Prof Will Sweetman


Please note that this talk has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.

20th July

Approaching wood, bone, Virgins, and stone: theories and perspectives in Material Religion

Dr Amy Whitehead
Seniour Lecturer. School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University.

Abstract:
Material religion is a vibrant, fertile and emergent field in the study of religions. With the aim of ‘standing religion on its feet’ (Meyer, 2012), it takes ‘things’ as the primary evidence from which to explore and develop creative approaches to the relational dynamics found in lived and vernacular religions. Adding to a series of recent ‘turns’ in scholarship, this paper uses the case study of a Marian statue and shrine, the Virgin of Alcala de los Gazules in Andalusia, Spain to exemplify how theoretical innovation in material religion is fusing with ritual and performance studies, theories about sacred space and landscape, religious technologies, crafting, animism and the fetish, and popular devotion. In ‘the turn to things’ in the study of religions, material religion as an area of study not only highlights the complexity involved in the relationships between the senses, peoples, traditions, places, communities, and ‘objects’; it requires that we re-think the hierarchical and/or dualistic structures of how objects, and thus religions, are theorised and understood. Through the development of more relational approaches, the tensions between mind/spirit and matter, nature and culture, immanence and transcendence, representation and ‘the real’, are relieved to make room for the emergence of approaches that more adequately address the lived realities of religion/devotion, and include actual materials, landscapes, rituals, spaces, offerings, and, of course, statues in their understandings. After all, religion is intimately entangled with material culture, the nuances of which are creating refreshing and innovative approaches to the study of lived religions.


14:00, Te Tumu R1S3 Te Wananga.


Other Events, 2020



De Carle Distinguished Lecture Series

Prof Ann Taves.
Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Religions as Worldviews and Ways of Life

Professor Ann Taves is internationally renowned for her “building block approach” to understanding complex cultural phenomena. In these lectures, she shows how this approach expands our understanding of religion and bridges the humanistic, behavioural and natural sciences.


4th March

Lecture I: Studying Religions and Other Lived Worldviews

Abstract:
Scholars have long recognized the difficulties of considering indigenous ways of life, New Age spirituality, and most recently non religion and secularity as “religions,” since participants typically do not view them as such. The issue of definition, along with questions of scale, bias, and essentialism, come to the fore in relation to the teaching of content-oriented introductory courses and contribute to the critique of the World Religions Paradigm. Conceptualizing religions as worldviews and ways of life, when defined in terms of “big questions” (BQs), offers a framework for comparative study that not only leaves debates over what counts as “religion” to people on the ground, but also allows us to link the natural sciences and the humanities.

17:15 in ARCH2 - Archway 2 (Dunedin Campus).

5th March

Lecture II: The Evolutionary Foundation of Worldviews

Abstract:
The traditional distinction between the “natural sciences” (Naturwissenschaften), which seek to explain phenomena, and the “humanities” (Geisteswissenschaften), which seek to interpret them, assumes a dichotomy between humans (who possess subjectivity and intentions) and inanimate objects (that do not), while ignoring other animals. We can overcome this divide by situating worldviews in a comparative evolutionary perspective that views implicit meaning making processes as inherent in purposive (goal-directed) action. Doing so allows us to identify a core set of world-and-self-making capacities that humans share with other mobile (and thus goal directed) organisms and upon which the human ability to elaborate worldviews rests. It is from this perspective that we can view all living organisms as embodying answers – in the shape of affordance-based world-and-self models – to basic versions of the BQs.

17:15 in ARCH2 - Archway 2 (Dunedin Campus).

11th March

Lecture III: Generating Diverse Worldviews and Ways of Life

Abstract:
The emergence of culturally diverse worldviews and ways of life depended on an expanded set of cognitive abilities that allowed humans and other animals to make increasingly nuanced sense of situations by chunking the flow of information into discrete events and modeling the chunks in light of prior experience. Although some other large brained animals are likely able to encode fairly complex events, a shift in the way early hominids perceived events enabled humans to generate action based on cultural, as well as natural, affordances. In contrast to natural affordances, which generate action based solely on environment– organism relationships, conventional affordances depend on cultural schemas that provide shared expectations relative to specific things, persons, places, or events. The human ability to appraise situations in light of cultural schemas that depict the self-in-the-world in different ways and to reflect on those differences linguistically gave humans the ability to articulate and reflect on the BQs – that is, to approach them as questions.

17:15 in ARCH2 - Archway 2 (Dunedin Campus).

12th March

Lecture IV: The Emergence of New Worldviews and Ways of Life

Abstract:
Viewed from an evolutionary perspective, we would expect that the transformation of both individual and collective worldviews and ways of life would involve a complex multi-layered process in which schemas play a largely hidden role in enabling and constraining change. The emergence of a group that adopts a new worldview or way of life involves more than the transformation of individual worldviews, since a group has to agree on who they are as a group in order to constitute itself as such. New groups form around a new or at least modified set of answers to the BQs that in turn inculcate new or modified transformational schemas.

17:15 in ARCH2 - Archway 2 (Dunedin Campus).



William Evans Fellowship Lecture Series


Prof Markus Friedrich.
Professor of Early Modern History, University of Hamburg.

Genealogy and the history of knowledge in pre-modern Europe

The series of lectures will explore the role and function of genealogy in pre-modern Europe (before roughly 1800). It will do so from the vantage point of a history of knowledge, thus asking what it meant to know your family lineage. Although there is no shortage of scholarly work on genealogy in the period, there is little consideration of how, and why, people actually learned about their family’s past. This is, however, a fascinating story, and the three talks are going to explore the basic framework and some of the changing parameters of pre-modern investigations into family history.

Please note: Professor Friedrich will now be giving one talk, rather than a series of three, for the William Evans Fellowship. The reason is that he and his family need to return to Germany earlier than anticipated due to concerns about future international travel restrictions. This single talk will replace the three talks that were previously advertised.


17th March

UPDATED: Genealogy and the history of knowledge in pre-modern Europe

Abstract:
The lecture will explore the role and function of genealogy in pre-modern Europe (before roughly 1800). It will do so from the vantage point of a history of knowledge, thus asking what it meant to know your family lineage. After a brief introduction into important aspects of pre-modern European genealogy at large, we will look more in detail at the knowledge-making procedures and research activities of dedicated genealogists. The lecture will highlight the difficulties involved in generating reliable information about family history and point to the ensuing anxieties related with genealogy. Finally, we will look at some of the bigger changes in pre-modern Europe’s genealogical culture around 1700 which indicate a shift in the field’s standing in the public.

Please note: Professor Friedrich will now be giving one talk, rather than a series of three, for the William Evans Fellowship. The reason is that he and his family need to return to Germany earlier than anticipated due to concerns about future international travel restrictions. This single talk will replace the three talks that were previously advertised.

17:15 in RGS2 (Te Tumu Te Riu) Lecture Theatre.

19th March

CANCELLED: Lecture II: Big data avant le lettre?

Abstract:
Genealogists habitually handle large quantities of information, most of which has to do basic data of human life: dates of birth, marriage, death, children. How did genealogists, in a world before ancestry.com and well-organized Genealogical Societies, acquire these data, how did they authenticate it, and what were the epistemic challenges of learning about the nobility’s history? These are some of the questions we will address in the second lecture. It will highlight genealogy’s status as “difficult knowledge” and illustrate some of the problems involved in creating convincing genealogies.

17:15 in RGS2 (Te Tumu Te Riu) Lecture Theatre.

26th March

CANCELLED: Lecture III: Changing social and media environments of early modern genealogy

Abstract:
Genealogy underwent some significant changes, especially in the decades after 1650 or so. This last lecture will focus on two changes in particular and explore how they were related: changes in the media of genealogy, changing roles of the genealogical expert. The decades around 1700, in particular, saw the rise of new genealogical media, eventually leading to such iconic products as the modern genealogical calendars. Such changes, in turn, influenced, and were influenced by, the rise of new forms of genealogical expertise. While genealogy remained strongly ‘embedded’ in the nobility’s self-perception and continued to depend upon noble patronage, the changing media environment nevertheless afforded new possibilities for aspiring genealogists.

17:15 in RGS2 (Te Tumu Te Riu) Lecture Theatre.



Conferences



International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion 2020 Conference

22nd & 23rd August

The 8th biennial meeting of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion will be held in Dunedin this year.

For more information, please visit the official website here.


CANCELLED: XXII Quinquennial World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions.

23rd-29th August

Please note that this talk has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.

For more information, please visit the official website here.



Events Archive



University of Otago Religious Studies Programme