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Events Archive 2022

Religion Seminar Series 2022

Thursday 14 April, 7:30pm

Easter Public Lecture - Why Jesus Condemns Rich People to Hell

Dr Robert Myles
Senior Lecturer in New Testament at Wollaston Theological College, Perth

Jesus is remembered for insisting that the rich should relinquish their wealth if they wished to be saved, that it is impossible for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10.17-31), and for delivering parables like that about a rich man who suffers eternal torment in the afterlife simply for having been rich during his lifetime (Luke 16:19-31). This presentation grounds the early Jesus movement’s bitter condemnation of wealth in the context of the material changes affecting first-century Galilee. In response to these socio-economic changes, the Jesus movement mobilized Jewish millenarian themes of divine reversal and judgment, including an overthrowing of the existing social and political orders, and a promised new world order ruled in the interests of the peasantry. Its vision meant that the rich would have to give up their wealth, while the poor would be afforded a life of heavenly luxury.


Thursday 5 May, 2pm

A letter from Tokyo, a migrant to Mecca, and what it means to be Salafi

Mohammed El-Sayed Bushra
Georgetown University

The academic study of the trend of Salafism within Islam has received a fair amount of attention in recent years. However, much confusion and controversy continues to shroud this area of study. Whereas some scholarship suffers from a preoccupation with a securitised approach to the topic, other scholarship remains fixated on the historicist determination of the groups to whom the term ought and ought not apply. This presentation aims to elucidate the question of Salafism by considering the career of the migrant Central Asian scholar Muhammad Sultan al-Ma'sumi al-Khujandi (1880-1961). First, it introduces the issue at the heart of Salafism by examining a letter sent to al-Khujandi from Tokyo circa 1938, the response to which constitutes his most famous work. Second, it reviews the aforementioned academic literature and demonstrates its limitations in light of this. Third, it offers a summary of al-Khujandi’s biography, with an eye to considering how it might help us formulate an alternative approach to better understand Salafism.

Burns 6 Seminar Room (located on the ground floor of the Arts Building, Albany Street).


Belief Narratives in Ted Lasso

Dr Ibrahim Abraham
Hans Mol Research Fellow in Religion and the Social Sciences, Australian National University

Few recent television series have been more commented upon by progressive bourgeois like ourselves than Ted Lasso, a comedy/drama depicting a cheerful American gridiron coach mis-managing an English soccer team, praised for its “radical optimism” and problematized for its “toxic positivity.” Drawing on contemporary debates in British sociology of religion, this presentation argues that Ted Lasso offers a particular example of Abby Day’s notion of “believing in belonging,” contra Grace Davie’s notion of “believing without belonging,” that Christianity can abide in Britain without congregational commitments. Building on work from Anthony Giddens, it will be suggested that the belief narratives in Ted Lasso approach a kind of autotelic belief in which we see the struggle to cultivate risk-embracing neo-liberal subjectivities regulated by relationships of trust, relocating belief from a “big other” — God or the state — to not only the self, but also chosen friendship networks.


Friday 5 August, 2pm

Marshall and Madhusudhana's Bhagavata Purana: Practices of Translation in Early Modern India

Professor Will Sweetman
Religion, University of Otago

Between 1674 and 1677, John Marshall, an East India Company merchant in Bengal, and Madhusudana Rarhi, a Gaudiya Vaisnava Brahmin together produced an English version of the Bhagavata Purana. Their work together was halted by Marshall's death and the surviving manuscript of their Bhagavata Purana is very much a working draft. In this paper I will argue that this manuscript provides evidence of a translation practice-from a Sanskrit source via an oral vernacular rendition to an English version-which was widespread in early modern European encounters with Indian texts. This translation practice follows Mughal models for translation of Sanskrit literature into Persian. Some recent accounts of eighteenth-century English works on Hinduism (John Z. Holwell's "Religious Tenets of the Gentoos" and Alexander Dow's "Dissertation Concerning the Customs, Manners, Language, Religion and Philosophy of the Hindoos") claim that their authors fabricated or forged their supposed textual sources. On the contrary, I argue that their works should be understood as late examples of this means of rendering Indian texts into English. Shankar Nair argues that the technical vocabulary of Sufism was "the primary resource for Mughal translators in rendering Sanskrit materials into Persian"; Muzaffar Alam similarly characterises this process as "the creation of a Sufi register." For Holwell and Dow, the works of the English Deists functioned similarly to provide a technical vocabulary for the expression of Hindu ideas in English.

Seminar Room R6N4, Level 6, Richardson Building

Friday 7 October, 2pm

Negotiating agency: A study of women’s participation in Indian Sakta Tantra in the West

Karina Guthrie
PhD candidate, University of Otago

This presentation will communicate the early-stage findings of doctoral research examining the role of feminine-centred spiritual practice on women’s experiences of identity formation and agency. The thesis explores the uptake of the Sakta tradition of Indian Tantra, which focuses on the worship of the divine in its feminine form, by women in Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand. It explores how women’s spiritual practice influences their identity and whether it leads them to interrogate the nature of their participation in gendered power dynamics in the social and spiritual fields. The thesis expands on existing research into lived religion and argues for the importance of situating research on women's spiritual practice within the temporal, cultural, human and material frameworks that mediate how religious symbols are used by historically, socially, economically and politically situated women.


Monday 28 November, 12pm

Fathom the Mind: Contemplative Science Can Heal the World

Dr B. Alan Wallace
Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies

Abstract:While modern science has shed a bright light on many aspects of the objective, physical world, fundamental questions about the origins of the mind, the nature and potentials of consciousness, and what happens at death remain unknown. In this lecture Dr B. Alan Wallace will introduce the theme of contemplative science-entailing rigorous means of exploring the mind from a first-person perspective-and the role it may play in healing the world through fathoming the inner causes of mental distress and of genuine well-being.

Dr B. Alan Wallace is one of the world's leading scholars, writers, and teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, is an outspoken advocate for a revolution in the mind sciences, one that will replace the current paradigm of materialist reductionism with a new paradigm based on contemplative methods of inquiry into the nature and potentials of the mind.

Te Tumu R1S3 Te Wānanga (level 1, Richardson South Building)

Thursday 8 December, 12pm

Does Education Cross-culturally Affect Religious Commitment? Some general limitations of data-salvage projects when applying causal inference

Associate Professor Benjamin Grant Purzycki
Aarhus University

Abstract:While many have touted education as central to secularization, there is little evidence to suggest that it has much of an effect on religiosity. This lack of evidence holds despite the abundance of available data that can ostensibly assess the question within a causal framework. In this seminar, I'll showcase an in-progress project that a) embraces and applies insights from the causal inference literature, b) cross-culturally assesses the effect education has on religiosity, and c) highlights the promises and pitfalls of applying causal inferential principles to similar data-salvaging projects.

Te Tumu R1S3 Te Wānanga (level 1, Richardson South Building)

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University of Otago Religious Studies Programme