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  Monday, April 16, 2018

An Undefined Line Between Celebration and Mourning in Post-Revolutionary Iran

Dr. Candance Mixon
Olin, Room 204  5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Using some key concepts in Bruce Lincoln's Holy Terrors: Thinking About Religion After September 11 (Chicago, 2003), this talk will examine commemorations of violent events in modern Iranian and sacred Shi’a history (such as the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Iran-Iraq War, and martyrdom of the family of the Prophet Muhammad). It reviews both Iranian and American reporting of holidays marked in the Islamic Republic of Iran to ask how the presentation of commemorations (especially in calendars, media, rituals) uses careful rhetoric and historical contextualization to walk the fine line between celebration and mourning or blur the line between nationalism and religious practice.
Sponsored by: Middle Eastern Studies Program; Religion Program
Contact: Shai Secunda  845-758-6822
Monday, April 2, 2018

Buddhism and Symbolic Violence

Professor Bernard Faure
Columbia University

Olin, Room 203  5:30 pm
The recent tragedy of the Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar has arguably attracted more attention from the media than the long civil war between Buddhists and Hindus in Sri Lanka, and it has led many people to question the traditional image of Buddhist nonviolence. Usually Buddhist violence has been discussed from a sociopolitical or doctrinal viewpoint. Here I would like to address its presence in visual representations and in the Buddhist imagination. If compassion is well expressed by serene images of meditating buddhas, the angry gods of Tantric Buddhism partake, conversely, in a puzzling symbolic violence. I would like to examine the role of such representations in the historical development of Buddhism. 

Cosponsored by the Religion Program, Asian Studies, and Art History.
Sponsored by: Warren Mills Hutcheson Memorial Lecture in Buddhist Studies
Contact: Dominique Townsend  845-758-6822
  Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Limits of Tibetan Cyberspace

Riga Shakya, Columbia University

TBD  11:50 am
The proliferation of social media platforms in China has transformed the way in which Tibetans communicate with each other and their Han Chinese neighbors. The first part of the presentation is an introduction to Tibetan cyberspace through an examination of the diverse and innovative ways in which Tibetans, across the TAR and China proper, engage with social media. The Internet has become the predominant site of cultural production and contestation for Tibetan intellectuals, and the second part of the presentation looks at the conversations and debates that contemporary Tibetan artists, directors, and writers participate in online.
Sponsored by: Experimental Humanities Program; Religion Program
Contact: Dominique Townsend  845-758-6822
  Monday, March 12, 2018

The Crusades in the Abrahamic Spiral of Violence

Professor Bruce Chilton

Olin, Room 204  5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

You can have prosperity, victory against the odds, and the enjoyment of a complete life.
All you have to do is sacrifice your child.
Those are the terms of reference set out in the biblical story of the command God gives Abraham, to offer his son on a ritual altar.  Genesis 22, known as the Aqedah, or “Binding” of Isaac, since Abraham bound his son in order to slay him, has a rich and often dark history. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have armed themselves over time with the conviction that an innocent victim – Isaac or Christ of Isma’il – models God’s desire for how his people should sacrifice themselves for him.
In the Crusades, those three religions deployed their unique versions of Abraham’s offering as they inflicted violence on one another and suffered violence at one another’s hands.
Our discussion is designed to show how the Aqedah focused violence during the period of the Crusades, and how resources of interpretation within each tradition could lead them out of their mutual confrontation.
Sponsored by: Religion Program
Contact: Shai Secunda  845-758-6822
Monday, February 19, 2018

Taking the Kingdom by Force: A History of Violence in Christian Video Games

Dr. Vincent Gonzalez

Olin, Room 204  5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Since the early 1980s Christians have created their own video games and game review sites, as well as distinctly Christian ways to play secular games. Like other gamer cultures, these Christians are creatively engaged in an ongoing conversation on the meaning and stakes of video game “violence.” This presentation will offer a history of Christian interventions in the game violence debates, complete with playable encounters with some representative Christian games.

Vincent Gonzalez received his doctorate in religious studies from UNC - Chapel Hill. His research on religion and digital culture can be found at as well as @religiousgames on Twitter.
Sponsored by: Religion Program
Contact: Shai Secunda  845-758-6822
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Strange Stories of Yiddishland: What the Yiddish Press Reveals about the Jews

Dr. Eddy Portnoy in conversation with Prof. Luc Sante

Olin, Room 102  4:45 pm

An underground history of downwardly mobile Jews, Eddy Portnoy's new book Bad Rabbi and Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press mines century-old Yiddish newspapers to expose the seamy underbelly of pre-WWII New York and Warsaw, the two major centers of Yiddish culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One part Isaac Bashevis Singer, one part Jerry Springer, this irreverent, unvarnished, and frequently hilarious compendium of stories provides a window into an unknown Yiddish world that was. 

Eddy Portnoy received his Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary. A specialist in Jewish popular culture, he has taught at Rutgers University and currently serves as academic adviser for the Max Weinreich Center and exhibition curator at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Luc Sante, the author of several award-wining books, is visiting professor of writing and photography at Bard College.
Sponsored by: Jewish Studies Program; Religion Program
Contact: Cecile Kuznitz  845-758-7543