Campus & Community

Center for the Study of World Religions names new fellows

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The Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) at the Harvard Divinity School is host to 32 fellows and visiting scholars from around the world for the 2000-01 academic year.

Established in 1958 as part of the Harvard Divinity School (HDS), CSWR fosters excellence in the study of the world’s religions on the broadest scale and from many perspectives. International in composition and subject matter, the Center facilitates the exchange of ideas growing out of scholarly research.

Deliberately designed to assemble leaders from across the spectrum of scholarship, the CSWR Senior Fellowship program provides the scholars time for investigation and access to the resources of Harvard University. Senior Fellows join Dissertation Fellows, Doctoral Studies Fellows, and Fellows-in-Residence chosen from doctoral programs at Harvard. The Center also provides seniors from Harvard College the opportunity to participate through the Undergraduate Thesis Fellowship.

CSWR invites the Yehan Numata Visiting Professor in Buddhism and the Visiting Professor of Islam, and hosts other visiting professors and scholars who teach and work on research.

The 2000-01 CSWR fellows and visiting scholars are as follows:

Senior Fellows

Mary Jacqueline Alexander is an associate professor in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department, Connecticut College. Alexander’s research explores the ways in which African spirituality and modes of healing became the site of an epistemic struggle in Trinidad between 1798 and 1880, the period marking the establishment of slavery and the consolidation of the colonial state. Her analysis will illuminate the role of gender in the social and spiritual organization of the colonial projects and offers a formulation of spiritual memory, healing, and disembodied agency as integral to Kongolese daily life.

Mordechai Altshuler is a professor at the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Altshuler will focus on Jewish religious life in the Soviet Union against the background of Soviet policy toward religion in general and Judaism in particular. His research is based on documentation from Soviet archives, accessible in the last decade, and will attempt to describe the Jewish religious activity on the local level and examine the gap between official policy and its implementation in different parts of the country.

Richard Frasca holds a Ph.D. in South Asian Languages, Literatures, and Religion from the University of California, Berkeley. Frasca’s research focuses on the powerful and evocative Hindu ritual dramatic performances from Tamil-speaking South India called terukkuttu or kuttu. He will complete a translation, textual analysis, and ritual commentary of Pakatai Tuyil (The Dicegame and the Disrobing), an episode from this tradition of epic reenactment.

Eva Jane Fridman is a research fellow at Brown University. She will work toward publication of her research, “A Re-Evaluation of Shamanic Practices in the Post-Communist Period in Russia and Mongolia.” Fridman is interested in how shamanism — based in nature, specific locale, and kinship bonds to natural locale — is especially vulnerable to actual physical disruptions through ideological, political, or economic upheaval and how this vulnerability in turn affects the reemergence of the religion.

Rosalind Hackett is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Hackett’s research will examine the relationship between media and religious conflict in Africa. She will examine the ways in which print and electronic media are being used to manage (in the case of South Africa) or manipulate (as in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana) religious diversity and conflict.

Wan Doo Kim is a Buddhist monk from the Korean Chian tradition, who recently completed his thesis on the early doctrinal history of Theravada Buddhism, at Oxford University. Kim plans to complete his book entitled “Full Awareness of Breathing: A Study of the Literary Sources of Anapanasati Meditation and Its Contemporary Revival.” In the process of analyzing central features of the anapanasati from both historical and theoretical perspectives, Kim will classify all relevant textual sources according to different schools and their chronological development.

Young-ho Kim is professor of Eastern philosophy (Buddhism) at Inha University, Inchon, Korea, and is a 1999-00 Senior Fellow continuing on for the fall. Kim’s area of interest and current research centers on religious pluralism in general and on religious pluralism in particular as found in and as applicable to the settings of Korean society and Chinese tradition (san-chiao, or three religions).

Roberta Moretti recently completed her laurea in Cultural Heritage at the University of Siena, Arezzo, Italy. Moretti will work on her project “Towards a Hermeneutics of Phantasy: From the Pneumatic Doctrines in Late Renaissance Thought to the Assumptions of Phantasmology in the Digital Era. An Interdisciplinary Approach. “

Sohini Ray recently received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her current project, “The Body-Cult in Sanamahism: A Case of the Revival of an Indigenous Religion among the Meiteis in Manipur,” is an ethnographic study of the sacred myths about the human body among the Meiteis, a community in Northeast India, and on how these mythological beliefs play a pivotal role in a socio-religious revival movement now occurring in the community.

Guy MacLean Rogers is chairman of the Department of History and professor of Classics and History, Wellesley College. His research will focus on mystery cults in the Graeco-Roman world, specifically Artemis at Ephesos. Rogers hopes to explore possible parallels between these cults and Jewish or Christian religious practices and to trace the changes from the pagan Roman Empire to a Christian empire.

Susan Sered is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Sered will work on her project, “Religious Healing in Boston: Jews, Ritual and Healing Services.” The project includes three components: a mapping of what is loosely known as “healing services” in Boston, observations of healing services at a variety of churches and synagogues, and sustained ethnographic research at one Boston-area synagogue’s healing service.

Pablo Wright is an assistant professor of symbolic archaeology in the Department of Anthropology, University of Buenos Aires, and a researcher at the National Council for Scientific Research (CONICET). Wright has been working in indigenous churches among the Argentine Chaco Toba people and is interested in cultural and religious syncretism, as well as in contemporary forms of shamanism and folk healing systems.

Dissertation Fellows

Persis Berlekamp is a doctoral candidate in the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard. Berlekamp is researching the medieval Islamic history of ‘ajab, or wonder, between the Euphrates and the Oxus, and between the Mongol invasions of the mid-13th century and the rise to dominance of the three great Islamic empires — Safavids, Ottomans, and Mughals — by the early 16th century.

Manduhai Buyandelgeriyn is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard. Buyandelgeriyn is interested in how the change from socialism to capitalism has stimulated the marked revival of shamanic healing practices among the Buriads of the Dornod province in Eastern Mongolia.

Doctoral Studies Fellows

Alan Wagner is beginning his doctoral studies in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard, where his primary focus will be on premodern Chinese Buddhist thought. Wagner is interested in understanding what early Buddhist positions on issues, such as the nature of agency, the relationship between the mental and the material, and the nature of language, may mean when expressed in terms of the Western philosophical tradition.

Yan Zheng is a doctoral student in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard. Her research focus is on the interplay among the great traditions of Confucian scholarship, Chinese vernacular culture (with a dominant Confucian component), and Buddhism and Christianity of the late Han and late Ming dynasties, respectively.

Fellows in Residence

Neelima Shukla-Bhatt is a doctoral student in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard. Her research interest is cultural expressions of devotion in medieval India with a focus on devotional poetry in Hindu, Islamic, and Sikh traditions. During the spring semester, Shukla-Bhatt will conduct research in India on a Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship.

Candi K. Cann, a doctoral student in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard, has studied the Three-Self Protestant Movement (TSPM), the officially sanctioned church of the People’s Republic of China. Cann will continue her exploration and comparison of grassroots movements in contemporary China.

Leor Halevi is a doctoral candidate in the Middle Eastern Studies Department with an affiliation with the History Department, Harvard. His dissertation will examine funerary rituals and after-life myths as a function of shifting social interactions between men and women, politicians and lawmakers, Muslims and non-Muslims.

Michael Rindner is a doctoral candidate in the Committee on the Study of Religion. His research interest is the organization and popularization of nondualistic mystical and devotional movements, particularly meditative and spiritual exercises. Rindner’s dissertation will examine developments in the popularization of Islamic mysticism and bhakti in South Asia.

Undergraduate Thesis Fellows

Marcus Lehman, a senior in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, spent his summer conducting research into sacred geography in Copán, Honduras. His senior thesis focuses on locating, cataloging, and documenting the natural features and water sources (including caves, cenotes, springs, lagoons, bajos, and other natural and man-made features) of the Copán Valley, Honduras, with respect to their association with ancient ritual and ancient Mayan world view.

Paola Tartakoff is completing her senior thesis through the Department of History. Her research examines 12th- and 13th-century Christian attitudes toward the Talmud and explores the ways in which Peter Alfonsi’s (1062-1149) “Dialogi Contra Iudaeos” may have influenced 13th-century public disputations between Christians and Jews.

Visiting Scholars

Carl Bielefeldt is the Yehan Numata Visiting Professor in Buddhism at Harvard Divinity School. Bielefeldt is a professor in, and the chair of, the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. During the fall semester, Bielefeldt will teach a seminar in Zen studies that will include readings in recent Western scholarship on the Zen Buddhist tradition in China and Japan. The seminar will explore the development of this relatively new field, its representative works, and the range of its assumptions and methods.

Enrique Dussel is a professor in the Department of Philosophy, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Mexico. Dussel is the Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) at Harvard. During the fall semester, he will teach two courses at Harvard Divinity School, “World History and Christian Ethics” and “A Critique of Political Reason and Will (A Theology at the Dawn of the New Millennium).”

Vittorio D. Falsina is the director of a research project led by the Center that aims to study the relation between various faith traditions and globalization. This three-year project, titled “Recasting Globalization: Religion, Culture, and Ethnicity,” will consist of case studies involving the world’s major religions and cultural traditions. Before coming to Harvard in 1999, Falsina was a Warren Weaver Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation and an intern at the MacArthur Foundation, where he did research on environmental ethics, sustainable development, and global ethics, contributing to various Earth Charter initiatives.

Oyeronke Olajubo is a professor in the Department of Religions, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. Olajubu will be a fellow in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School. Her research project will explore the role of women in the Yoruba socio-religious sphere, including women in myths, lineage traditions, oral literature, and sacredness in nature.

J. Partrick Olivelle is the Director of the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Olivelle will conduct research for a book on the history of law, jurisprudence, and social institutions in premodern India. He hopes the recovery of a dynamic, changing, and often contradictory social and legal history with strong regional variations will question the reified notions of Hindu and law prevalent in scholarly and nationalistic discourses in India.

Choan-Seng Song has been Professor of Theology and Asian Cultures at the Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley since 1985. During the spring, Song will lecture at HDS on Christianity in world perspectives. His course will explore how Christian faith is reshaped in its engagement with different cultures and religions. He will also teach a seminar entitled “The Gospel, Cultures, and Truth” that will discuss ways in which the spirit of the Creator God works among peoples and nations.

Don Swearer is a professor of religion at Swarthmore College, and a visiting professor at HDS for the academic year 2000-01, occupying the new Hershey Chair in Buddhist Studies. Currently, he is completing two different studies, one on the Buddha image consecration ritual in northern Thailand, and the other on sacred mountain traditions in Southeast Asia. Swearer sees his two seminars (“The Buddha in Image, Myth, and Ritual” and “Buddhism and Ecology: Sacred Mountain Traditions in Southeast Asia”) as opportunities to refine these projects. He will also teach two other courses: “Buddhism and Society in Southeast Asia” in the fall and “Buddhist Social Ethics” in the spring.

Ahmed Toufiq is the Visiting Professor of Islam at HDS. A professor of history in the Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, University of Mohammed V, Rabat, Morocco, Toufiq is also the director of the National Library of Morocco (Bibliothèque Générale et Archives). His research interests include the medieval history of Islam, with a focus on the cultural history of Morocco, and the study of circumstances and factors of the long process of Moroccan integration into the Islamic system. Toufiq will teach two courses, “Sufism, from Its Origin to the Present” and “The Beginnings of Islam in North Africa” in the spring.

Joseph Yahalom is a professor in the Department of Hebrew Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. During the spring semester, Yahalom will be in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard, to teach two courses. “An Introduction to Medieval Hebrew Poetry” will cover medieval Hebrew poetry in its main phases through its main genres. The other course, “Readings in Medieval Hebrew Poetry,” is an in-depth look at the rise and development of Hebrew poetry, both sacred and profane, in Medieval Spain.

Visiting Students

Gay Lynch is a visiting doctoral student from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. At Harvard for the fall term, Lynch will study Greek funerary monuments with David Gordon Mitten. She hopes to incorporate this work into her dissertation on ritual lament and how the Greek grave marker presents a visual record of ritual gestures.