Campus & Community

Divinity School hosts 21 fellows, visiting scholars

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The Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) at the Harvard Divinity School will host 21 fellows and visiting scholars for the 2001-02 academic year.

The 2001-02 CSWR senior fellows

Tzvi Abusch is Cohen Professor of Assyriology and Ancient Near Eastern Religion at Brandeis University. His particular area of interest is ancient Mesopotamian religious literature. Abusch has just completed a volume titled “Mesopotamian Witchcraft: Towards a History and Understanding of Babylonian Witchcraft Beliefs and Literature.” At the center for the full academic year, Abusch will be researching the healing “message” in the anti-witchcraft literature of Babylonia and Assyria. This study will also be placed within a broader comparative context using materials from other ancient healing traditions of the ancient Mediterranean world.

Matthew Bagger is an assistant professor in the Religion Department at Columbia University. A philosopher of religion, Bagger believes philosophy is a too often neglected resource for the humanistic or social scientific study of religion. While at the center for the full year, Bagger will attempt to survey and assess various uses of paradox and contradiction in religious discourse. His project will apply cognitive dissonance theory, the pragmatics of explanation, Mary Douglas’ work on anomaly, and American pragmatism.

Olga V. Gorshunova is director of the Russian Center of Culture and Language, Moscow. Her research and writing focus on the widespread occurrence of female shamanism in Central Asia. Gorshunova plans to explore the links between female shamanic ritual and the ancient religions and beliefs that have left their traces in these rituals, and still occur in the life of the peoples of Central Asia. Her research is based on fieldwork conducted in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Ronnie Hartfield is an international consultant in museum education and planning. She works extensively with museums, foundations, and governmental agencies to facilitate new avenues of collaboration around issues of religious meaning embedded in the visual arts and performative traditions. Hartfield has consulted with the CSWR’s Religion and the Arts Initiative since its inception in 1999. During the fall term, Hartfield’s research will involve the interface between cultural context, visual symbolic structures, and the individual and communal encounter with the sacred. She will also work on the initiation of cross-disciplinary conversations between the Harvard Divinity School faculty and Harvard University colleagues in the related fields of anthropology, sociology, art history, and ethnic studies.

C. Julia Huang recently completed her doctorate at Boston University in the Department of Social Anthropology. Huang will continue to prepare for publication her manuscript on ethnographic findings on gender and ethnicity in a transnational Taiwanese Buddhist movement, the Compassionate-Relief Merit Society (Ciji Gongde Hui). Founded some 30 years ago solely as a women’s group, Ciji now claims 5 million members worldwide. Huang will be affiliated with the center for the entire academic year as a nonresident scholar.

Sudhir Kakar is a psychoanalyst and writer based in New Delhi, India. During his year at the center, Kakar will study the mythology of spiritual healing. Specifically, he will analyze the legends of spiritual healing connected with the various saints in the Christian, Sufi, and Hindu traditions. As a first step in developing a cultural psychology of hagiography, Kakar’s project aims at interrogating the legends of saints around a tradition’s collective fantasies dealing with distress and its succor and in exploring the ways in which these fantasies change (or do not change) through history.

Matthews Ojo will be at the center during the spring semester to pursue his research project – “Divergent Poles: Globalization and Indigenization within the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movements in Contemporary Nigeria.” His study examines the seeming contradictions noticeable in the activities of the independent Charismatic/Pentecostal movements in Nigeria as they undertake activities leading to globalization, and at the same time try to indigenize certain aspects of their religious emphases and practices.

Katharina Poggendorf-Kakar is a lecturer in the Department of Religion at the Free University of Berlin. During her year at the center, Poggendorf-Kakar will prepare for publication a book on the changes taking place in the religious life of middle-class Hindu women in India. The book seeks to understand not only religious change, but also the complex social processes that highlight the interaction between women’s identities and their religious norms and values.

Carolyne E. Tate is an associate professor in the School of Art at Texas Tech University. Tate’s first book addressed the Maya site of Yaxchilan and examined how history was created and expressed through the interplay of landscape, astronomical observations, and ritual with the apparent personal and spiritual motivations of rulers. While associated with the center as a nonresident fellow, Tate will build on her research into the earliest coherent expressions of worldview and religious practices in Mesoamerica, those of the pre-literate “Olmec” (1200—400 B.C.E, or Middle Formative).

Edith Turner is on the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia, where she specializes in symbolism, ritual, and aspects of consciousness, including shamanism. Turner has done fieldwork among such diverse peoples as the Ndembu of Zambia (healing and divination), the Iñupiat of Alaska (healing), and farmers in Ireland (pilgrimage, spiritual experience, and healing). Her goal while at the center for the Study of World Religions is to complete what at present looks like a world jigsaw puzzle of types and forms of healing.

Wang Zong-Yu is an associate professor of Religion at Peking University. He will focus his research on the history of early Daoism of the late Han dynasty, looking at early scriptures and identifying their original versions. His project will also concentrate on the main Daoist practice of controlling demons as a form of faith healing, and he will look comparatively at Daoism within the global history of human religious development. Wang Zong-Yu will be at the center for the full academic year.

Pablo Wright is an assistant professor of symbolic anthropology 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. Wright will focus his research and writing on Toba narratives of time and being. He will be at the center for the fall semester.

Katherine Cannon Haley, the 2001-02 Junior Research Fellow, holds a Bachelor of Science in Developmental Psychology and a Certificate in Human Development from Duke University. Haley has a strong interest in the correlation between religion and health. Haley’s research during the fall semester will examine the impact of physician assessment of patients’ religiosity and integration into their medical care. She will conclude her project with a model of spiritual care for physicians. The objective of the model is to delineate a guideline for physicians to provide comprehensive mind-body-spirit care for their patients.

The 2001-02 dissertation fellows

James Fitzsimmons is a doctoral candidate in the archaeology wing of the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University. Fitzsimmons’ doctoral research focuses on linguistic and textual studies of Classic Maya (C.E. 250—850) mortuary ritual and how text and archaeology interface to produce a body of information on mortuary practice. His dissertation reconstructs aspects of Classic Maya religion and compares ancient attitudes toward death and the afterlife with those of the modern Maya of Mesoamerica.

Jiang Wu is a doctoral candidate in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard University. His dissertation, “The Formation of a Chan Buddhist Denomination: the Early Huangbo (Obaku) School in 17th century China,” examines how the claim of religious orthodoxy advocated by Huangbo Buddhist monks in 17th century China led first to the formation of a charismatic fellowship and then resulted in a full-fledged denomination in Chan/Zen Buddhism.

This year’s doctoral fellows

Mei Cha is beginning her doctoral studies in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard University, where her primary focus will be on self-cultivation in Confucianism. Cha plans to research the environment in which Confucius formulated his ethical and philosophical ideas, the goal of which was to transform common people into virtuous gentlemen. To illuminate the role of Confucianism in modern China, Cha expects to engage in fieldwork to investigate the influence of Confucianism on individuals’ thoughts.

Alan Wagner is continuing his doctoral studies in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard University, where his primary focus is on the doctrinal development of early Chinese Buddhism, especially the Chan tradition. 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 the terms of the Western philosophical tradition.

Persis Berlekamp is a doctoral candidate in the History of Art and Architecture Department, Harvard University. Berlekamp is studying 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. While at the center for the spring semester, Berlekamp will pursue the question of how curiosity and religion were intertwined in the history of `ajab.

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

The undergraduate thesis fellows

Jennine Mazzarelli is a senior in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard University. Her senior thesis will explore changing trends in female Buddhist monasticism in contemporary Japan.

Duncan Hilton is a senior in the Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard University. His senior thesis will focus on how religion is growing in Mongolia following the adoption of a democratic constitution and free market economy in 1991 after 70 years of socialism and the outlaw of religious practice in Mongolia.