2021 Fall DSR Newsletter: Honours & Awards


Guggenheim Fellowships, a cluster of SSHRC Insight Grants for faculty projects, teaching awards and an impressive number of fellowships and honours for DSR members.


Guggenheim Fellowships

These prestigious awards are made to those demonstrating exceptional capacity for productive scholarship.

Amira Mittermaeir & Kevin O'Neill

Amira Mittermaier's fellowship will go towards a teaching-free year in 2022-23 to work on her next book, An Ethnography of God. While telling multiple stories about how Egyptian Muslims relate to, think about, grapple with, and live with (or without) God, the book will also ask broader questions about the stakes of approaching a figure like God ethnographically.

Kevin Lewis O'Neill's award will support his study of clerical sexual abuse in Latin America, with a focus on U.S. priests who moved (or were moved) to Central America to evade suspicion and, at times, prosecution. 

→ Read more

SSHRC Insight Grants

These highly competitive grants support research excellence for initiatives both from emerging and established scholars, judged worthy of funding by their peers and other experts.

Christoph EmmrichRobert GibbsPamela KlassenKevin O'NeillJ. Barton Scott

Professor Christoph Emmrich: Will continue work on his project, "Glossaries for the Gods and Other Users. The Religious Genealogy of the Newar Bilingual Dictionary."

Professor Robert Gibbs: Will explore the concept of study, using the Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig's translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into German as the foundation for his inquiry.

Professor Pamela Klassen: With postdoctoral fellow Krista Barclay, Klassen will convene a new collaborative project on the ongoing legacies of “myths of the moundbuilders,” working with scholars across the study of religion, archaeology, and Indigenous studies, and with Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre and the Newark Earthworks Centre at Ohio State University. 

Professor Kevin Lewis O'Neill: Will continue his pioneering work on the subject of clerical sexual abuse, particularly as it transcends borders.

Professor J. Barton Scott: Will work on his project "The Global Blasphemer: Multiculturalism and the Criticism of Religion in Colonial India and Its World."

Teaching Awards

During a significantly challenging pandemic period, such an award is an additionally significant acknowledgement of the talents of the recipient.

Professor Jennifer Harris won a 2020-21 Faculty of Arts & Science Outstanding Teaching Award. This award is given in recognition of “excellence in undergraduate and graduate education with a focus on classroom instruction, course design and curriculum development.”

Joud Alkorani (PhD 2021) received the sessional division departmental teaching award from UTM’s Department of Historical Studies. The award is made in recognition of Joud’s “excellent contribution to the Diaspora and Transnational Studies teaching program.” → More about Joud and her teaching approach 

PhD candidate Anna Cwikla won the 2021 Teaching Assistant’s Training Program (TATP) TA Teaching Excellence award. She is one of only five recipients of the university-wide award, which recognizes “the outstanding contributions of teaching assistants at the University of Toronto [...] who regularly inspire and challenge undergraduate students.” This is the second time Anna has been recognized for her teaching contributions: in 2019 she was awarded UTM’s June Scott Teaching Excellence Award for Teaching Assistants

Other Tributes, Achievements and Honours

Book cover - Christ's AssociationsProfessor John Kloppenborg won the 2021 Francis W. Beare Book Prize, awarded by the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, for his book Christ’s Associations: Connecting and Belonging in the Ancient City (Yale University Press, 2019).

Book cover - The Achievement of David NovakThe Achievement of David Novak: A Catholic‐Jewish Dialogue is a book of essays by 12 scholars, published by Wipf and Stock/Pickwick Publications. A festschrift from Catholic theologians and philosophers to the great Jewish theologian Professor David Novak, with Novak's responses to each of them.

Book cover - The Marriage PlotProfessor Naomi Seidman was awarded the 2020 Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies, sponsored by the Modern Language Association, for The Marriage Plot, Or, How Jews Fell in Love with Love, and with Literature (Stanford University Press, 2016).

Professor Alexander Hampton received a grant for ‘The Spirit of the Dawn Chorus: Conserving the Pandemic Soundscape’ as part of the 2021‐2022 Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts. The project involves faculty and graduate students in music, wildlife biology, and religion, and will collect recordings of birdsongs from backyards and parks across the GTA. These will be musically analyzed and transcribed, ultimately inspiring a new composition that reflects upon the pleasure of hearing birdsong in the midst of the Covid‐19 pandemic. → Visit the website.

Professors Frances Garrett and Shafique Virani each won Virtual Learning Strategy funding grants. The fund is intended to drive growth and advancement in virtual learning across Ontario’s post-secondary institutions. 

PhD student Rebecca Runesson Sanfridson won the 2020 Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Jeremias Prize for her paper “Centurions in the Jesus Movement? The Diffusion of the Christ Cult into Roman Military Networks”.

To acknowledge the incredible work that students do to support the life of our department, we are pleased to announce this year's recipients of the DSR Graduate Student Service Award. The award winners for 2020-2021 are Sadaf Ahmed, Saliha Chattoo, and Edward Escalon. We are deeply grateful to these students for their contributions and commitment to our community.

Fellowships & Scholarships

Bryon MaxeyPhD student Bryon Maxey was the first DSR student ever to win a prestigious Trudeau Foundation Scholarship. → Bryon told us about his research and following his dreams

For the academic year 2022-3, Professor Simon Coleman will hold an appointment as Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.

Jackman Humanities Institute Fellowships
  • Professors Christoph Emmrich and Kevin J. White were awarded Scholar in Residence fellowships from the Jackman Humanities Institute. 
  • Professor Emmrich’s project, “’Extensive Play’ and the Other Beginning of an Indigenous Himalayan Literature” will prepare the grounds for the first commented edition and translation of Niṣṭhānanda’s text by creating a concordance of the Newar translation and its Sanskrit namesake. → Read moreProfessor White will work alongside Professor Susan Hill of the Centre for Indigenous Studies on the Six Nations of Grand River Community History Project. → Read more
  • Professor Walid Saleh was awarded a six-month JHI Research Fellowship for his project 'A History of the Qur'an Commentary Tradition (Tasfir)', and Professor Shafique Virani received a twelve-month Research Fellowship for his project 'Sensual and Spiritual: Pleasure in the Thought of Nasir-I Khusraw'.

Professor Luther Obrock was awarded a 2021-22 fellowship at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies.

Postdoctoral fellow Victoria Fomina was awarded a Junior Visiting Fellowship at The Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna as well as a postdoctoral fellowship at New Europe College in Bucharest. We were sorry to say goodbye to Victoria, who had been supervised by Simon Coleman, and wish her well! Victoria’s doctoral dissertation, “Dead Heroes and Living Saints: Orthodoxy, Nationalism, and Militarism in Contemporary Russia and Cyprus” was selected to receive the Central European University 2021 Best Dissertation Award

Postdoctoral fellow Dr. Sayfeddin Kara was awarded a prestigious Marie Sklodowska Curie Global Fellowship from the European Commission for the research project “Textual Integrity of the Qur’an: Sunni and Shi’I Historical Narrations on the Falsification.” The project will be jointly supervised by Prof Walid Saleh and Prof Jens Scheiner of the University of Göttingen. → Meet Sayfeddin and learn about his project in this article

PhD candidate Usmon Boron secured a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California Berkeley, with a project tentatively titled “Toward an ethics of friendship: Islam and modern counterpublics in Kyrgyzstan.” He will be supervised by Professor Charles Hirschkind of the Anthropology Department (who was once a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow here in the DSR).

PhD candidate Delbar Khakzad received a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship for her project, "The Politics of Time in the Modern Shi'I Eschatology: Forgetting as a Technique of Power." She will be holding the Fellowship at McGill University under the supervision of Professor Setrag Manoukian.

PhD candidate Jonathan Peterson accepted a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship for his project titled “Deciphering Difference: Scripture, Polemic, and Community in Early Modern India,1520‐1700”. Jonathan will be located at Stanford University under the guidance of Professor Elaine Fisher in the Department of Religious Studies.

Professor Nada Moumtaz will be hosting an Arts & Science Postdoctoral Fellow next year: Ari Schriber is a scholar of Islamic law in Morocco, who is also a Harvard University graduate.

PhD candidate Kyle Byron is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Right-Wing Studies at UC Berkeley for this year. Kyle is currently doing his dissertation fieldwork in San Francisco, working with a street preaching organization. 

PhD candidate Edward Escalon DSR doctoral candidate Edward Escalon Jr. was awarded an R.F. Harney Graduate Research Fellowship in Ethnic, Immigration, and Pluralism Studies at the Munk School for 2021-2022.. Edward also secured an Institute for Citizens & Scholars Mellon Mays Travel and Research grant, in support of his dissertation research. 

PhD candidates Sloane Geddes and Sukshmadarshi Maharaj were each awarded a Black, Indigenous, and Racialized Graduate Student Research Fellowship this past June. The awards are co-sponsored by the Vice Dean, Graduate and UTM Principal to recognize excellence in research and scholarly performance.

PhD candidate Annie Heckman received the Tsadra Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Tibetan Buddhist Studies. This prestigious fellowship is in support of Annie’s dissertation “Reassembling Discipline: A Study of Butön’s Compendium of Narratives for Nuns.”

PhD candidates Roxanne Korpan and Christina Pasqua were both awarded highly competitive Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship Awards. Roxanne Korpan’s award will support the writing of her dissertation entitled “Scriptural Relations: Colonial Formations of Anishinaabemowin Bibles in Nineteenth-Century Canada.” Christina Pasqua’s fellowship is in support of her dissertation: “Drawing Out the Word: Remediating the Bible through Comics”.

DSR student and Religion Undergraduate Student Association President Mukti Patel will be a Jackman Humanities Institute Undergraduate Fellow next year. There is stiff competition for these fellowships, and Mukti’s success is very well deserved. 

Doctoral student Rachelle Saruya received the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai scholarship 2021‐2022, one of the most prestigious and most highly endowed awards in Buddhist Studies.She will conduct doctoral research on Burmese Buddhist nuns' education at a Japanese university with a mentor of her choice for one year. Rachelle was also awarded the 2021-22 Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in support of her thesis "Autonomous Beings and Docile Bodies: Myanmar-Burmese Buddhist Nuns, Educational Practices, and Rituals in Training," as well as the UTM Historical Studies Graduate Fellowship 2020-2021.

PhD candidate Ian Turner received a fellowship in the inaugural cohort of graduate student fellows in U of T’s Critical Digital Humanities Initiative. The CDHI focuses on developing a new paradigm of critical humanities scholarship that emphasizes issues around power, social justice and critical theory. 

PhD candidate Susan van Geuns received the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society Graduate Fellowship. → Read our Q&A with her as she discusses her argument that the ambition to build a better world through technology is itself a religious narrative


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