2023 Fall DSR Newsletter

Message from the Chair and Graduate Chair, Professor Pamela Klassen

Welcome to the December 2023 issue of the Department for the Study of Religion newsletter. The DSR is a busy place these days, as a hub for research and teaching where faculty and students bring their expertise to bear on some of the most pressing issues of our time. This past fall has been challenging, as many DSR members have been personally affected by the war in Gaza and the Hamas attacks. Next term, students will have the chance to think more deeply about this region in a course called “Religion and Religiosity in Israel/Palestine,” taught by Prof. Yigal Nizri. They can also take a course taught by Prof. Srilata Raman, “Religion, Violence, and Non-Violence.” The university plays a critical role in providing context for better understanding conflict in the world, and the DSR seeks to do its part to foster spaces for important and difficult conversations.

The DSR is also a space of community and gathering, whether in the seminar room or the lounge. Every Thursday at noon, people are drawn to the lounge to share food — Fereshteh Hashemi’s soups, Michael Twamley’s cookies, and the generous offerings of many others. Since community plays such an important role in the academic life of the DSR, we are undertaking a major renovation of our shared spaces, with the support of the Faculty of Arts & Science, the Provost’s Office, and the Robert H. N. Ho Centre for Buddhist Studies. Hopefully by this time next year, we’ll have two revamped seminar rooms, a refreshed kitchen and lounge, and most excitingly, a new student-friendly “chill space” directly across from the elevators. If you want to know more, just ask Department Manager Michael Twamley.

We are especially thrilled to be building a space to welcome undergraduate students to the DSR, as we have experienced tremendous growth in our course enrolments — the number of students in classes has almost tripled since 2019. Similarly, our number of new majors, minors, and specialists has doubled since last year. This impressive growth in student interest in religion courses and programs is due to the dedication and creativity of our faculty and teaching assistants, as well as to our very active Religion Undergraduate Student Association and the innovative work of Phoebe To, our Undergraduate Program Assistant.

This issue of the newsletter is packed with news about the research and teaching accomplishments of DSR faculty and students. Looking forward, on February 28, 2024 we will be welcoming Professor Cécile Fromont of Yale University as our DSR Alumni & Friends lecturer, speaking on “Slave Trade, Witchcraft, Art.” And then on May 2-4, 2024 the DSR will be hosting the American Academy of Religion/Eastern International Region Annual Meeting, on the topic of “Sea Change: Religion, Cosmology, Environment.” Please mark your calendars for both events—everyone is welcome!

In preparation for the celebration of the DSR’s 50th Anniversary in 2025-26, we are hoping to reconnect with as many alumni as possible. If you would like to keep up to date on the party plans or share your news with the DSR community, please reach out to our Communications Officer, Siri Hansen.

I am always delighted to hear from alumni and friends of the DSR—if you have thoughts on how you might support us in our mission of research and teaching excellence in the study of religion, please let me know. I wish everyone a peaceful holiday.

— Pamela Klassen, FRSC
Professor, Chair & Graduate Chair, Department for the Study of Religion



The Write Stuff
Books, articles, blog pieces, podcasts – you name it. By and about our faculty, postdocs and students.
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Honours & Awards
Prizes and accolades recognizing the DSR’s contributions to the academy.
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Undergraduate Excellence
Meet Audrey Miatello, winner of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion Undergraduate Student Essay contest.
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Meetings of Minds
So much happening in and around the department: events, exchange and debate plus discussion, socializing and more. 
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Violence, Values and the Violation of Boundaries
Recent DSR postdoctoral fellow Max Kennel’s recent book considers violence as a diagnostic concept. 
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In the Works
An update on various projects that we’re working on, including our special Alumni & Friends Lecture from Yale’s Cécile Fromont. 
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Fall 2023 Grads & Award Winners
We’re proud to present our sensational spring graduates!
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Our Community
We bring you news and updates on DSR alumni and friends. 
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