2023 Spring DSR Newsletter: Meetings of Minds

DSR & Faculty's Recent Conferences, Workshops, Lectures & Colloquia

Get a flavour of the impressive range of intellectual exchange activities DSR members are involved in - 2023 has been a busy year so far!

Conferences & Workshops

February 20-23, 2023: Study and Dialogue: Buber and Rosenzweig – Manuscript Workshop
Professor Robert Gibbs
Gibbs is exploring the concept of study, framing it as a network of practices, disciplines and people, and focusing on a paradigmatic project of study: the translation by Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig of the Hebrew Scriptures into German. 

March 20-21, 2023: Bais Yaakov in Historical and Transnational Perspective
Professor Naomi Seidman
There are about 1300 of these “Bais Yaakov” schools in 13 countries. The first of these schools for Jewish girls was established in 1917 by Sarah Schenirer, a Polish seamstress in Krakow with an eighth-grade education. Within 15 years there were hundreds of them all around Poland and by the 1930s it was an international system. The students consider themselves sisters and daughters of Sarah Schenirer, and at her grave site in Krakow on any given night there will be women praying and dancing.

April 2, 2023: Undergraduate Student Conference on the Study of Religion
Religion Undergraduate Student Association and Professor Sarah Gallant
Now in its second year, this conference featured DSR undergraduates from a range of academic disciplines presenting on a whole variety of topics, including religion in the contexts of technology, disapora, culture, media, philosophy and the public sphere.

April 25-27, 2023: Mounds and Memory: Indigenous Sovereignty, Ceremonial Spaces, and Stories of the Mound Builders
Professor Pamela Klassen
Mounds and earthworks are monumental human­made landforms which, over the past 5,000 years and more, have served as ceremonial gathering spaces, burial sites, astronomical landmarks, pilgrimage destinations, and centres of Indigenous politics, mobility and commerce. They remain important sites for the activation and expression of Indigenous sovereignty. This workshop convened a conversation about the stewarding and re­storying of mounds and earthworks including scholars, Indigenous knowledge holders, and museum and heritage professionals. 

April 26, 2023: Trajectories of Slavery in Islamicate Societies: Three Concepts from Islamic Legal Sources
DSR's Professor Suleyman Dost and Dr. Seyfeddin Kara, with Dr. Serena Tolino (University of Bern)
Introduced by the DSR's Walid Saleh, chaired by Mohammad Fadel (U of T Faculty of Law), and with the participation of Omar Anchassi, Laura Edmunds and Laura Rowitz (all from the University of Bern's Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies).

April 27-29, 2023: Re-evaluating Methodological Trajectories in the Academic Study of Islam
Professors Walid Saleh, Suleman Dost and Karen Ruffle, and Dr. Seyfeddin Kara (DSR Postdoctoral Fellow)
Jointly hosted by the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, this conference brought together diverse and exciting voices in the field of Islamic studies to challenge existing disciplinary boundaries and traditional conventions of the field. Islamic studies is approached as an integrative field, where the Muslim tradition is taken as a whole in its complexity, be it confessional, material or historical, with particular emphasis on creative methods and the investigation of new questions within multiple frameworks.

April 28-29, 2023: Atelier @ Toronto
Professor Kevin Lewis O'Neill (series editor)
Atelier: Ethnographic Inquiry in the Twenty-First Century is a book series in anthropology from the University of California Press which takes a ground-up approach to the acquisition and publication of new ethnographic works. The aim is to set the conditions for collaboration at each stage of a book’s development, from the earliest draft through publication. Binding the series together is a principled commitment to the idea that ethnographic writing is itself a kind of intellectual work.

May 26-27, 2023: From Antistructure to Infrastructure - New Materialities in Pilgrimage Studies
Professor Simon Coleman
Convened by Professor Coleman during his appointment as a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, and presented by the Pilgrimage Studies Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. This workshop focused on the infrastructure of pilgrimage, looking less at sacred objects that are put on display and more at background forms of mediation that enable flows of goods and people to and around pilgrimage complexes. Pathways, varieties of non-sacred building, transportation systems, guides, maps, social media, taxes, visas, administrative, medical and policing systems all embody the physical apparatuses that are necessary for pilgrimage to take place. 

June 5-16, 2023
Professor Christoph Emmrich
With some forty students in attendance, the 2023 Toronto Newar Summer School offered the opportunity to learn to speak the idiom encountered in the streets of Kathmandu, to access the vast medieval and early modern Buddhist and Hindu literature preserved in classical Newar, and/or to delve into the writings of a thriving contemporary literary and academic Himalayan culture.

Under the expert guidance of three teachers and with students at all levels welcome, participants were able to focus on modern (spoken and written) or on literary (classical and modern) Newar. Beginners received a carefully crafted first exposure to the language, while intermediate or advanced students had the opportunity to strengthen their skills. 

Hailing from Leiden in the Netherlands, Srilaxmi Shrestha, MA, an acclaimed teacher of Newar and Nepali conducted the modern conversational Newar class. The modern literary Newar class was taught by Dr Bal Gopal Shrestha, one of the leading Nepalese anthropologists of Newar Buddhism and author of The Sacred Town of Sankhu (2012) and The Newars of Sikkim (2015).

The DSR’s Professor Christoph Emmrich, who teaches University of Toronto courses in Newar religion and literature, presented the classical Newar class.

Special Events


In March 2023, we held a special lecture event with guest Lucia Hulsether, who spoke on "Capitalist Humanitarianism: Labor, Loss, and the Study of Religion". Drawing on her recent book, she spoke eloquently on how the struggle against neoliberal order has gained momentum over the last five decades, to the point that economic elites have not only adapted to Left critiques but incorporated them for capitalist expansion. Venture funds expose their ties to slavery and pledge to invest in racial equity. Banks pitch microloans as a path to indigenous self-determination. Fair-trade brands narrate consumption as an act of feminist solidarity with women artisans in the global South. A theorist of religion, culture, and politics, Professor Hulsether visited from Skidmore College to deliver a lucid and thought-provoking lecture to a thoroughly engaged and enthusiastic audience. This lecture's success has made us determined to continue to hold a special annual event, dubbed the DSR Alumni & Friends Lecture, and we will be circulating information about the 2024 gathering when the details have been confirmed - watch this space!

March also saw "An Evening with Tsering Yangzom Lama", the Tibetan-Canadian activist and author of the acclaimed novel We Measure the Earth with our Bodies.  A lifelong activist, Tsering is a Storytelling Advisor at Greenpeace International, where she guides and trains offices around the world in narrative strategy. The evening featured readings, a panel discussion, questions from the audience, and a book signing. The Religion Undergraduate Student Association also organized a book club reading of the novel. Organized by postdoctoral fellow Michael Ium, the event was sponsored by the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto, with co-sponsorship from the Department for the Study of Religion's Religion in the Public Sphere initiative, the Department for the Study of Religion's Committee on Anti-Racism, Decolonization, and Equity, the Multi-Faith Centre, the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre, and the Tibetan Women's Association of Ontario.

The 2022-2023 DSR Graduate Colloquia Series

Our graduate students regularly present their work to students and faculty members, with respondents drawn from DSR and other University of Toronto faculty. Check out the varied topics that were under discussion over the last academic year.

Date Title Presenter Respondent
2022 October Imperial Cartography and the Archaeology of Buddhism in Sir Aurel Stein’s 1918-1922 Maps of Northwestern China Nick Field Adrien Zakar
2022 November The Authoritarian Character: Psychoanalytical and Frankfurt School Approaches Emily Pascoe James DiCenso
2022 November The Golden Urn and the History of Finding the Enlightened in Tibet Kunga Sherab Libbie Mills
2022 November Spiritual Reproduction: Masculinity, Paternity, and Christian Kinship in U.S. Street Preaching Kyle Byron Alexandra Rahr
2022 November Philosophical Impossibility, Moral Obscenity: Michael Wyschogrod’s Existential Theology Vincent Calabrese Sol Goldberg
2023 January Drawing out the Word: Remediating the Bible through Comics Christina Pasqua Nyasha Junior
2023 January Public Schooling and the Secular Child: An Analysis of the Hall Dennis Commission in Ontario's 1960s Eric Farr Pamela Klassen
2023 February Prosthetic Gods, Projected Monsters: Technology, Transcendence, and the Online Unconscious Filip Andjelkovic  Ken Derry
2023 February Theorizing Violence: Killing and its Apologetics in the Tantrāloka Liwen Liu Elisa Freschi
2023 March Why Thou Art Not That: Vādirāja on tat tvam asi  Anusha Sudindra Rao Alessandro Graheli
2023 March The Harivamsha and the shadow behind its Krishna Darshi Maharaj Reid Locklin
2023 April Beyond the Secular Modern: Debates around Fictionality in Tamil Śaiva Literary Historical Discourse   Krissy Rogahn J Barton Scott
2023 April Entering the Wilderness: Covenantal Rituals and Cursing in the Qumran Serakhim Katie Maguire John Marshall
2023 April Manufacturing Commitment in Canada: Islamic Organizations Beyond Space-Making and Service Provision Sara Hamed Anver Emon


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