October 2013 News Briefs

In Memoriam: Otto Maduro

Otto Maduro, past president of the American Academy of Religion and renowned philosopher and sociologist of religion, died on May 9 at the age of 68. Professor Maduro’s prolific body of work included over one hundred articles published in a dozen languages, and his work in the Academy was grounded in the pursuit of the liberation of marginalized peoples. Just before his death, Otto retired from his position as professor of world Christianity and Latin American Christianity at Drew Theological School where he had taught since 1992.

He is the author of several books about religion, liberation, and Maxism, including Mapas para la Fiesta, Religión y Conflicto Social, and Marxismo y Religión (which won the 1977-78 Best Essay of the Year by the National Council for Cultural Affairs, Venezuela). In 2002 he was chosen as a recipient of the Positive Men of Color Award by the Generations Center at Princeton University, and in June 2012 he received the annual Virgilio Elizondo Award "for distinguished achievement in theology" at the annual colloquium of the Academy of Hispanic Catholic Theologians of the United States.

His work as a scholar and teacher was characterized by his integrity and contagious passion. His teaching, mentoring, and scholarly work emphasized epistemologies, Pentecostalism, LGBT and Latino/a liberation, inequalities, and the sociology of religion through the theories of Marx and Pierre Bourdieu. An immigrant to the United States himself, Otto cared deeply about the challenges faced by people who immigrated to this country—especially those from Latin and South America—and devoted himself to studying with and among other Latino immigrants in his community. He was also beloved by his students and colleagues, who have shared their memories of him on the university’s online memorial.

Otto brought his ethic of care to his term of presidency at the American Academy of Religion. Under his leadership, the organization developed guidelines for handling labor disputes that affect the Annual Meetings and restructured its investments in a more socially responsible manner. He also chose the topic of “migrants’ religions under imperial duress” as the plenary theme of the 2012 Annual Meeting in Chicago. Religious Studies News interviewed Otto last year about his background, his growth as a scholar and theologian, and his vision of the development of the Academy.

He is survived by his wife Nancy and son Mateo. He is remembered as a scholar, an activist, a teacher, and a friend.

Two sessions at the Annual Meetings will be held to honor Otto and his life’s work.  La Comunidad of Hispanic Scholars will host a session on Saturday morning, 9:00–11:30 a.m. at the Hilton Baltimore, Blake room (P23-118).  A special topics forum, “Honoring the Legacy and Life of Otto Maduro” will take place on Sunday, 3:00–4:30 p.m. in the Renaissance Harborplace hotel, Baltimore Ballroom B (A24-287).

In Memoriam: Robert Bellah

Preeminent sociologist and long-time AAR member Robert N. Bellah passed away on July 30, 2013, at the age of 86.   Bellah was the Elliot Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught from 1967 until 1997.  His research and teaching focused on cross-cultural religiosity in Japan and in American society. Bellah is best known for his seminal essays “Civil Religion in America” (1967)—where he coined the term "American civil religion" — and “Religious Evolution” (1964). He won the Sorokin Award from the American Sociological Association for Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in a Time of Trial (Harper, 1975) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (University of California Press, 1985). A prolific author, Bellah published his latest book, Religion in Human Evolution (Belknap Press), in 2011.   In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Bellah the National Humanities Medal for raising “our awareness of the values that are at the core of democratic institutions and of the dangers of individualism unchecked by social responsibility.” In 2007, Bellah received the AAR's Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.   The December issue of Journal of the American Academy of Religion will feature roundtable discussion of the field of sociology of religion—to which Bellah was a contributor—and an obituary by Mark Juergensmeyer.

Wendy Doniger Named 2015 ACLS Haskins Prize Lecturer

Wendy Doniger, AAR member and the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, will deliver the prestigious Haskins Prize Lecture at the 2015 American Council for Learned Socities Annual Meeting. The prize and annual lecture series, entitled "A Life of Learning," honors "scholarly careers of distinctive importance." Doniger is a prolific researcher and writer with over thirty books published in the areas of comparative mythology and Hinduism.

Henry Luce Foundation Awards Grants to Fund Boost Technology Expansion in Seminaries

The Henry Luce Foundation recently awarded grants to Odyssey Network’s digital project ON Scripture–The Bible,  and another $1.5 million to Princeton Theological Seminary to expand the school’s library of digital theological resources.

The $200,000 grant for ON Scripture builds onto a $750,000 initial grant by The Lilly Endowment. The project features weekly releases of digital content that integrates current events, biblical scripture, and scholarly analysis with the goal of assisting clergy in pastoral care.

Princeton Theological Seminary will use a $1.5 million grant from the Foundation to support its initiative to diversify and digitize the study of theology by creating partnerships with publishers and libraries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. “The Princeton Seminary has already taken a leading role in the creation of digital resources for shared knowledge and learning,” the Luce Foundation press release said. Over 70,000 texts have been added to its digital library, the Theological Commons. As the library continues to grow, “the Seminary will be pioneering the new field of “theological informatics,” exploring how more advanced digital media can make images, audio recordings, and interactive e-texts a key part of the study of theology.”

New Polls and Analysis from the Pew Research Center Religion and Public Life Project

American Jewish identity and Catholic perspectives on Pope Francis are the topics of two of the most recent polls and analyses from the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life. The full reports, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” and “Six Months into Papacy, Large Majority of Catholics Continue to Express Favorable View of Pope Francis,” can be read at the Pew Research Center’s website.

AAR to Conduct Survey to Analyze Long-term Impact of the Religious Studies Major

The AAR requests institutions with an undergraduate major in religious studies support a survey of their former majors that will help determine the impact of the religious studies major.

Institutions can participate in the survey by providing a list of graduates with current email addresses along with a letter from an institional figure (department chair or otherwise) that will accompany the survey when it is sent to former students. Participating institutions will receive a report of their institution's results as well as national data.

There are grants available to help instiutions that need resources to conduct the survey. Interested participants are encouraged to attend an Annual Meeting session about the project (A24-232, “Survey of the Long Term Imapcts of Liberal Education on Religious Studies Majors,” Sunday, 1:00–2:30 p.m., Sheraton Inner Harbor – Potomac).

The project is supported by the Teagle Foundation and administered by an IRB protocol by Georgia State University. To learn more, please visit the survey’s web page.

Call for Chapters: AAR-OUP Teaching Religious Studies Series, “Teaching Interreligious Encounters”

There is a projected new volume in the AAR’s Teaching Religious Studies book series on teaching interreligious encounters. This volume will consist of essays addressing various facets, practical and theoretical, of teaching across multiple religious traditions, including comparative theology and theologies of religious pluralism. The essays need not utilize the scholarship of teaching and learning and research on pedagogy, but such proposals are especially welcome. The contributions may run anywhere along the gamut of teaching as knowing (content) to sustained reflection on the practice of teaching comparative theology and theologies of religious pluralism. Approaches of essays can include, but are not limited to: student learning outcomes, important topics to cover, “essential” readings for students in these areas, experiential learning, practical experiences in the classroom, syllabus design, site visits, what does and does not “work” and why, resources/toolboxes and helps for teaching, models, and preferred pedagogies. Suggestions for other topics and approaches are certainly welcome. Each contribution will be 4000 to 5000 words. You may view the previous volumes in the series at: http://www.aarweb.org/publications/teaching-religious-studies-series.

Please submit a 250-word abstract by December 31, 2013, to Alex Hwang (hwangalex@yahoo.com) or Marc Pugliese (marc.pugliese@saintleo.edu).