Senior Fellows Meet for Summer Seminar

Twelve of our Senior Fellows gathered for a week of rich and wide-ranging discussion as part of our ongoing seminar series on religion in public life. They were joined by Slate journalist, Jamelle Bouie, PRRI’s Carolyn Davis and Stephen Colecchi from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Summer Seminar began on Monday morning with a discussion of Didier Fassin’s Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present. Following lunch, the group discussed Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique. These two books served as “shared texts” for the week, common readings engaged by participating scholars to help initiate and drive conversation. Themes from the books re-emerged throughout the week, and The Limits of Critique again became the object of attention when Rita Felski, Willam R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English at U.Va., spoke to the group on Wednesday.

Beyond these books, the group also read four works, in different stages of development, by scholars in the group. For the first manuscript workshop, held on Monday, the group focused on an introductory chapter of an evolving book project on black fatherhood by Vincent Lloyd. The next day, the group turned its attention to the first chapter of William Wood’s book on analytic theology and the academic study of religion, which is nearing completion. On Wednesday, the scholars looked at a project in its earliest stages, a draft of a book proposal by Darlene Weaver on moral failure. Finally, on Thursday, the group turned to the preface and introduction to Patience: A Theological Exploration, by Paul Jones – another book nearing completion.

Prominent figures from outside of academia came to speak during the week as well. Two of these guests, Stephen Colecchi and Carolyn Davis, work at the intersection of religion and public life. Colecchi, Director of the Office of Justice and Peace for United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke on Tuesday of the global work and priorities of the Catholic Church. Davis, Director of Strategic Engagement for Public Religion Research Institution, described PRRI’s gathering and organizing of data on religious attitudes. She also talked about using her academic background – a Ph.D. in Religion from Vanderbilt – to influence the public policy arena. Finally, Jamelle Bouie, Chief Political Correspondent for Slate and Political Analyst for CBS News, visited the group on Thursday afternoon. He discussed his work as a writer and thinker committed to analyzing and confronting the resurgence of racism in American political life.

Read graduate student Evan Sandsmark’s analysis on the summer seminar here.