Big Data & Providence: Political Theologies of Omniscience in the Digital Age with Hanna Reichel

Religion and Its Publics hosted a paper workshop with Hanna Reichel, Associate Professor of Reformed Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. The paper, entitled “Big Data & Providence: Political Theologies of Omniscience in the Digital Age”, explores conversations between the doctrine of God and emergent surveillance cultures.

Date: April 27, 2018

Faith and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue | Lecture with Melissa Rogers | April 19th at 5:00pm | Nau Hall 211

Religion and Its Publics welcomed Melissa Rogers for a lecture entitled Faith and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Thursday, April 19 at 5:00pm in Nau Hall 211. Rogers discussed ways in which religion played a role in the White House during the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as the future of faith and the federal executive branch.

In addition to a public lecture, Rogers also met with undergraduates about working in religion, law, and public policy in DC, and with graduate students on current controversies in religion and public life.

Melissa Rogers recently served as special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the Obama administration, and previously served as chair of the inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Date: April 19, 2018

Senior Fellows Meet in Washington, D.C.

The senior fellows of the Project on Religion and Its Publics met in Washington, D.C. for a second weekend of rich discussion and workshops. On Friday evening, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post came to talk with Jane Little about his latest book, One Nation After Trump.

The scholars probed him on truth, threats to civil institutions, and evangelicals; why the “values voters” who swallowed their concerns about Candidate Trump continue to support the president in numbers well beyond the general population.

The next day began with a discussion of Amanda Anderson’s 2016 book Bleak Liberalism, which argues that liberalism is more than Rawlsian proceduralism. On Anderson’s account, the liberal tradition is a rich one, enlivened by significant literary and critical voices, and containing a set of values and an aesthetic sensibility of its own.

The next object of discussion was senior fellow, Slavica Jakelić’s forthcoming book, tentatively titled The Practice of Religious and Secular HumanismsThe book defends humanism, but understood expansively: Humanism is not, contrary to some popular understandings, an inherently secular (much less atheistic) philosophy. Rather, it is a place of encounter between religious and secular worldviews, and one that recommends a way of being in the world that bears a certain resemblance to the Aristotelian concept of flourishing.

Over lunch, the group discussed several essays taken from Mark Greif’s Against Everything and Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams. These writings are interesting examples of work produced by writers who are academically initiated (both earned PhDs at Yale), but who work outside the academy. Particular attention was paid to their writing style, from the structure of their essays down to the cadence of their sentences.

Saturday ended with a session dedicated to a recent essay by senior fellow, Thomas Lewis on moral formation, which on Lewis’s account has not ceased in modernity, despite influential claims to the contrary. We can see this in part by exploring the concept of Bildung in the philosophy of Hegel and the novels of Jane Austen, the dual focus of Lewis’s paper. A version of the essay the group read was recently presented at a conference and will be published in a forthcoming volume, but its insights stem from his larger research program and is connected to Lewis’s current book project, The Eclipse of Ethical Practices in the Modern West.

The weekend concluded with a discussion of possible directions forward for the group. Among other things, the group continues to reckon with the purpose and value of public scholarship, and how such work should fit into an academic research agenda. The Senior Fellows will convene again in Charlottesville in July.

Report by Evan Sandsmark, Religion and Its Publics Graduate Research Assistant

Date: April 13-15, 2018

Jocabed Solano Miselis Visits Religion and Its Publics

Jocabed Solano Miselis is an indigenous, evangélica theologian from the Guna people, in Panama.

She co-directs the project Memorias Indígenas, through which she compiles and publishes the stories of Protestant and Evangelical churches among the indigenous/autochthonous/native peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Miselis visited Religion and Its Publics on March 19 to discuss her work with our own scholars and the broader University community.

Date: January 19, 2018

Luke Bretherton Workshops Current Manuscript with Religion and Its Publics

On Friday, January 19, the Project on Religion and Its Publics welcomed Luke Bretherton, Professor of Theological Ethics and Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke Divinity School, to workshop his current manuscript in-progress, Christ and the Common Life: A Guide to Political Theology (Eerdmans).

Date: January 19, 2018

Jennifer Herdt Visits Religion and Its Publics to Discuss Current Book Project

On September 29, the Project on Religion and Its Publics welcomed Jennifer Herdt, the Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School, to discuss her work in progress, Forming Humanity. What does it mean to hold ‘humanity’ itself as our telos? What does this have to do with aesthetic and ethical formation? And why is this a deeply political claim? Ruminating over these questions with Professor Herdt in a day-long workshop produced substantive conversation, enlightening for the many participants and useful for Professor Herdt as she revises the work for publication.

Date: September 29, 2017

Faith in the Struggle: Christianity & White Supremacy

The Project on Religion and Its Publics hosted a vibrant public discussion to reflect on the tragic and violent events over the weekend of August 11th and 12th that occurred in our home town of Charlottesville, VA. It was held in St. Paul’s Memorial Church – the venue where clergy and other peace activists gathered on the evening of the 11th as white nationalists marched outside. It focused on the role and responsibility of people of faith to tackle white supremacy theologically, intellectually, culturally – and how to continue to move forward with a new, invigorated religious-based activism.

The five-member panel included the Reverend Brenda Brown-Grooms, co-pastor of New Beginnings Christian Communities; Charlottesville Vice-Mayor, Dr. Wes Bellamy; the Reverend Seth Wispelwey, co-founder of Congregate Charlottesville; Dr. Larycia Hawkins, Lecturer in Politics at the University of Virginia; and Dr. Jalane Schmidt, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. It was chaired by John Edwin Mason, Professor of History at UVA.

Date: September 27, 2017

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 Weaveron 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.

Date: July 17, 2017–July 21, 2017
Location: University of Virginia, Charlottesville


Senior Fellows Meet in Washington, D.C.

Our Senior Fellows have gathered in D.C. for a weekend of wide-ranging discussion on neoliberalism and democracy, religion and politics, and to explore the varied ways in which scholars can build bridges between disciplines, the academy and the media, and engage multiple publics in urgent conversations about religion, society and the common good.

Date: April 8, 2017
Location: Washington, D.C.



Q&A with William Antholis

Director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at UVa, William Antholis will meet with religious studies undergraduates over lunch to discuss careers for those interested in religion and politics.



Date: March 27, 2017
Time: 12:30 – 2pm
Location: Nau 342


Dr. Paul Griffiths – Christian Flesh

Dr Paul Griffiths, Warren Professor of Catholic Theology at Duke, will be visiting UVA on Friday, March 3rd, for a manuscript workshop. The workshop will center on his short new book manuscript, Christian Flesh

Date: March 3, 2017
Time: 9:30 am – 3:00 pm
Location: Nau 441


Dr. Peter Kaufman – Augustine and Agamben

Dr. Peter Kaufman, George Matthews & Virginia Brinkley Modlin Chair in Leadership Studies at University of Richmond, visited UVa to workshop his new manuscript, “Citizens/Pilgrims: Augustine and Agamben.”

Date: February 24, 2017
Time: 1:00 PM
Location: Wilson 133


Dr. Wendy Doniger – The Subversion of Dharma

The Project is excited to have assisted with the hosting of Dr Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at University of Chicago, for a lecture on February 10th, titled, “The Subversion of Dharma in the Ancient Indian Texts of Sex and Politics.”

Date: February 10, 2017
Time: 3:00 pm
Location: Nau Hall, 342


Dr. Philip Gorski – American Covenant

Dr Philip Gorksi, Professor of Sociology at Yale University, visited UVA to discuss his upcoming book, American Covenant.

Date: February 2, 2017
Time: 12:30 – 2pm
Location: Nau 441


Dr. Stanley Hauerwas – Character and the Good Life

The Project is pleased to have hosted Dr Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Divinity and Law, Duke University, for a conversation on “character” and “the good life.”

Date: December 8, 2016
Time: 12 – 2 PM
Location: Nau Hall 342