James Barnett Lecture Series

James Barnett Lecture Series in Humanistic Anthropology

"Religious Cultures"

For more information please contact Richard Sosis (richard.sosis@uconn.edu).


Stephen Glazier

University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Title: Demanding Deities and Reluctant Devotees: Belief, Unbelief, and Affect among Followers of the Orisa, Rastafari, and Spiritual Baptists Movements in Trinidad

Date: September 22, 2016

Time: 11:00-12:20

Place: Laurel Hall 305


Bio: Stephen D. Glazier (b. Mystic, Connecticut) earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut in 1981. His dissertation advisors were Seth Leacock, Dennison J. Nash, and Ronald M. Wintrob.  Glazier has conducted fieldwork on the Caribbean island of Trinidad for over thirty years focusing on African American religions such as Rastafari, Orisa/Sango, and the Spiritual Baptists. He also publishes on Caribbean archaeology and ethnohistory. While a visiting scholar at Yale University, he cataloged Irving Rouse's St. Joseph (Trinidad) and Mayo (Trinidad) collections for the Yale Peabody Museum. Glazier was a member of the Graduate Faculty in Anthropology at the University of Nebraska and offered classes in general (four-field) anthropology, race and minority relations, and the anthropology of belief systems. He received the Pratt-Heins award for Excellence in Scholarship (1991), has been featured in "Profiles of Excellence" (2001-2002), and in 2011, was recognized as the Outstanding Honors Faculty of the Year.  Glazier earned his BA at Eastern University (then Eastern College) where he majored in Sociology/Anthropology under Anthony J. Campolo. He began graduate studies in anthropology at Princeton University under Martin G. Silverman, Hildred Geertz, Alfonso Ortiz, and Vincent Crapanzano.  Glazier also earned an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary.  His M. Div. thesis (directed by James Loder) was based on experiences as an Assistant Chaplain at New Jersey Neuro Psychiatric Institute and dealt with patterns of schizophrenic speech. Glazier served as book review editor of the journal Anthropology of Consciousness. He was elected for two terms as President of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness. He also served as Vice-President and Secretary of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion and as a Council Member and Secretary of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.



Abstract: Belief and unbelief are major categories of the Western intellectual tradition. But many Caribbean people do not subscribe to these Western notions. For example, most Spiritual Baptists 'recognize' and 'acknowledge' Orisa -- yet do not 'believe' that the Orisa should be worshipped. Rastafarians are materialists and do not ‘recognize’ or ‘acknowledge’ the existence of Orisa spirits. Rastafarians regard all talk of Orisa as naïve and misinformed. Orisa devotees themselves seldom question the ontological and epistemological status of the Orisa (who are part of their daily lives and play a central role in family interactions), but they do not agree as to the nature of the Orisa and how one should interact with them.


In Caribbean religious conversion, credo usually takes a back seat to unarticulated sensations, and affect plays a greater role in religious conversions than belief statements. Socialization is also a factor in conversion. By serving a particular Orisa in a particular way, devotees delineate their own positions within the movement as well as their positions relative to others outside the movement. Serving the Orisa – like participation in Spiritual Baptist ritual and Rastafari reasoning -- entails much sacrifice. In the case of Orisa, parents often attempt to postpone a child’s initiation for as long as possible so as to avoid obligations to the spirits.

seemanDon Seeman

Emory University

Title: Coffee and the Moral Order: Ethiopian Jews and Pentecostals against Culture

Date: November 1, 2016

Time: 11:00-12:20

Place: Laurel Hall 305


Bio: Don Seeman is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University. He is the co-editor of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion series at Palgrave-Macmillan and the convener of the Forum for the Ethnographic Study of Religion at Emory. Don writes at the intersection of medical and phenomenological anthropology, religious studies and Jewish Studies, and is the author of One People, One Blood: Ethiopian-Israelis and the Return to Judaism (Rutgers, 2009) as well as the co-editor with Sarah Willen of a special issue of Ethos (2012) devoted to crossroads of psychoanalytic and phenomenological anthropology.


Abstract: The importance of coffee (buna) to traditional Ethiopian (including Ethiopian Jewish) culture is well-known. Its drinking, surrounded by ritual and sociality, is considered a true mark of “being Ethiopian.” But the refusal of buna by some Ethiopian Jews and Pentecostals living in Israel marks a protest against the very notion of culture as a decisive way for thinking about the possibilities of being human. In different ways, some members of these religious communities seek to ground a notion of moral and personal freedom on the critique of culture as a guiding force. This paper explores the implications this dynamic for Ethiopian-Israelis, but also for anthropology as a whole. How does moving away from a cultural frame towards a moral experience frame change the way we tell stories, the kinds of theories we develop and the kind of ethnography we do? This is a call for a different kind of anthropology, in which claims about freedom and moral experience are taken seriously by social science.

TulasiTulasi Srinivas

Emerson College

Title: Towards an Anthropology of Wonder

Date:  Monday, April 03, 2017

Time: 2:00 pm

Place: Beach Hall 404


Bio: Tulasi Srinivas is associate professor at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College, Boston. Currently she is a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University. She is the author of two award winning volumes and several papers and articles. Her work has been covered by WNY, NPR, and The Boston Globe.


Abstract: Why are we here? What is a “good” life? Can we imagine a different future? These are the most enduring and bewildering of existential questions. I tell the story of an unexpected creativity through the everyday practice of Hindu priests and their congregations in Bangalore who co-create new wondrous experiences through creative temple rituals. I offer  an ethnography of this wonderment which seeks a new conceptual framework to deal with contemporary religious practice and ethical claims in a modern megacity. Vitally, acknowledging wonder as a religious imperative has significant repercussions on our interrogation on the nature of the real of non-western religions as wells our understandings of the place of religion in our world. I argue that for Hindu ritual participants in Bangalore the attunement to wonder is cast as imperative, to resist, appropriate and recast modern capitalism giving them agency to express their futures in their own practices and theologies. Ritual creativity allows for an extension of the virtual horizons of imagination-- of perceptions, actions and affections—towards an unseen, yet boldly imagined, wondrous ethical futurity.

James Barnett Lecture Series in Humanistic Anthropology

Religion and Public Discourse 

All lectures will be held at The Humanities Institute (UCHI), Austin Building, Room 301. For more information please contact Richard Sosis (richard.sosis@uconn.edu). Please contact uchi@uconn.edu or 486-9057 to reserve a seat.

Adam SeligmanSeligman

Boston University

Title: Living with Difference

Date: February 29, 2016

Time: 2:15-3:45

Place: UCHI

Adam B. Seligman is Professor of Religion at Boston University and Research Associate at its Institute for Culture, Religion and World Affairs. He lived for close to 20 years in Israel, where he was a member of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in the early 1970s. He was Fulbright Fellow in Hungary from 1990 to 1992. He has been Visiting Professor of Sociology at Harvard University and Visiting Professor of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. His many books include The Idea of Civil Society (Free Press, 1992), Inner-worldly Individualism (Transaction Press, 1993) , The Problem of Trust (Princeton University Press, 1997), with Mark Lichbach Market and Community, (Penn State U. Press, 2000), Modernity’s Wager: Authority, the Self and Transcendence, (Princeton University Press, 2002), Modest Claims Dialogues and Essays on Tolerance and Tradition (Notre Dame University Press,2004) with Weller, Puett and Simon, Ritual and its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity (Oxford University Press, 2008), with Robert Weller, Rethinking Pluralism: Ritual, Experience and Ambiguity (Oxford University Press, 2012) . He recently edited, Religious Education and the Challenge of Pluralism (Oxford University Press, 2014). He is Director of CEDAR – Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion, which leads workshops every year on contested aspects of religion, difference and the public square in different parts of the world. A book on CEDAR, Living with Difference: How to Build Community in a Divided World was published in January 2016 with University of California Press.

Jeffrey SchlossSchloss

Westmont College

Title: Beyond the ‘or Wars’?: Intellectual Hubris and Humility in Religion-Evolution Conflicts

Date: April 4, 2016

Time: 2:15-3:45

Place: UCHI


What is often referred to as the “religion – evolution” conflict is not a single conflict, or even one general conflict with multiple fronts. Rather, it entails a suite of very different kinds of issues. Some represent distinctive tensions between religious beliefs and scientific understanding, but many of the most longstanding and crucial tensions involve intellectual issues that are salient but not endemic to religion, that are hotly debated within the natural sciences (and humanities), and that reflect differing commitments to epistemological and methodological reductionism. This talk will survey three issues that have prominently and persistently animated conflict between religion and evolution from Darwin’s time until the present: the question of design, debates over altruism and evolutionary evil, and evolutionary accounts of moral cognition. These issues will be employed as case studies to assess (a) the circumstances in which debates between religion and science may (or may not) reflect unresolved conflict within scientific theory itself, and (b) factors underlying the erosion of civil disagreement to vitriol.


Jeffrey Schloss holds the T.B. Walker Chair of Natural and Behavioral Sciences at Westmont College, where he is also the Director of the Center for Faith, Ethics & Life Sciences. His research interests include evolutionary accounts of human altruism, morality, and religious cognition, and theological and philosophical implications of evolutionary theory. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Wheaton College, and Jaguar Creek Tropical Research Center. He is also Senior Scholar at the BioLogos Foundation and has been a Danforth Fellow, a Crosson Fellow in the Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion, and a Plumer Fellow at St. Anne’s College Oxford. Recent work involves oxytocin mediated signals of religious commitment and interdisciplinary projects on Understanding Moral Sentiments: Darwinian Perspectives (with Hilary Putnam and Susan Neiman, Transaction, 2014) and The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Perspectives on the Origin of Religion (with Michael Murray, Oxford, 2010).

Cathy Gutierrez

New York Public Library

Title: The Perfect Problem: Eugenics and Utopia in Religious DiscourseGutierrez

Date: May 2nd, 2016

Time: 2:15 PM - 3:45

Place: Austin 301

Cathy Gutierrez is a Scholar in Residence at the New York Public Library where she is finishing her new work, The Deviant and the Dead: Spiritualism and the Sciences of Crime. She was a Professor of Religion at Sweet Briar College where she taught for eighteen years. Her primary research interests are nineteenth-century Spiritualism and the history of esotericism, particularly where they intersect with ideas of consciousness. She has published on the Free Love movement in America, Theosophy, millennialism, and the Freemasons. Her monograph, Plato’s Ghost: Spiritualism in the American Renaissance (Oxford University Press 2009), examines the American legacy of Neoplatonism in popular religious expression and she is the editor several collections, most recently the Brill Handbook of Spiritualism and Channeling (2015).