2015 is once again behind us, and, despite my excellent intention to update this activity blog much earlier on in the year, it remained simply that, a good intention.  But as always, the Religious Studies department is a highly productive member of the UW community and a great deal of activity took place, both in terms of publications and presentations.

My name is Dr. Doris Jakobsh and as I noted in my first installment last year, I volunteered to set up this info-blog to chart some of the goings on in the RS department.   As was the case last year, I am here giving a wrap-up of the scholarly activities of our department, including publications, conference presentations and public talks, as well as some of the scholarly work of a number of RS PhDs.   And again, if one of your favourite RS professors isn’t mentioned too often or not at all, it is likely that they are carrying a heavy administrative load alongside their teaching. In this case, their primary focus in RS is teaching those wonderful courses that the department offers! Also, it does occur occasionally that one or more of us have projects ‘in press’ – hence their publications are not yet showing up. You’ll have to wait until 2016’s installment to see what those might include.  You can connect with Religious Studies faculty and staff here.


Administratively, Religious Studies is still being guided most ably by our Chair, Dr. Mavis Fenn (  Professor Jim Diamond ( is at the helm of Undergraduate Studies (Associate Chair, Undergraduate) and I’ve taken on the position of Associate Chair, Graduate Studies ( for our department.  Fiona McAlister ( is our most able administrator.   

Here are some of Religious Studies’ activities, both at the University of Waterloo and affiliated university colleges.


Main Campus:


Research Grants:

Co-PI for SSHRC Partnership Grant awarded to Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS) (, $2.15 million.

Conference Presentations:

“Religion, Violence, and the Islamic State: Insights from Canadian Foreign Fighters” (with Amarnath Amarasingam), Society for Terrorism Research, Birmingham City University, Birmingham U.K., Sept. 10-11.

“Trying to Talk to Terrorists: Ethical Hurdles in Canada” (with Amarnath Amarasingam), Society for Terrorism Research, Birmingham City University, Birmingham U.K., Sept. 10-11.

“The Canadian Situation and Experience,” Plenary #1 – Setting the Stage: Violent Extremism in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Lessons Learned from Canada, the UK and the US, Washington D.C., July 28-30.

“A Few Key Conceptual Lessons Learned,” Breakout #3: Mobilization to Violence: How Radicalization Shifts to Violent Extremism, Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Lessons Learned from Canada, the UK and the US, Washington D.C., July 28-30.

Invited Talks:

Three Lectures on Religion and Violence for 123rd Queen’s Annual Theology Conference, Kingston ON, Oct.19-21.

“Global Issues: Radicalization,” Canadian Security Studies Program, Canadian Forces College, Toronto, Oct. 8.

“The Social Ecology of Homegrown Terrorism & Foreign Fighters,” TSAS Summer Academy, University of British Columbia, July 22.

TSAS Counter-Narrative Workshop participant, sponsored by Public Safety Canada, Ottawa, June 15.

“Panel #3: The Role of ISIS,” Current Politics of the Middle East, Balsillie School of International Affairs, May 27.

“The Social Ecology of Homegrown Terrorist Radicalization,” day long symposium: “The Islamic State and the Middle East: The Abuse of History and Religion,” Memorial University, April 27.

“Canadian Foreign Fighters,” Public Talk at the Rocket Bakery, St. John’s, Newfoundland, April 26.

 “The Social Ecology of Homegrown Terrorist Radicalization,” RCMP 2015 National Security Interviewing Workshop, Calgary, Alberta, April 24.

“What is ISIS? Why do Canadians Join?” Department of Religious Studies Public Lecture Series, University of Waterloo, Mar. 19.

Testimony before the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defense, re: homegrown terrorist radicalization and its prevention, Feb. 23.

 Presenter (“The Social Ecology of Becoming a Homegrown Terrorist in Canada [hour long version]”) and participant in RCMP E Division INSET, National Security Interviewing Workshop, Jan. 29 & 30




“Menachem Kellner: An Intellectual Portrait,” in Menachem Kellner: Jewish Universalism, eds., Hava Tirosh-Samuelson and Aaron Hughes, Leiden: Brill, 1-33,

“Genocide,” Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, vol. 10, Berlin: De Gruyter,


“Zionism: Essential Normatively for Jewishness, Philosophically for Humanness,” Session: Is Jewishness Whole Without Zionism?, Association for Jewish Studies Annual Conference, Baltimore, USA.

“The Epistemological Value of Suffering: Rupture in the Warsaw Ghetto,” International Workshop, How do Jews Know: Epistemologies of Jewish Knowledge, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany, June.


Canadian Jewish Literary Award for the best book (2014-2015) in the category of Scholarship for Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon (Cambridge University Press),

Templeton Foundation/ Herzl Institute fellowship in Jewish Philosophical Theology,

Community Lectures:

Beit HaMinyan Congregation, Toronto, “Do We all Serve the Same God? The Subject of the ‘First Commandment,” February.

West Side Institutional Synagogue New York, Scholar in Residence, April.

            Lecture #1 ”Why Moses Maimonides Matters”

Lecture#2 “Was Aaron Silent?: The First Debate Over Dying for God”

Congregation Shearith Israel, New York, “Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon,” April.

Alpha Omega Dental fraternity, “Maimonides: Philosopher, Scientist, Doctor- What Does He have to Say to Us Today?,” May.


DORIS JAKOBSH (on sabbatical January to July):


Feminizing the Khalsa.  Text, narrative and image within the virtual realm,” Sikh Formations 11:1-2, 190-209

“Seeking the Image of ‘Unmarked’ Sikh Women: Text, Sacred Stitches, Turban,” Religion & Gender. Special issue: The Normative Power of Images 5:1, 35-51, see article at file://artsfileu/artshome$/djakobsh/Downloads/10085-21535-1-PB%20(2).pdf

“Marking the Female Sikh Body. Reformulating and Legitimating Sikh Women’s Turbaned Identity on the World Wide Web,” Young Sikhs in a Global World: Negotiating Identity, Tradition and Authority, K. Jacobsen and K. Myrvold, eds., Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 125-148,


With Margaret Walton-Roberts, “A century of miri piri. Securing Sikh belonging in Canada,” Memorializing a Forgotten Chapter: The Komagata Maru Episode Conference, IIT, Kharagpur, Bengal, India, February

“Sikh Women in the Diaspora,” Workshop, Post-Graduate Government College and Panjab University, Chandigarh, Punjab, India, March

“Tragic violence, hate crimes and grieving within sacred geographies of faith:   Sikhs and the Oak Creek Gurdwara Shootings, 2012,” 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies, Edinburgh, Scotland, June





“Regionalism Within American Buddhism,” Buddhism Beyond Borders: New Perspectives on Buddhism in the United States, eds. Scott Mitchell and Natalie Quli, Albany: State University of New York Press,

Academic book reviewsBuddhism, Unitarianism, and the Meiji Competition for Universality, by Michel Mohr, Journal of Unitarian Universalist History, vol. 38, May and Flowers on the Rock: Global and Local Buddhism in Canada, eds., John Harding, Victor Hori, and Alexander Soucy, Journal of Global Buddhism, vol. 16.


“Mindfulness, INC: Buddhist Meditation Beyond Buddhism,” Duke University, November.

“Mindfulness, INC: Buddhist Meditation Beyond Buddhism,” Smith College, December.





What are They Saying about the Letter of James? New York: Paulist Press (2009), Korean edition.

“The Letter of Jude and Graeco-Roman Invective” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, 70:1 (2014),

“Fishing Economy in the Sea of Galilee,” Bible Odyssey,


“Fish for Thought in the Gospels,” UW Religious Studies Lecture, October.

“Justice and Peace in the Christian Scriptures,” Renison University College Multi-Faith Dialogue Series, October,


Leadership Team Member, Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning, Workshop for Pre-Tenure Religion Faculty at Colleges and Universities,


St. Jerome’s University:



“God’s Defeat of Deceit:  The Seduction of Óscar Romero” in Robert S. Pelton (editor), Archbishop Romero and Spiritual Leadership in the Modern World,” Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 56-60,

“Hermeneutical Methodology in Christian Spirituality,” THEOFORUM 44 (2013), 317-337, Issued February 2015.


“The Experience of God: Mysticism in Everyday Life,” Galilee Mission Centre, Arnprior, ON, June 




“Fighting “the System”: The Christian Identity Movement and The Turner Diaries,” Angry Groups and Politics How They Change Society And How We Can Affect Their Behaviour, S. Cloninger and S. Leibo, eds., Westport, Connecticut: Praeger,

“Cage Fighting for Jesus” God and Popular Culture]: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Entertainment Industry’s Most Influential Figure, Volume 2, eds, Stephen Murray and Aimee Light,

Conferences Presentations:

“Christian Apocalyptic Thought, the Illuminati and the Americanist Mobilization of the John Birch Society,” AAR Eastern International Region, McGill University, Montreal, May,

Accepted presentations:

“The John Birch Society Protecting God, Country and Family in Cold War America,” IAHR – XXI World Congress, International Association for the History of Religions, Efurt, Germany   

“The Cold War, The John Birch Society – Warriors for God, Country and Family,” 7th Annual Boston University Graduate Student Political History Conference, Boston, USA  

“The John Birch Society: Improvisational Conspiracism and the Development of a Grassroots Movement,” Religion, Conflict, and Boundary Maintenance Conference, Indiana, USA  


Conference Presentations:

“Raising and Reporting a Lama: A New Buddhist Movement’s Media Representation of its Founder’s Reincarnation;” Ways of Knowing: Graduate Conference on Religion, Harvard Divinity School, October,


Conference Presentations:

“A Generation of Change: The Case of the Sikh Activist Network in Ontario,” Living and Making Sikhi in the Diaspora: The Millennial Generations Comes to Age – Sikh Studies Conference, University of California, Riverside, May,


Conference Presentations:

“Spiritual but not Religious: Catch All Category or Arbitrary Analysis,” Canadian Society for the Study of Religion, Ottawa, May,





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UW Department of Religious Studies, 2014

BLOG introduction:

2014 was a busy year for members of the University of Waterloo’s Department of Religious Studies. It is difficult for our students, fellow faculty members and UW’s administration to stay on top of what happens in such a diverse setting, given that we are comprised of an astonishing array of specializations. UW Religious Studies incorporates scholars of Buddhism, Islam, Biblical scholars, both New and Old Testament, scholars of Catholicism and Protestantism, Sikh Studies, New Age religions as well as housing a Chair in Jewish Studies. Our colleagues focus on religion in Canada and North America, Mennonite traditions, religion and art, religion and film, religion and popular culture, religion and feminism, scholars who are trained in the Sociology of Religion, Theology, Asian Studies, History and Religious Studies, to name just a few of our areas of specialization. A number of us are housed at main campus of UW, while the majority of our colleagues are at one of the four affiliated university colleges, Conrad Grebel, St. Paul’s, Renison and St. Jerome’s.

We had some major changes in our department in 2014.  Congratulations are in order for RS’s Dr. Douglas Cowan of Renison University College, Dr. Scott Kline of St. Jerome’s University and another recent appointment associated with our department, Dr. Trevor Bechtel, Conrad Grebel, all of whom are the new appointees for the position of Dean at their respective university colleges; Scott Kline is also serving as Interim Vice-President Academic at St. Jerome’s. Dr. Peter Frick, on sabbatical in 2014 will also continue as Dean of St. Paul’s University College. And, in 2014 Dr. Wendy Fletcher became the new Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Renison University College. Wendy will be teaching courses in the Religious Studies department. Welcome, Dr. Fletcher.

Dr. Mavis Fenn is our most able ship’s captain as Chair of Religious Studies. Dr. Jim Diamond took on the position of Associate Chair in 2014 and Dr. Jeff Wilson continued to serve as Graduate Advisor for the department until the end of 2014. Dr. Mavis Fenn will serve as interim Grad advisor for the first half of 2015 and Dr. Jakobsh will then take over as Associate Chair, Grad in September. Fiona McAlister is our most valued departmental administrator.

My name is Dr. Doris Jakobsh and I volunteered to set up this info-blog to chart some of the goings on in the RS department. My first installment is a wrap-up of the scholarly activities of our department, including publications, conference presentations and public talks, as well as some of the scholarly work of a number of RS PhDs. If one of your favourite RS professors isn’t mentioned too often or not at all, it is likely that they are carrying a heavy administrative load alongside their teaching. In this case, their primary focus in RS is teaching those wonderful courses that the department offers! Also, it does occur occasionally that one or more of us have projects ‘in press’ – hence their publications are not yet showing up. You’ll have to wait until 2015’s installment to see what those might include.  You can connect with Religious Studies faculty and staff here.

Main Campus: 

Lorne Dawson:
Lorne Dawson, cross-appointed with Sociology and Religious Studies, had an incredibly busy year. With Joel Thiessen he published, The Sociology of Religion: A Canadian Perspective with OUP.

Along with Paul Bramadat, Lorne co-edited Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond, U of T Press. His chapter “Trying to Make Sense of Homegrown Terrorist Radicalization: The Case of the Toronto 18,” also appears in the volume.   Lorne also co-wrote a journal article, with David C. Hofmann, “The Neglected Role of Charismatic Authority in the Study of Terrorist Groups and Radicalization,” in the journal Studies in Conflict and Terrorism.

Dr. Dawson gave numerous talks and presentations as well. For the RCMP and the BC Law Enforcement Diversity Network he spoke on “The Social Ecology of Becoming a Homegrown Terrorist in Canada.” At Université Laval in Quebec City’s École Internationale d’été sur les Terrorismes he presented “Towards a Multi-Factoral Understanding of Why Some Canadians Become Terrorists” and at McGill University in Montreal, he presented “The Legal Privatization of Religion and the End of Religion as We Know It.”  For the Big Thinking Lecture, Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Ottawa’s Parliamentary Restaurant, he delivered “Why do some Canadians become terrorists?”. Lastly, at the Society for Terrorism Research Conference in Boston he presented “Religion and the Social Ecology of Terrorist Radicalization: The Surprising Missing Link.”

Jim Diamond:
Jim Diamond, Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Chair of Jewish Studies and member of the RS department had a half-sabbatical in 2014 and received a highly prestigious grant through New York University’s School of Law’s Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization.
Cambridge University Press published Dr. Diamond’s Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon.

Here’s an insightful article from the Jerusalem Post Magazine, Feb. 13, 2014 by Moshe Halbertal on Diamond’s “Maimonides: Life and Thought.”  Jim’s article “The Questioning Jew and the Jewish Question,” was published in the magazine CrossCurrents in May as well as a book chapter “Constructing a Jewish Philosophy of Being Toward Death” in Jewish Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century: Personal Reflections, eds., Aaron Hughes, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Brill.

Doris R. Jakobsh:
Doris Jakobsh published “Offline politics/online shaming: honour codes, modes of resistance and responses to Sikh gurdwara politics,” in a special edition, ‘Assessing the Complexities of South Asian Migration’ in the journal Diaspora. Jakobsh’s article “Gender in Sikh Traditions” was published in the new Oxford Handbook on Sikh Studies edited by Pashaura Singh and Louis Fenech, OUP.

She also contributed a chapter entitled “The Sikhs in Canada: Culture, Religion and Radicalization” to the volume edited by Bramadat and Dawson, Religion, Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond for U of T.   Also, the 3rd edition of Leona M. Anderson and Pamela Dickey Young’s Women and Religious Traditions, OUP, includes a reworked chapter “Sikhism and Women”.

With Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts, Associate Dean at the School of International Policy and Governance at WLU, Dr. Jakobsh presented “A century of miri-piri. Securing Sikh belonging in Canada” at the Commemorating the Komagata Maru, Celebrating the Century: A Collaborative Symposium of Academy and Community at Mount Royal University in Calgary.  At the University of California, Santa Barbara Jakobsh presented a soon to be published paper, “Visuality, materiality and the Sikh female body in history: Honour and gendered identity distinctions” at the Sikh Studies in the 21st Century Conference held there in May.  Here is a detailed report on that conference, by Dr. Shinder Thandi from Coventry University in the UK.  Dr. Jakobsh also delivered a paper entitled “Sikh women’s religio-cultural visuality and identity: historical prescriptions and contemporary manifestations” at the International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture conference in Canterbury, UK.

Conrad Grebel University College

Alicia J. Batten:
Alicia Batten is one of the newest members of the Department of Religious Studies and we have been delighted to welcome her as an RS colleague. 2014 was an incredibly productive year for Dr. Batten. She edited, with Kristi Upson-Saia and Carly Daniel-Hughes, Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity, Ashgate, which also included her chapter, “The Paradoxical Pearl: Signifying the Pearl East and West.”  Another edited volume, published in 2014 with John S. Kloppenborg is entitled James, 1st and 2nd Peter and Early Jesus Traditions, T & T Clark/Bloomsbury.

Book chapters include “Thematic Affinities between the Letter of James and the Acts of Peter and the 12 Apostles,” in Christian Apocrypha. Receptions of the New Testament in Ancient Christian Apocrypha, edited by Jean-Michel Roessli and Tobias Nicklas, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, and “The Characterization of the Rich in James 5” in To Set at Liberty. Essays on Early Christianity and Its Social World, ed., Stephen K. Black, published by Sheffield Phoenix Press.

Trevor Bechtel:
Alongside his many administrative duties, Dean Bechtel published a new book, The Gift of Ethics, with Cascade Publishing in 2014. His book launch took place at Conrad Grebel on February 2015.

Trevor was also awarded the C. Henry Smith Peace Lectureship at Goshen College in Indiana, Bluffton University in Bluffton, Ohio and Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo where he lectured on “The Peaceable Kingdom.”   Dr. Bechtel also gave a presentation entitled “Shock the Monkey: An Appreciation of Animal Musicks” at the Sound in the Land Conference at Conrad Grebel University College in June.

Jeremy Bergen:
Dr. Bergen, also from Conrad Grebel published two journal articles, “Die reuige Kirche in der Geschichte. Theologische Reflexionen [The Penitential Church in History: Theological Reflections],” in Ökumenische Rundschau and “The Holy Spirit and Lived Communion from the Perspective of International Bilateral Dialogues,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 49. You can upload a copy of his paper here.  He was also on the “Settlement and Apology” panel for Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at the Canadian Theological Society annual meetings held at Brock University in St. Catharines.

Derek Suderman:
2014 included a sabbatical for Dr. Derek Suderman. He published “Psalms” in Fortress Commentary on the Old Testament and Apocrypha, edited by Gale Yee, Hugh Page, and Matthew J. M. Coomber, Fortress Press.  You can read his paper here.  He also published “Assyria the Ax, God the Lumberjack: Jeremiah 29, the Logic of the Prophets, and the Quest for a Non-Violent God,” Conrad Grebel Review.

Renison College:

Wendy Fletcher:
Despite a busy year in her new post as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Renison University College, Dr. Fletcher published “Christianity,” in World Religions: Western Traditions 4th Edition, W. Oxtaby et al, eds., OUP.

Jeff Wilson:
One of RS’s most prolific authors, Dr. Jeff Wilson published Mindful America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture with OUP.   You can listen to an excellent podcast through the Secular Buddhist Association website, where Jeff speaks about his book.  Dr. Wilson’s chapter “Mindful Eating: American Buddhists and Worldly Benefits” was published in Religion, Food, and Eating in North America, eds. Benjamin Zeller, Marie Dallam, Reid Neilson, and Nora Rubel with Columbia University Press.

Jeff presented “Godzilla: The Monster as Modern-Day Myth,” at the University of Waterloo,  and “Mindful Sex: Adapting Buddhism to New Cultural Desires,” at the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion Annual Meeting (CSSR) that was held at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario in 2014.


Brooke Brassard
2015 – Fellowship Award in Western American History, The Charles Redd Center, Brigham Young University

“Prairie Style in the Prairie: An Architectural Journal Through Mormon History in Southern Alberta,” Journal of Mormon History (forthcoming 2015).

“Home is Where the Exile Is: Ambivalence in the Mormon Settlement of Southern Alberta,” Summer Symposium on Mormon Culture, Jul 22-25, Brigham Young University.
“Comparing Colonies: Mexican and Canadian Settlements in the Late 19th Century,” 49th Annual Conference, Jun 5-8, 2014, San Antonio, Texas, Mormon History Association.

Carmen Celestini
2015 Emory University MARBL Short-Term Fellowship

“Cage Fighting For Jesus – The Neo-Muscular Christianity Movement in Mixed Martial Arts”, chapter in God and Popular Culture: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Entertainment Industry’s Most Influential Figure. Stephen Murray, Aimee Upjohn Light (eds.) (forthcoming 2015).

“The John Birch Society: Politics and Conspiracy.” Analyzing the 1950s: Media, Politics, Culture Conference. Fort Worth, Texas. November 2014.

“Mobilizing for God, Country and Family: The John Birch Society, Politics and the Illuminati.” Society of Utopian Studies Annual Conference. Montreal, Quebec. October 2014.

Peter Schuurman
“Performing post-evangelical dramaturgy: a megachurch for people not into megachurches.” The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion: Annual Conference. Indianapolis, IN, November 2014.

“Megachurches, Growth Imperatives, and Congregational Identity: A Canadian Megachurch Case Study.” Canadian Society for the Study of Religion: Annual Meeting. St. Catharines, ON. May 2014.

Scott Wall
“Beyond the congregation: accounting for factors of religious change among evangelical, Chinese-Canadian young adults.” Youth, Religion, and Identity: A Canadian and International Workshop (sponsored by SSHRC/Religion and Diversity Project). Ottawa, ON. October 2014.

“‘Have you been to TC?’: Religious hype, ethnic identity, and Chinese-Canadian experience in Toronto.” Canadian Society for the Study of Religion: Annual Meeting. St. Catharines, ON. May 2014.

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