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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