January 22 2018

by Dean Ryuta Adachi, Claremont Graduate University and Laney College, California

Pie chart displaying religious affiliation of Asian Americans v. the general US population

As a young instructor of Asian American studies, I admittedly feel a bit hesitant in addressing my own experiences teaching religious studies. Rather than speaking before a classroom of students interested in studying religion (at least in theory, as many would probably attest), my students are often more concerned with taking their first steps towards individual and group empowerment as students of color. For so many of the students at Laney College—an urban community college in Oakland, California that is comprised of a working-class student body—ethnic studies courses provide them with an opportunity to learn about stories that their previous courses may have ignored. For example, rather than characterizing the Pilgrims as a group seeking religious freedom, a common ethnic studies version would be to discuss their role in the sustained genocide of American Indians. 

On behalf of the Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion, it is my great pleasure to announce Charles Taylor will receive the 2014 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.

The award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the public understanding of religion by individuals whose work has a relevance and eloquence that speaks not just to scholars but more broadly to the public as well. We honor Professor Taylor for his profound and influential scholarship as well as his many contributions to public discourse and political life.

Taylor’s work will be well known to the AAR membership. Over a fifty-three year academic career, Taylor has written probing and magisterial works on moral and political thought cutting across a range of disciplines. His work has paid significant attention to the role of religion in individual and social life and addressed theological themes and issues in novel ways. Among his many books are works on Hegel’s philosophy and its continuing relevance for social and political thought.  Much of Taylor’s work over the course of his career addresses questions of modern modes of identity, situating theological and religious views of the self and society within the broader sweep of modernity and the emergent visions of identity in the social sciences. His influential Sources of the Self, for example, “is an attempt to articulate and write a history of the modern identity . . . what it is to be a human agent: the senses of inwardness, freedom, individuality, and being embedded in nature . . . in the modern West.”[1]

Taylor’s work also engages the depth of the transformations of modernity, changes that have disrupted earlier modes of moral, religious, social, and political life while opening new synthetic possibilities. Hans Joas describes how, in A Catholic Modernity, “Taylor attempts to look at our modern civilization . . . as ‘another of those great cultural forms that have come and gone in human history’; he invites us to think about ‘what it means to be a Christian here, to find our authentic voice in the eventual Catholic chorus.’” Taylor describes this new horizon for life that is both modern and religious:  

In modern, secularist culture there are mingled together both authentic developments of the gospel, of an incarnational mode of life, and also a closing off to God that negates the gospel. The notion is that modern culture, in breaking with the structures and beliefs of Christendom, also carried certain facets of Christian life further than they ever were taken or could have been taken within Christendom. In relation to the earlier forms of Christian culture, we have to face the humbling realization that the breakout was a necessary condition of the development.[2]

Flyer advertising Professor Albanese's lectures

For the second year in a row, from April 7–11, 2014, the city of Atlanta hosted the American Lectures in the History of Religions. The lecturer this year was Professor Catherine L. Albanese, the J. F. Rowny Professor Emerita and Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Professor Albanese served as the president of the American Academy of Religion in 1994.

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