Laney Colloquium in Religion Events

Spring 2017

February 7, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Guest Lecture: "Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Ottoman Middle East"
Heather J. Sharkey
Location: DUC E334

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Ottoman sultan issued reforms that seemed to proclaim the social equality of Christians and Jews relative to Muslims as Ottoman subjects.  These reforms ended a practice that Islamic states had followed since the early Islamic era, of identifying non-Muslim subjects as dhimmis: protected but subordinate people, who had to pay a tax called the jizya in recognition of their status. Approaching this subject through the lenses of material and military history, I will examine how Ottoman reforms affected the way Christians, Jews, and Muslims related to each other in the long nineteenth century.  I will argue that the late Ottoman state’s efforts to dismantle some old hierarchies, while preserving others, ultimately heightened tensions along religious lines and set the stage for the twentieth-century Middle East.

Dr. Sharkey is an Associate Professor in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Sharkey's talk discusses an aspect of her book, A History of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East, which is due to appear from Cambridge University Press in March 2017. For more information on Dr. Sharkey's research and publications, visit


March 14, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm
“Christian Ethics and American Politics”: A Lunchtime Conversation with Authors
Timothy P. Jackson and Ted A. Smith

Location: DUC E334
Lunch provided for those who register, email

Timothy Jackson is Professor of Christian Ethics at Candler School of Theology and a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion. His 2015 book, Political Agape: Christian Love and Liberal Democracy presents a vision in which love for God and love for one’s neighbors shapes American law and politics.
Ted Smith is Associate Professor of Preaching and Ethics at Candler School of Theology. His book, The New Measures: A Theological History of Democratic Practice (2007) and Weird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics (2014) provocatively incorporate streams of theological and political thought.


April 6-7
Visit by Angela Zito       
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies, NYU

Dr. Zito’s research ranges from the study of ritual in 18th-century China, to Chinese documentary film, to the ways that contemporary Chinese city-dwellers create “new forms of personal value.” Her attention to “bodies in sensory performances” and how materials and media convey those performances unites her diverse academic work. For this and more information on Dr. Zito, visit

Events to include:

April 6, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Presentation: "The 24 Filial Paragons in China:  Forms and capacities, hierarchies of power"
by Angela Zito, NYU
Location: PAIS 290
Reception to follow in PAIS lobby

In China, on July 1, 2013, amendments to the General Law for Care of the Elderly fell squarely on the family itself, deeming it now a crime to “ignore and cold-shoulder” parents. In preparation for these new rules, the Party-state issued a revised set of the original “24 Filial Paragons”—illustrations of the great devotion each of us should give to our parents. Many of these paragons involved sons and daughters harming their own bodies—even cutting off their own flesh. This talk places the “New 24 Filial Paragons” in context with the original, traditional versions that date to the Early Medieval period (125 C E-589 CE) and a previous, more socialist update. The imagination of the older corporeal demands of  parent-child ties have been reshaped in modernity, and yet the old tales have profound resonance with Maoist “model persons” and bring a narrative richness to a most intimate arena of ‘being human” or zuoren:  the relation of parents and children. Now the stories also give glimpses of another, ever--aggrandizing relationship, the one between newly socially dis-embedded individuals and the state.  Through these images, we can appreciate how filiality inhabits a valuably ambiguous place; its shape-shifting between ethics, religion and philosophy only adding to its utility.  By “shape-shifting” I mean its polyvalence and value that varies according to (thus indexing), crucial forms of social difference. These include generation, gender, class, political position, geo-location and thus one’s residency status, even education.

April 7, 1:00 - 3:00 pm
Conceptual workshop on religion and media
with Angela Zito, NYU;  James Hoesterey, Emory;  Hyemin Na, PhD student, Emory
Location: PAIS 230

Guiding question:
Within growing theoretical interests in embodiment, practice, materiality and mediation; what might be special about religious mobilizations of the body, of habit/ritual/practice, and of material objects and images?