Past Events

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Congratulations to Dr. Shattuck on the publication of her new book, Faith, Hope, and Sustainability.

Congratulations to Dr. Perkins on the July 7 release of her book, "Muslim American City: Gender and Religion in Metro Detroit." What a fantastic accomplishment plus an interesting and informative read!



Whiting Seed Grant (1 of only 5 awarded) Goes to Dr. Alisa Perkins, Department of Comparative Religion, Western Michigan University for her project "Religion, Race, and Revitalization: The Detroit Muslim Storytelling" Dr. Perkins is collaborating with Dream of Detroit, a community-based nonprofit, to create an interactive multimedia website, public archive, short film, and publications documenting the distinctive past and Muslim-led revitalization of a West Detroit neighborhood that is over 90% African American and overwhelmingly low-income. Although Michigan is home to a thriving Muslim population, inner city African American social justice initiatives are often distanced from larger Muslim networks due to race and class divides. This community-led initiative will safeguard the neighborhood’s history and empower a new generation with knowledge about the past.
The Whiting Public Engagement Program (WPEP) is a distinctive national grant founded to champion the public humanities in all forms, and to highlight the roles scholars play in work to deploy the humanities for the public good. Since it began in 2016, the WPEP has given $2.4 million to launch and expand projects in the US and beyond. Winners are selected through a highly competitive process beginning with nomination by a university, scholarly society, or state humanities council and proceeding through two further stages of peer review by expert public humanists.

Congratulations to one of our own, Austin Avison! The Western Michigan University Center for the Humanities is pleased to announce the winning papers from the 2021 WMU Graduate Humanities Essay Contest. While all of the papers submitted were compelling and well researched, the prize-winning papers were particularly strong along with being the most complete and polished.

  • The first place prize ($1000)  is awarded to Jason Rose: “Mentalités and the Search for Total History in the Works of Annalistes, Foucault, and Microhistory"
  • The runner-up prize ($600) goes to Austin Avison: “Delusional Mitigation in Religious and Psychological Forms of Self-Cultivation: Buddhist and Clinical Insight on Delusional Symptomatology”


Mark Crain and associate professor Dr. Alisa Perkins presented how the Detroit Muslim Storytelling Project is capturing and documenting oral histories in order to build and disseminate knowledge about the history and scope of African-American Muslim community leadership in Detroit.

See the attached flyer for info regarding the 2021 Japanese Religion and Culture Study Abroad Seminar and/or contact Dr. Covell if you want to go or know someone who might be interested. We take students from other schools who want a unique experience in Japan. If you have friends or family studying elsewhere, bring them with you! This year we split the program into two halves to make more affordable options. The first half is the original two-week three-credit hour course that centers around the home base Zojoji in downtown Tokyo. The second part includes Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima.



March 9 - Dr. Megan Leverage, our former graduate student, presented a public lecture "The Mormon Transhumanist Association: A 'Post-Secular' Religion." This talk examines the historical influence of Atheism on member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the 20th century, focusing on two key connections: (1) George Santayana and Leonard Arrington and (2) Richard Dawkins and Lincoln Cannon.

As a case study, the intellectual history of the Mormon Transhumanist Association evidences the porous boundary between "religion" and "secular" in the United States. Dr. Leverage received her M.A. in comparative religion from WMU in 2014 and Ph.D. in American religious history from Florida State University in 2018. She is a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Central Michigan University.

October 3 - Contesting Land Privatization in Morocco: Inheritance, Religion, and Women's Activism in a Muslim Majority Nation with Dr. Soad Eddouda, Associate Professor of English, Ibn Tofail University.


April 5 - Dancing for My Tribe: Potawatomi Tradition in Modern Times with Sharon Hoogstraten.

March 29 - "American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear" by Dr. Khaled Beydoun, Associate Professor of Law, University of Detroit Mercy Law School.

February 22 -  "Seeing Is Believing: The Curious Case of the Contested Image of Elvira Eliza Field."  Dr. Amy DeRogatis, professor of religion and American culture at Michigan State University.


April 19 - “Is There a Muslim Body? Reflections on a Moving Target.” Dr. Emilio Spadola, associate professor of anthropology and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, Colgate University, New York.


December 1 - A campus and community visit to the Kalamazoo Islamic Center. 

April 21 - "The Tongue and the Pen: Two Takes on Reading and Writing in Islamicate North India". A lecture by Dr. Tyler Williams, Assistant Professor of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago.

April 13 - "Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Islam, Gender, and Europe's Muslim Crisis," a lecture by Dr. Jeanette Jouili, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pittsburgh.

April 11 - "A Rite of Their Own: Japanese Buddhist Nuns and the Anan kōshiki," a talk by Barbara R. Ambros, professor East Asian religion in the Department of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

March 24 - “Producing Modern Muslims: Everyday Ethics in Colonial India” a lecture by Dr. Farina Mir, Associate Professor of History, University of Michigan. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a range of Urdu texts were published under what we might call the sign of akhlaq (ethics). Some adhered closely to antecedents from a rather well defined tradition of Muslim ethics literature, with well-known figures and texts; others bear less obvious resemblance to that tradition. This talk examines popular Urdu akhlaq literature, with a focus on how this genre helps us elaborate a history of Muslim South Asia, and modern Islam more generally. While there is a robust body of work on Muslim history in South Asia, much of it has focused on elite figures, canonical texts, and the related issue of authority within the Muslim community—religious and political. Urdu akhlaq literature provides an opportunity to consider more popular forms of religious and social discourse and their impact on our understanding of the history of Islam.

March 21 - "Medieval Islamic Maps" a lecture by Karen C. Pinto of Boise State University. This lecture is sponsored by Medieval Institute and the Friends of the University Libraries.

March 15 - "Understanding Differences Between Sunnah and Shia Muslims", a lecture by Ahmad M. Hemaya, former student at al-Azhar University in Egypt and current graduate student in the Department of Comparative Religion.

February 8 - “Before the Naked Ape: al-Tawhidi (c. 900 CE) Performs the Animal Self in a Sphere of Political Participation,” a lecture by Dr. Samer Ali, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Michigan.

March 3 - "A Werewolf in 17th Century Livonia and the Drama of Religious Resistance", a lecture by Dr. Bruce Lincoln of University of Chicago.


December 9 - "Engaging the Muslim World" a lecture by Dr. Juan Cole, Professor of History, University of Michigan.  In the wake of the recent Paris attacks and an increasing level of fear and hostility toward Muslims across North American and European nations, Dr. Juan Cole will discuss how misconceptions about Islam affect America's social and political climate. His work takes Muslim perspectives into account in the analysis of U.S. foreign policy, and offers fresh insights into understanding how specific historical, social, and cultural factors shape the present context. Juan R. I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent books include Engaging the Muslim World and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East. He has been a regular guest on PBS’s Lehrer News Hour, and has also appeared on ABC Nightly News, Nightline, the Today Show, Charlie Rose, Anderson Cooper 360, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Democracy Now! and many others.

April 23 - “The Revolution Within: Islamic Television and the Struggle for the ‘New Egypt.’, a lecture by Dr. Yasmin Moll, University of Michigan. Within the world of Islamic television in the Middle East, Egypt’s “New Preachers” stand out for their unprecedented styles of performance and visual aesthetics. This talk explores how their novel forms of religious media embed distinctive imaginations of what Muslim piety entails, how it should be cultivated, and to what ends. Examining the intersections of Islamic revivalism and transnational media technologies troubles the utility of a secular-religious binary for understanding Egypt’s turbulent trajectory since the 2011 uprising and the attempts of Islamic producers to create a “revolution within” through new media forms. This event was hosted by the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series, the WMU Department of Comparative Religion and the The Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education Global Education Fund. 

April 8 - "Wonder Woman in Bondage" a public lecture given by Dr. Ben Saunders, professor of English at the University of Oregon,  a discussion of how themes of submission to loving authority in Wonder Woman comics compare with and relate to those found in Christian and other theological discourses. 

March 26 - "The Walking Qur'an: West Africans and Islamic Knowledge", a lecture by Dr. Rudolph Ware, University of Michigan.  Islamic education, embodied knowledge, and history in West Africa was discussed. This talk explored a thousand years of history through the lens of the Qur’an school, the basic institution of education for millions of boys and girls throughout the region. This event was hosted by the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series, the WMU Department of Comparative Religion and the The Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education Global Education Fund. 

Feb. 26 -  "Islam 101: Creating an Inclusive Campus Environment."  The fastest growing religion in the world from the people who practice it was discussed. Hear about the experiences of Muslims on your campus and in your community. Watch live skits on how to navigate cultural differences. Take advantage of this opportunity for audience participation at an exciting and interactive diversity training. Refreshments will be provided.  Dr. Alisa Perkins, assistant professor comparative religion, facilitated this event as part of the Real Talk Diversity Series. This event was hosted by the WMU Center for Diversity and Inclusion. 


Nov. 6 - Several students from REL 2065: Islam in America and REL 1000: Introduction to World Religions, and others from WMU and community along with Dr. Alisa Perkins visited the Kalamazoo Islamic Center and enjoyed a great learning experience.

April 17 -"Theorizing the Ghostly," a lecture by Bruce Lincoln, History of Religions in the Divinity School at Chicago University. This event was sponsored by GSAC, Department of Comparative Religion and the Comparative Religion Graduate Student Organization. 

April 7 - "Japanese Buddhist Music Goeika," a lecture and demonstration by Rev. Myosei Midorikawa.  This event was sponsored by the Department of Comparative Religion and the Soga Japan Center.

April 3 -"The Power of Images and Muslim Women: A Critical Reflection on "Sharia in Canada," a lecture by Tabassum Rudy, Western Michigan University. This event is part of the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series.

April 3 -"Spirituality and Health: The Foundations of Compassionate Care," a lecture by Christina Puchalski, The George Washington University School of Medicine.  The lecture and webinar was held at at the WMU Fetzer Center. View the webinar .

March 27 - "Ethical Publics and Urdu Poetics in Muslim North India," a lecture by Nathan Tabor, University of Texas. This event is part of the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series.

March 28 - The first annual Pecha-Kucha! This competition invites current graduate students at WMU to share their research in a unique forum - three slides in three minutes to synthesize your research into a presentation.  Sponsored by: Graduate Student of Comparative Religion, WMU Humanities Center, Graduate Student Advisory Committee, Graduate Financial Allocation Committee, WMU Graduate College, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Comparative Religion, Department of Anthropology, Anthropology Graduate Collective.

Feb. 21 -"Buddhism and Kabuki," a lecture by Professor Kanji Tamura, Rissho University (Japan).  

Feb. 20 -“Building on Difference: Detroit's First Mosques, 1912-1962,” a lecture by Sally Howell, University of Michigan-Dearborn. This event is part of the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series.

Feb. 6 - “American Muslim Identities and the Cultural Wombs that Bore Them,” a lecture by Zarinah El-Amin Naeem,  Niyah Creative Living. This event is part of the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series.

Feb. 13 -  “Conversion to Shi‘i Islam and the Transformation of Religious Authority in Senegal,” a lecture by Mara Leichtman, Michigan State University. This event is part of the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series.

Jan. 30 - "Reconfiguring the Classics of Islamic Thought in Early Twentieth-Century Egypt," a lecture by Dr. Ahmed El Shamsy, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago.  This event is part of the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series.

Jan. 28 -"The Urban Context of the early Christians: Geological, Magnetometry, and Ground-Penetrating Radar Surveys at Ephesos,"a lecture by visiting scholar, Dr. Christine Thomas. Sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa and the departments of Comparative Religion, Geography, Anthropology and History and, the Medieval Institute.

Jan. 23 - "Muslim Expressions: A Tour of the Muslim World through Music Videos," a presentation by Dr. Mohammad Hassan Khalil, Associate Professor, Michigan State University. This event was part of the Islam in Global Perspectives Speaker Series.


Nov. 7 - “Magical and Religious Seals and the Sources of Chinese Buddhism.” A lecture by Dr. Paul Copp, associate professor of Chinese religion and thought, University of Chicago.

Nov. 13 - "You, the Superhero," a public lecture by Dr. Marco Arnaudo, author of "The Myth of the Superhero" and associate professor of Italian in the Department of French and Italian at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Dr. Wanner led a group of students to MSU's comic book collection which is supposed to be the best of its kind in the U.S. Our students are primed to be its main users under the leadership of Dr. Wanner.

Dr. Perkins led a group of students, faculty and staff to the Kalamazoo Islamic Center last October.

Oct. 11 - Dr. Kochi Matsuo, Professor of Japanese Folklore and Japanese History at National Museum of Japanese History, discusses and presents his film "Kagura for the Wrathful Deities of Hiba." 

March 21 - "Race, Racism, and Religious Freedom in U.S. History" presented by Dr. Tisa Wenger, assistant professor, Yale Divinity School.

Spring semester - Brian C. Wilson took a group of faculty and graduate students on a tour of the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Building which used to be the Battle Creek Sanitarium, subject of Professor Wilson's upcoming book The Rise and Fall of the Temple of Health to be published by Indiana University Press. Thanks to the expert guidance of Public Affairs Specialist Jeff Landenberger of the Defense Logistics Agency, our group got a good feel for how it was to be a visitor to the 'San' in the old days when it was under the management of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, one-time Seventh-day Adventist, health reformer, and inventor of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Pictured below are (left to right), Professor Wilson, Megan Leverage, Richard Erdman, Kyle Byron, and Professor Sarah Moslener (thanks to Josh Withee for taking the picture).

Congratulations to Eric Mendes for winning runner-up in the University Center for Humanities Graduate Student Conference paper contest. Eric's paper "Ancient Magic and Modern Accessories: A Re-Examination of the Omamori Phenomenon” will be published in the spring edition of "The Hilltop Review."

Hear Dr. Rudolf Siebert's interview on WMUK regarding Pope Francis. Dr. Siebert is a professor in comparative religion and papal expert.


Jan. 23 - “The Rise and Fall of the Temple of Health: Religion, Medicine, and the Battle Creek Sanitarium," - presented by Brian Wilson, Department of Comparative Religion. Part of the Department of History Lecture Series.

Feb. 22 - "Classical Buddhism, Where To?: A Contemporary Writer's Perspective." - presented by Hiromi Ito, one of the foremost writers of contemporary Japan. After gaining recognition as a feminist writer in the 1980s, Ito has written a great deal about Buddhist thought and literature.

March 20 - "Religious Training and Visualization: Mapping the Power of the Early Christian Priest," - by Dr. Ellen Muehlberger, assistant professor of Christianity in Late Antiquity, University of Michigan.

March 22 - "The Wind from Vulture Peak: Japanese Buddhist Poetry and the Heian Aesthetic" - by Dr. Stephen Miller, assistant professor of Japanese language and literature, University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

April 18 - Religious Perspectives - "Islam, A Shi'a Perspective" - presented by Iman Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini, Islamic Center of America.

Aug. 2 - "Declining Attendance at Liberal Churches" - presented by Dr. Brian Wilson, professor of comparative religion.

Sept. 10 - Japan's Hidden Christmas - presented by Dr. Megumi Takasaki, research assistant, Institute for Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University, Tokyo.

Oct. 4 - "How to Pick a Major That will Upset Your Parents and Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life"- Public Lecture by Dr. Christine Blakeney, Center for Optimal Health, 2012 Alumni Achievement Award Winner.

Oct. 12 - "Exploring the Interface Between Religion, Virtues, and Health: The Case of Humility" - Public Lecture by Neal Krause, Ph.D. Collegiate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Michigan.

Nov. 15 "The Flower Arrangement Rite of Yakushiji" - A Film Screening and Discussion with the Dr. Koichi Matsuo and Dr. Asuka Sango.

Dec. 3 - "From the Mosque to the Municipality: The Ethics of Muslim Space in a Michigan City"- Public Lecture by Alisa Perkins, University of Texas-Austin.

Dec. 7 - "Islam and Environment: Belief and Practice on American Muslim Farms" Public Lecture


Jan. 20 - "A Fourteenth-Century Augustinian Approach to the Jews in Riccoldo da Monte Croce's Ad Nationes Oreintales" - presented by Lydia Walker Comparative Religion Masters' Student, and "The Roman Catholic Mass in America: Post-Vatican II and Post-post-Vatican II," presented by Judith Krane-Calvert comparative religion M.A. and instructor.

Feb. 14 - "On the Identity of the Liberated Jiva in Jainism" - presented by Sean Butler, Comparative Religion Masters Student. "David Koresh: Charisma Without Routinization," presented by Jason Aiello, comparative religion masters student.

Feb. 24 - "The KJV in the USA - The Impage of the King James Version Bible in America" - presented by Brian Wilson, professor of comparative religion.

March 10 - "Cabeza de Vaca (Mexico, 1991)" - presented by Brian Wilson, professor of comparative religion.

March 17 - "The Wicker Man (UK, 1973)" - presented by Kevin Wanner, professor of comparative religion.

March 24- "My Son the Fanatic (UK/France, 1997)" - presented by Blain Auer, professor of comparative religion.

March 24 - "The KJV in the USA: The Impact of the King James Bible in America" - presented by Brian C. Wilson, professor of comparative religion.

March 25 - "Religious Community and Political Power in Medieval Islam," - presented by Blain Auer, assistant professor of comparative religion.

March 31 - The Namesake (India/USA, 2006) - American-born Gogol, the son of Indian immigrants, wants to fit in among his fellow New Yorkers, despite his family's unwillingness to let go of their traditional ways. Discussion led by Heather Dubbeld, graduate student in comparative religion.

April 4 - Skapan í skáldskap ok skáldskaparskapan: Creation in and Creation of Norse Poetry - Discussion led by Kevin J. Wanner - associate professor of comparative religion.

April 5 - "Son of Satan or Faithful Christian? The Mystery of Arius & The Creation of Christian Orthodoxy" - presented by Dr. Rebecca Lyman - The Samuel Garrett Professor of Church History, The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, Calif.

April 7 - The Last Train Home (China, 2009)  - A family embarks on an annual tormenting journey along with 200 other million peasant workers to reunite with their distant family, and to revive their love and dignity as China soars as the world's next super power. Discussion led by Guo Jue, professor of comparative religion.

April 14 - Into the Wild (USA, 2007) - After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life. Discussion led by Sean Butler, graduate student in comparative religion.

April 21 - Religion and Film Series - "On the Development of the Critical Theory of Society and Religion" - Film screening and conversation with Professor Rudolf Siebert.

May 20 - Hinduism in the U.S. - Innovations and Issues Conference.

Oct. 6 - "The Fine Line Between Culture and Crazy: A Doctor's Experience Balancing Medicine with Religion in Critically Ill Patients" - presented by Dr. Nadia Tremonti. Dr. Nadia Tremonti is the Department of Comparative Religion 2011 Alumni Achievement Award recipient. Dr. Tremonti serves as the Medical Director for both the Pediatric Palliative Care Team at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and the Kaleidoscope Kids Team at Henry Ford Hospice, in Detroit, MI. Dr. Tremonti is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Wayne State University and is Board Certified in Pediatrics and in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Oct. 14 - "Islam: A Sunni Perspective" - presented by Shaykh Sharif Sahibzada, Director of the Islamic Center of West Michigan. Religious Perspectives Series.

Nov. 10 - Workshop Lecture Series" - Innocent's Interdicts: An Examination of the Medieval Papacy's Religious Authority" - by E.M. Bowler.

Nov. 16 and 17 -"Towards Tolerance: Religious Pluralism in America" - Real Talk Diversity Series.

Dec. 2 - "Religion and Revolution in the Arab Spring" - Globalization Brown Bag with Dr. Blain Auer on the Arab Spring. Sponsored by the Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education.

Dec. 8 - "A Global Buddhism Returns: New Media, Ancient Wisdom and Modern Translations of Buddhism among Ladakhi student migrants in Delhi," - open lecture by Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg, Ph.D. candidate, Section for Anthropology, Department of Culture and Society at Aarhus, University, Denmark.