Senior Spotlight: a series on our graduating students

I took [Dr. Clark’s] advice and sought out the classes and subjects which most intrigued me and again and again I returned to religion. Intellectually, I was constantly engaged by my professors and the course-material they taught, but as an individual it was the religion department’s tightknit community that I appreciated most.

– greta close
Greta Close ’22

Why did you major in Religion?

Since I was a child, I have been curious about religion. As a “two-day saint” (a Christian affiliate who attends church on Christmas Eve and Easter), I was not raised religious, but constantly wondered why people participated in religion and what it did for them. Then on a trip to Europe in high school, I was exposed to the massive cathedrals built during the “dark ages” and I was baffled by the feats of engineering and architecture that had been the product of religion. So, when I arrived at UVM as a freshman and signed up for classes, I picked “What is the Bible?” as my TAP class, hoping to find an answer to these questions which had plagued me for years.

Although clear answers were far from what I’d discover, I’d consider this to be my best academic decision. Not only did I end up in Professor Clark’s class, in which I became fascinated by the study of religion, but as an undecided student she became my advisor. And as I played with different ideas for majors – ranging from Art History to Communications – Clark pushed me to indulge my curiosity and intellect. As a student-athlete surrounded by very clearly academically tracked individuals, this encouragement meant a great deal to me. 

Going forward, I took her advice and sought out the classes and subjects which most intrigued me and again and again I returned to religion. Intellectually, I was constantly engaged by my professors and the course-material they taught, but as an individual it was the religion department’s tightknit community that I appreciated most. By the end of my sophomore year, I declared a major in religion. 

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

It’s hard for me to imagine myself anywhere in 10 years because I am so eager to travel in the present. But based on my current interests, I would see myself as an established adventure journalist living in a mountain community but continuing to travel and cover intriguing adventure stories in 10 years. I hope to be a member of a close community which values the environment, is eager to learn, and is filled with good, interesting, and diverse people. I would love to be living abroad, perhaps in New Zealand, but I’m open to living in many places. I also hope I am continuing to engage with new ideas, concepts, and arguments like I was exposed to in college… and hopefully reading more.

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

Gosh, that’s a tough one. I would say for a first-year without previous interest in religion, a class with Professor Morgenstein-Fuerst like “Intro to Hinduism” is a great hook into the REL department. If it’s someone already interested by religion, culture, etc. I would say “Islam and Race” or “Islam and Modernity” with Morgenstein-Fuerst or “Mysticism, Shamanism, and Spirit Possession” with Brennan are very intriguing. 

If you could write any book, what would it be?

Hmmm… I think would like to write a memoir, detailing the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, and the perspective I hold — that is if my life grows in interest and relevance!

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

I’ll always fondly remember meetings with my professors, in which I was offered tea, life advice, and always someone to talk to. Thanks to everyone who made 481 a comforting and happy place.

Senior Spotlight: a series on our graduating students

The seminar room is unlike any other on campus. Being in the religion house and thinking about how little I knew my first semester freshman year sitting at that table to feeling so much more confident in myself is a really special feeling. 

– hannah kiely
Hannah Kiely ’22

Why did you major in Religion?

I majored in Religion because I wanted to study why people practice religion and how it affects them and the world around them. 

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

In ten years, I hope to be an attorney, eventually returning to Maine and living near the ocean. 

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

Any class in the religion department that is super specific is always really fun and interesting. Women in Christianity to 1500, Islam and Modernity, and Buddhism in Sri Lanka were my favorites. 

If you could write any book, what would it be?

If I could write a book, I think it would be about the chronological journey of female subjectivity from the high Middle Ages to our modern day. A lengthy endeavor to say the least. 

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

The seminar room is unlike any other on campus. Being in the religion house and thinking about how little I knew my first semester freshman year sitting at that table to feeling so much more confident in myself is a really special feeling. 

Senior Spotlight: a series on our graduating students

The first class I took was with Professor Trainor about Christ and Buddha it really engaged me. I felt engaged by both the content and the questions being asked. I was really intrigued so took other classes and followed that thread. 

– jake wilson
Jake Wilson ’22

Why did you major in Religion?

I started out not having any ideas of what I’d major in, but I had always been interested in religion, and learning about how other people live and center their lives. The first class I took was with Professor Trainor about Christ and Buddha it really engaged me. I felt engaged by both the content and the questions being asked. I was really intrigued so took other classes and followed that thread. 

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

Somewhere warmer than Burlington. 

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

I loved the Jewish Creativity and Ritual Course with Professor Andrus. I think it gives a glimpse of all the different dimensions that religion courses offer. It has interning theoretical base with all these cool readings which challenged the way I thought. But also it gave me the chance to see those ideas in practice as we got to interview an artist and make our own artistic creations as part of the final projects. 

If you could write any book, what would it be?

I wish there were more books connecting more theoretical ideas about ritual, community and belief to modern life, so maybe something like that trying to connect modern music or tv shows to a lot of these ideas, showing the way they are interrelated and the ways religion is still a part of of our experience and understandings. 

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

It was really cool to take a lot of different types of courses in the same place each coming year, and to end with the senior colloquium there. One memory that sticks out is getting that Religion Mug in Professor Borchert’s Interpretations of Religion, this was during COVID lockdown and the class was hybrid, so the mug was a way of providing that together feeling even while behind the screen. 

Senior Spotlight: a series on our graduating students

What I loved about every class is that it would usually invite discussions of race, social structures, politics and gender into the classroom, which made it all the more special and interesting to learn about. As a result of that, it granted me the space to think critically about religion in the context of colonialism, globalization, societal norms, and so much more. It also taught me that religion is everywhere and that it intersects with every aspect of our lives, which means it can’t be ignored! 

– lena ginawi
Lena Ginawi ’22

Why did you major in Religion?

During my freshman and sophomore year of college, I honestly couldn’t figure out what I wanted to study. However, what felt like a waste of time was honestly a blessing in disguise because I eventually found the major that I truly loved: Religion!! At first, I decided to minor in religion, but as I started taking more REL courses, I realized there was something special about the Religion department and the study of Religion, so I decided to major in it. What I loved about every class is that it would usually invite discussions of race, social structures, politics and gender into the classroom, which made it all the more special and interesting to learn about. As a result of that, it granted me the space to think critically about religion in the context of colonialism, globalization, societal norms, and so much more. It also taught me that religion is everywhere and that it intersects with every aspect of our lives, which means it can’t be ignored! 

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope to be doing what I love and utilizing the skills that I’ve gained from the religion department to navigate the world. I see myself as a human rights defender in Egypt working against the oppressive and arbitrary arrests and detention of political prisoners.

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

This is honestly a tough one for me to answer because I absolutely enjoyed every REL course that I took at UVM. However, if I were to choose a couple, I would say Islam & Race and Religion, Health & Healing! I really enjoyed Islam & Race because it granted me the space to both grapple with my own identity and to think critically about the racialization of religious minorities. I also really enjoyed Religion, Health & Healing because it helped me think about how folks use religion to make sense of illness, death and suffering in the context of colonialism and norms shaped by society.  

If you could write any book, what would it be?

I’ve always been interested in the arts and creative modes of expression! More specifically, how folks of color use poetry as a way to reclaim their narrative in a postcolonial and racialized society. So, I would probably write a book of poetry to tell my own story and to reclaim my narrative as a Muslim woman of color. 

I would also love to write a book on the Egyptian anti-imperialist movement and the effects of colonialism during the British occupation in Egypt I think it would be super interesting to explore some of the ways it has shaped political identities and social order in postcolonial Egypt. 

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

I loved going to the back area of the REL department and sitting on the couch until class would start. It was such a comfortable space to be in and it was a good little hiding spot if I wanted to escape from UVM’s busy campus. 

I also loved having class in the seminar room! I realized I learn a lot better in smaller classrooms spaces, and it also grants me the opportunity to establish more meaningful connections with my classmates and professors. 

Senior Spotlight: a series on our graduating students

I would tell a first-year student taking religion classes not to dream of missing Religion in Popular Culture! This class showed how much religion is in EVERYTHING in such an interesting and relevant way!

-Hannah nathan
Hannah Nathan ’22

Why did you major in Religion?

When I was a freshman selecting a TAP class, the only available class was Religion, Health, and Healing with Professor Brennan. Before the semester began, I wanted to withdraw from the class because I had never learned about religion before and I had a false idea of what the class would be like. By the end of that semester Religion, Health, and Healing was my favorite class and I was excited about taking further religion classes. The next semester I declared Religion as my major when I realized most of the classes offered are equally as interesting.

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

Providing service to others. 

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

I would tell a first-year student taking religion classes not to dream of missing Religion in Popular Culture! This class showed how much religion is in EVERYTHING in such an interesting and relevant way. The final project was also so much fun to do!

If you could write any book, what would it be?

A book about events that occurred during the Holocaust, or a book about religion in popular music nowadays!

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

During finals week of Fall 2021 when there were no seats in the library to study, 481 Main Street opened the building for students to have a place to study and provided snacks and coffee. It was the only good part of that final week for me and one of the reasons why I loved being a Religion Major!

Senior Spotlight: a Series on our Graduating Students

I don’t think there’s another major as interdisciplinary, nor do I think any other major makes its students better people. The Religion major has allowed me to expand the information I cherish the most and has made me a more aware, intentional, and passionate member of society.

– Alex Castellano
Alex Castellano ’22

Why did you major in Religion?

I’ve never been a fan of school, and I only originally came to college because my family wanted me to go. But after one meeting with Prof. Morgenstein Fuerst, I was hooked. I don’t think there’s another major as interdisciplinary, nor do I think any other major makes its students better people. The Religion major has allowed me to expand the information I cherish the most and has made me a more aware, intentional, and passionate member of society.

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

That’s funny. Honestly, I don’t really think that far ahead, but I hope that in ten years I’m helping people and coming home to a farm far, far away.

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

I’ve been dreading this question, because it’s too hard to choose! Probably Islam and Race or Islam and Modernity with IRMF, or African Gods/Western Museums with Prof. Brennan. These classes gave me a tangible method for thinking about imperialism and colonization in everyday life.

If you could write any book, what would it be?

I would love to publish a photography book one day. About what? I’m not sure, but I imagine a book of portraiture of some sort. I like to romanticize the idea of writing a novel, but I don’t think it’s likely.

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

Getting my REL house mug at the end of Religion 100 was super special (I even have a video with REL alum Becca Turley!), but I think even more special was spending my Wednesday nights in the seminar room, drinking tea and eating snacks with Prof. Brennan in African Gods/Western Museums. That was one of many moments in which I knew the Religion department was family, and I’m so grateful to have spent my four years here.

Senior Spotlight: a series on our graduating students

I always loved the atmosphere of the small classes in the seminar room. Having smaller class sizes really allowed me to feel more connected to the class and its material. One of my fondest memories at 481 Main was probably receiving my REL mug after finishing REL 100! I keep it above my sink in my kitchen so I can always see it, definitely feels like a great accomplishment!

– Belly luksza ’21
Isabelle Luksza ’21

Why did you major in Religion?

I honestly never would have guessed 4 years ago that I would be majoring in Religion. I came to UVM as a Political Science major, to Anthropology, then made my way to Religion by the end of my Sophomore year. I had taken Religion, Health, and Healing as an Anthropology class, and I found myself wanting to take more and more Religion classes. That is when I realized I felt much more connected with the material than any other classes I had taken at UVM. It was almost like everything finally fell into place for me.

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

The first thing that came to mind was cats. Lots of cats. Hopefully living in my own place with lots of room for rescue animals! 

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

Religion, Health, and Healing with Professor Brennan! It was the first REL class I took, and it was the perfect beginning to my academic journey to the Religion department. It is also one of the reasons why I changed my major! 

If you could write any book, what would it be?

I would love to write a children’s book! It would be about the many adventures of my kitty, Moe. His hobbies include playing fetch with his favorite blue mouse and riding in the back of my car daydreaming about being an outdoor cat. 

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

I always loved the atmosphere of the small classes in the seminar room. Having smaller class sizes really allowed me to feel more connected to the class and its material. One of my fondest memories at 481 Main was probably receiving my REL mug after finishing REL 100! I keep it above my sink in my kitchen so I can always see it, definitely feels like a great accomplishment!

Senior Spotlight 2019: Juliet Duncan

481 always has such a calming, supportive, and knowledgeable atmosphere and it has never ceased to inspire me as both a student and a critical thinker. The passion for knowledge and care for students is always palpable within the religion department building and I have always really appreciated that. 

juliet duncan ’19

Why did you major in Religion?

I decided to major in religion after taking a course on Religion in Film and Television taught by Professor Andrus. I loved both sides of the course so much and it reminded me of the interest I had always hard towards those topics. I decided to continue taking film and religion courses afterwards and when it came time to choose a major I committed to both!

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

I see myself working in television production in some form, utilizing the skills I gained as a religion major to adopt and critique different perspectives and be more thoughtful in the ways we both create and consume different narratives. 

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

I would say that a first- year student should make sure not to miss one of Professor Andrus’ Religion in Film and TV/Pop Culture classes because it relates more to your everyday life and allows you to see religious inspiration and thought in the secular world. It is a great introduction to religious studies for those that are not particularly religious or do not think they would be interested in it because it teaches you about the religious perspective while applying it to mundane/everyday actions/behaviors that you either don’t put much thought into or feel a strong connection to. It also demonstrates the power of storytelling across different medium and how those powers are mirrored in (or arguably stem from) religious tradition. 

If you could write any book, what would it be?

If I were to write a book it would most likely be related to the social roles and influences of television in our everyday lives. Specifically, I would analyze the life expectations TV shows create for us as well as what we seek out in allowing a storytelling medium to become so intimately enmeshed in our lives. 

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

My fondest memories at 481 Main all revolve around the professors there and the religion department in general. 481 always has such a calming, supportive, and knowledgeable atmosphere and it has never ceased to inspire me as both a student and a critical thinker. The passion for knowledge and care for students is always palpable within the religion department building and I have always really appreciated that. 

Senior Spotlight 2019: Quinn Cosentino

a series about our graduating seniors

On a campus consisting of massive, towering, and overwhelming structures with floor to ceiling windows and hyper-modern architecture, the Religion House has acted as a sanctum for me, precisely because it is just that, a house- a home.

quinn cosentino ’19

Why did you major in Religion?

My reasoning for choosing the major is a bit embarrassing, to be honest. When I was in high school, I was somewhat obsessed with the History Channel(or Pseudo-History Channel) show, Ancient Aliens.The show stoked a fascination in me for learning about diverse religious traditions and the cultural contexts that accompanied them. The show always lost me, though, at “it was aliens!” It was this fascination (minus the radical theory) that brought me to the Religion department my first semester, freshman year. What the Religion program offered me, however, was far more thought provoking than “fascination” and that is the reason I remained a Religion major. Passions I never knew I had, such as investigating gender and race theory, were fostered through this program and it has made me the complex thinker I am today.

Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

In ten years, I picture myself as a museum curator, working on projects that relate to gender theory and racialization. More specifically, I hope that I will hold a position that relates to colonialism and sainthood and saints in America. This has been the focus of the major research project I conducted in the Religion Department and it will undoubtedly follow me into my graduate program, and (with any luck) into my career. On a more personal note, I will be able to afford a dog and a mortgage.

Imagine a first-year student has asked your advice about REL courses. What’s the one she shouldn’t dream about missing? Why?

Prior to Fall Semester, 2018, I would have said the most valuable class for me was “REL 224: Seeing the Sacred” which is about the role of visuality and visionary experience in the Christian tradition prior to the Early Modern period. That class was the most valuable for me, personally, and I want to plug it here because it is incredibly engaging (and Anne Clark is, of course, amazing). In the Fall of 2018, however, I entered into Ilyse Morgenstein-Fuerst’s “REL 297: Religion and Empire.” This class explored in incredible depth how gender, race, religion and science (to name a few) functioned to advance Empire from early colonialist efforts to today. I firmly believe this class changed the way I engage with the world on a professional and personal level. I believe every human being (let alone every religion student) should be required to take this course.

If you could write any book, what would it be?

I would definitely write a book about colonial saints and the role of sainthood in America as I mentioned earlier. I’ve also been very interested in the gender relations and expectations of Medieval and Early Modern Christianity. More specifically, I would write a book about medieval witch trials. I’ve had an informal goal for the past few years to write creatively and I’d like to write a book that’s less academic. 

Any fond memories of 481 Main Street you want to share?

I don’t have any specific memories of 481 Main, but the building has played a significant role in my collegiate life. On a campus consisting of massive, towering, and overwhelming structures with floor to ceiling windows and hyper-modern architecture, the Religion House has acted as a sanctum for me, precisely because it is just that, a house- a home. I love it because, like me, it exists on the margins of the status quo (as does the religion major itself on a science-oriented campus). When I look back and reflect on my time as an undergraduate, I don’t think I’ll remember UVM; I’ll remember 481 Main Street and the countless amazing experiences I had there.

UVM Student Research Conference 2019

As in years past, the 2019 Student Research Conference has quite a showing of Religion majors and minors! Students will give traditional conference papers, poster presentations, and a creative presentation that utilizes sound. Topics engage notions of idigeniety, imperialism, nationalism, sustainability, gender, race/racialization, sound, capitalism and tourism.

The Student Research Conference has a 12 year history at UVM and continues to grow in its scope, format, and impact. It is an all day event on Wednesday April 17 in the Davis center. We are really proud of our seven scheduled presenters. Join us if you can!

Authors & their projects (alphabetically):

Katie Arms, “Vermont’s Empire of Identity: Tracking Ideological Processes to ‘Sustainable’ Agriculture” https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/src/2019/program/70/

ABSTRACT: I was born in Vermont but I’m not a “Vermonter”. What is this statement based upon? and why do we have it? and what work is it doing knowingly or not? I attempt to trace the ideological process behind this identity claim—one that carries significant capital in terms of marketing and brand building but is also reflective of an American rural ideal that is racially and ethnically crafted and inherently gendered and nationalistic. I question why this identity is so celebrated and powerful in an effort to think about how imperialism and empire operate ideologically and economically. While Vermont appears to be a thriving “sustainable” agricultural state, it is structured to take for granted the patterns of marginalization and power that were inherent in the shaping of the identity. If we take for granted these markers of identity without critically assessing them, we will continue reiterating the hegemonic colonial metanarratives that are not “sustainable”, but are, as we know, harmful socially, environmentally, and economically.

Margaret Bennett, Alnôbak Agency in a Colonized Landscape” https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/src/2019/program/84/

ABSTRACT: The question of historical agency and sovereignty is one that cannot be easily answered, as history is dictated by agents of imperialism rather than their subjects; such is the case of the Abenaki, or Alnôbak. The Abenaki, as explained by Frederick Matthew Wiseman, are “the descendants of people who lived in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Western Maine ‘since time immemorial,’ as they said in 1766” (9). Despite their long history, spanning thousands of years in Northern America, Wiseman says that many White-Anglo settlers throughout Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire assumed until the early twentieth century that the Abenaki had left, essentially exiled from—and Othered in—their own land. He specifically notes that “Anglo historians seem to lack research interest or tools to discover much about the Alnôbak of this time, so their lore is lacking” (118). This lack of interest in the native inhabitants of a since colonized land is not surprising, as acknowledging the original and sustained presence of a sovereign Native people could prove problematic for modern American government and legislation. Through this project, I will elucidate how the distinct yet deeply intertwined influences of race, religion, and science affected the Alnôbak and their interactions with Anglo-settlers, with an aim to understand how the Alnôbak express their agency in a colonized space.

Katherine Brennan, “Tout a Changé! The Spectre of Islam in a (Secular) Catholic France” https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/src/2019/program/379/

ABSTRACT: Beyond simply a category of explanation, religion is a category of contestation. Despite the instability of the category of religion, governments worldwide participate in signifying what does and does not count in their laws and legal systems. The systems of law in France provide no exception. French laws reflect a desire to differentiate church and state, or laïcité. However, beneath the surface, particular institutions remain privileged. France is a country that claims secularity, yet within that secularity lies an institutional understanding of what religions are and what that means for the law. Legal systems in France are saturated with Catholic undertones, and laws regarding religion disproportionately affect minority religious communities under the masquerade of neutrality. Thus reflecting anxieties emerging from the encroaching “other” which are obscured by labels such as ‘Islamophobia.’ In this project, I examine legal efforts to differentiate religion and non-religion with a focus on recent court cases around school lunches and the rights of religious minorities.

Abra Clawson, “Sounds from a Dream Place: Politics, Religion, and Tourism in Kagbeni, Nepal” https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/src/2019/program/352/

ABSTRACT: Kagbeni, Nepal is a town which sits at a series of overlapping crossroads. With the restricted region of Upper Mustang to the north, and a popular pilgrimage site to the east, the town is constantly being shaped by globalization, religious and cultural identities, and tourism. I explore each of these forces in turn, centering my analysis around the mode of sound. This project combines anthropological methods of participant observation with theories from sound and religious studies in order to present a new way of understanding the forces shaping Kagbeni. How does sound claim space, and how does it reshape the communities who live in Kagbeni? In order to better answer these questions, I have curated a series of sound compositions to accompany this project. Each composition focuses on a theme: politics, religion, and tourism. Taken as a series, along with a written analysis of daily life in Kagbeni, these sound compositions draw attention to the ways that outsiders perceive the Loba community who lives there, and how these perceptions impact the lives of the Loba in turn.

Quinn Cosentino, “Native Saints: Hagiography and Racialization in Colonial New France” https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/src/2019/program/254/

ABSTRACT: In October, 2012, the Catholic Church canonized Kateri Tekakwitha, an Iroquois convert to Christianity who lived in the 17th Century in modern day New York and Quebec. The actual story of Kateri, colonial sainthood, and the missions of the French Jesuits, however, is one that illuminates a discursive warfare whereby Jesuit missionaries used sainthood to assert gender roles that they relegated to distinct racial groups. These gender roles perpetuated a traditional medieval discourse that justified imperial invasion. The martyrdom hagiographies and Jesuit Travelogues I investigated expose this discursive operation. Martyrs were portrayed as physically effeminate to highlight the brutality of the Iroquois as well as spiritually heroic and masculine to justify their control of the North American landscape (which was a feminine force that needed male protection). Other hagiographies operated to endow the Jesuits with a sense of collective identity with Old World Catholicism. This set them apart from and above their native neighbors who, in hagiographies, were often treated as objects to accentuate the white saint’s holiness, either as villains to overcome or as lost souls to convert.

Through motifs of martyrdom, Catholic collective identity and gendered landscape, the Jesuits created a mythic narrative that enforced a racialized state, glorifying white Christian identity and vilifying native identity. While this rhetoric created a nearly infallible conception of race (then and now), the Jesuits were challenged by the category of native saint. Native saints abandoned their indigeneity, but were still not considered to be on the same tier of perfection as European saints because of their inherent racial otherness. My project locates the discursive machinations behind the creation and maintenance of that racial otherness and, through investigating native sainthood, exposes the ultimate fallacy of race as an absolute, heterogeneous category.

Juliet Castleman Duncan, “Male Representations of Female Sanctity: Thomas of Cantimpré and Lutgard of Aywières”https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/src/2019/program/213/

ABSTRACT: Medieval manuscripts concerning the daily lives and miraculous experiences of living saints contain a great deal of information on how devout Catholics interpreted and understood religious practice and bodily suffering. These manuscripts were written by either the saints themselves, or a scribe and confessor of the saint. In this presentation I examine one such manuscript, Thomas of Cantimpré’s vita of Lutgard of Aywières, in order to understand how medieval fasting practices and conceptions of the body contributed to ideals of female piety in medieval England. In particular, I utilize feminist theories on medieval texts to explore how male scribes writing about female saints contributed to these ideals and thus reinforced gender norms within the catholic church. Based on the emphasis in these texts on Lutgard and other female saints taking on the role of Christ’s virgin bride, I argue that the emphasis placed on female bodily suffering depicted in these texts reflect a societal desire for a more passive female subject. My investigation of this case sheds light on how religious texts attempt to structure religious and social behavioral norms within a society as a whole.

Eliana Fox, “Colonialism in Israel/Palestine: Bedouin Indigeneity & Racialized Religious Definitions” https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/src/2019/program/249/

ABSTRACT: The area that is now deemed as the state of Israel has a complex colonial history. From the Ottoman Empire to the British Empire, this region has always been occupied by a form of colonial power. Indigenous Bedouin people inhabited this region before and alongside these empires, and since Ottoman times have been treated as an internal colony of each empire. With this massively influential history, it should come as no surprise that Israel itself has now become a colonial state. In an exertion of its colonial might, Israel has maintained the internal colony status of indigenous Bedouin people through the decimation and claiming of their spaces.Through processes of imposing racialized, religious categories on Bedouins, the Israeli government defines them as people who are outside of the “normal” body politic, stripping them of rights and humanity. This dehumanization allows Israel to justify its claim to Bedouin spaces. In claiming Israeli authority over these spaces, the government subsequently redefines them as Jewish. The Israeli government imposes a strict definition of white Jewishness to place, completely undermining Bedouin cultures and lifestyles that are deeply tied to land they have inhabited for thousands of years.