Annual Lecture Series

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Fall 2014 Lecture Series: Religion, Secularity & Toleration

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One of the great differences between earlier civilizations and our own post-modern world is that the former emphasized a comprehensive truth without a comprehensive tolerance, whereas the latter honours an all-encompassing tolerance owing, at least in part, to its lack of conviction in any all-encompassing truth. What, if any, is the place of religion in public and political life and institutions? Should the citizens of a modern liberal democracy keep secular and religious considerations wholly and entirely separate? Are religion and modern secularity in some way necessarily related? Is it appropriate for religious concerns to find a voice and to be heard in the public sphere? Some maintain that religious voices are not only appropriate in public discourse, but are indeed indispensable to the vitality of a pluralist constitution. Others points to the legacy of the Enlightenment and insist that religion is an intrinsically private matter, and that therefore it cannot lay a rightful claim to be heard in the public square. Our general question for this term’s series of public lectures is “What is the place of religion in the public sphere?”

Dr. Arvind Sharma, Birks Professor of Comparative Religion, McGill University, "Religious Tolerance Revisited" - October 8
Mayyada Kheir, Centre d’Etudes Interdisciplinaires des Faits Religieux, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, "At the root of French public discourse on church and state: the vocabulary of laïcité" - October 15
Birks Lecture by Professor John Joseph Collins, Yale University, Torah and Jewish Identity in Second Temple Judaism - October 21; Non-Mosaic Forms of Judaism in the Second Temple Period - October 22 
Douglas Farrow, Kennedy Smith Chair in Catholic Studies, Mcgill University, "Justin Trudeau and the doctrine of double truth" - October 29
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Associate Professor of Political Theory, Northwestern University, "Beyond Religious Freedom: Religion, rights and the politics of religious difference" - November 5
Daniel Cere, Associate Professor of Religious Ethics, McGill University, "Accomodating Religion? Perspectives from the Canadian Liberal Tradition" - November 12

Armando Salvatore, Keenan Professor of Interfaith Studies, McGill University, "Legitimating the expression of faith in the public square"  - November 19




Fall 2013 Lecture Series: Religion and Performance in South Asia

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The Fall 2013 lecture series will illuminate the rich and complex links between performance traditions, politics, history, and  identity in the living religions of South Asia including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The lecture series consists of seven one-hour lectures followed by half-hour periods of open discussion. The lectures will take place in the Birks Heritage Chapel, Faculty of Religious Studies, 3520 University Street, on Wednesdays in October and November 2013, at 5:30 pm.


Prof. Margaret Walker, Associate Professor of Musicology/Ethnomusicology, Queen’s University, "From Salām to Praṇām: Sanskritization in India’s Kathak Dance" - September 25, 2013



Prof. Zoe Sherinian, Associate Professor of Music (Ethnomusicology), University of Oklahoma, Film Screening: "This is a Music: Reclaiming an Untouchable Drum" - September 30, 2013; "Performing Tamil Christian Dalit Identity" - October 1, 2013



Prof. Anna Schultz, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, Stanford University, "Performing Translation in Jewish India: Kirtans of the Bene Israel" - October 9, 2013



Prof. Richard Wolf, Professor of Music, Harvard University, "The Drums of Islam: A Shrine and a Story Set in Pakistan" - October 30, 2013



Prof. Joyce Flueckiger, Professor of Religion, Emory University, "Performativity and Agency of the Material Guise (Veṣam) in a South Indian Goddess Tradition" - November 6, 2013



Prof. Joyce Flueckiger, Professor of Religion, Emory University, "Performativity and Agency of the Material Guise (Veṣam) in a South Indian Goddess Tradition" - November 6, 2013



Prof. Davesh Soneji, Associate Professor of South Asian Religions, McGill University, "The Powers of Polyglossia: Music, Multilingualism, and the Making of a South Indian Devotional Tradition" - November 13, 2014



Prof. Archana Venkatesan, Associate Professor of Religion, University of California-Davis, "The Service of Kings: Dance, Music and Recitation at a South Indian Vishnu Temple" - November 27, 2013






Fall 2012 Lecture Series: Conversion and Modernity

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The notion of ‘conversion’ is commonly taken to de-note a specifically religious phenomenon. In its broad definition, however, conversion refers to a ‘turning’ with respect to position, direction, or destination which re-sults in a recasting of basic orientation. ‘Conversion’ can signify a fundamental alteration of character, a change of nature, form, or function, that is to say, a process of turning or being turned towards or even into something else, as in metamorphosis. Conversion can enable an elemental transformation of perspective in both real and metaphorical space.

Paul Yachnin, "Animal Dreams: Conversion and Metamorphosis" - October 3, 2012



Mark Vessey, "Erasmus and the Conversion of Latin Letters" - October 10, 2012



Iain Fenlon, "First Encounters: Music and Ritual in Early Spanish America" - October 17, 2012



Douglas Hedley, "Reflection and Conversion: Neoplatonism and early-modern Philosophy of Mind" - October 24, 2012



Bronwen Wilson, "Moving Pictures: Sketchbook of a journey from Vienna to Instanbul" - October 31, 2012



Sarah Beckwith, "Shakespeare, Sacrements and Conversion" - November 7, 2012



Emidio Campi, "The Italian convert: Marquis Galeazzo Caracciolo and the English Puritans" - November 14, 2012



Allan Greer, "Kateri Tekakwitha: the Mohawk who Converted the Jesuits" - November 21, 2012





Fall 2011 Lecture Series: Religion and the Brain

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Wherever one is situated in the debate between science and religion it is certain that the neuro-scientific study of religious experience is an in-creasingly important force shaping contempo-rary society. It was fitting, therefore, that McGill’s Centre for Research on Religion should devote its 2011 lecture series to exploring the the theme of ‘Religion & the Brain’. Under the joint sponsorship of the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) and CREOR seven one-hour public lectures on this broad theme followed by half-hour periods of open discussion were delivered in the Birks Building in October and November 2011 by a distinguished roster of guest lecturers.

T. Jinpa Langri, "Mediation and Spiritual Transformation" - October 5, 2011



Lionel Tiger, "Religion, Evolution and Cognition" - October 11, 2011



Harvey Whitehouse, "Neural Correlates of Religious Universals" - October 18, 2011



Cristine Legare, "Reasoning about Scientific and Religious Explanations" - October 26, 2011



Margaret Evans, "Children's Acquisition of Religion" - November 2, 2011



Nuala Kenny, "Neuroscience, Religion and Morality" - November 9, 2011



Robert Zatorre, "Religious Experience, Music and the Brain" - November 16, 2011.





Fall 2010 Lecture Series: Religion, Globalization, and Dialogue

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Jeffrey Haynes, "Religions and Global Politics" - October 14, 2010



Peter Beyer, "Religious pluralisation in a global society" - October 20, 2010



José Casanova, "Emerging global denominationalism" - October 27, 2010



Arvind Sharma, "Religious freedom, globalization and dialogue" - November 3, 2010



Mark Juergensmeyer, "Religious challenges to the secular state" - November 10, 2010



Katherine Marshall: "Faith and good governance" - November 17, 2010



Akbar Ahmed: "Journey into America: the challenge of Islam" - November 24, 2010







Fall 2009 Lecture Series: Religion and the Public Sphere

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Audio Files

Margaret Somerville, "Is religion a pink slip in the public square?" - October 7, 2009



Oliver O'Donovan, "Who can show us any good?" - October 14, 2009



Charles Taylor, "A secular age" - October 21, 2009



Douglas Farrow, "Ethics and religious culture: why the fuss?" - October 28, 2009



Lori Beaman, "Limits on religious freedom" - November 4, 2009



Preston Manning, "Legitimating the expression of faith in the public square" November 11, 2009