An NEH Summer Institute, 1996
was sponsored by
Magill Library Special Collections
the Department of History
at Haverford College
and supported by the National Endowment for the
This five-week Institute was designed
to offer college teachers an opportunity to explore ways to broaden
the boundaries of intellectual discourse on religion in a
"non-religious" society and to provide participants, from several
disciplines and from different kinds of institutions of higher
education, the opportunity to develop a vocabulary and a bibliography
with which to integrate perspectives on religion into humanities
courses. The program and local arrangements were designed and carried
out by Institute Director Emma J. Lapsansky,
and administrative assistant, Dickson Werner.
The Institute sought to explore the diversity of some of the
religous expression in American society. The focus was not one of
"comparative religions"; the emphasis was not so much on how various
groups have arrived at their beliefs, but rather on how those beliefs
have shaped the relationships between various sub-cultures and the
dominant American society's social, economic, educational, political
and/or regional institutions. We did not attempt to be exhaustive.
Many mainstream religions as well as marginal ones were omitted. The
aim was to present some models of the interplay between mainstream
ideas and the belief systems that have inhabited the margins of
American religious thought, and to encourage college faculty to
integrate some of these ideas into our regular curricula.
Each week was organized by a theme, around which the lecturers
focused discussions of their own research and perspectives, with
examples of reading that might be used with students in the
classroom. In addition thelecturers led group sessions and workshops
designed to assist Institute participants in building bibliographies
and syllabi that incorporate some of these themes. To assure
continuity and coherence to the discussions, each week one of the
lecturers spent the full week on campus, serving as "resident
scholar" for that week's theme.
Within the five weekly themes, lecturers were scheduled to be
present on two consecutive days, to lecture on one day, and to
participate in free-flowing discussions on a second day . A third
"resident scholar" was in residence for a full week, to insure
continuity in the themes.
Wednesdays and Fridays were reserved for independent study, for
individual research in the college's library or other repositories,
and for individual consultations with lecturers.
Week I Power Struggles at the Margins
Karlsen as resident
While Americans have been tolerant, even ostensibly proud, of
religious diversity and the separation between church and state,
dominant voices and political boundaries have been tacitly set by
mainstream Protestantism. There has been mistrust of traditions that
diverge from this. Nevertheless, minority voices have continued to be
important, not only to the shaping of lives of minority group
members, but also to shaping majority voices and behaviors. In
this week we examined some of the recent scholarship on the interplay
between majority and minority cultures. The conversation centered
around aspects of the meaning of minority status in a theoretical
way, and on some examples of the social phenomenon of minority status
in American culture.
We read selections from:
Ann Braude, "Women's History Is American Religious
History, " in Thomas A. Tweed, ed., Narrating U. S. Relligious
Abdul JanMohamed, The Nature and Context of Minority
Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain.
Jill Neimark, "Shaman in Chicago: Religious Transcendence or
Midlife Crisis?" Psychology Today, (Sept/Oct, 1993)
Rosemary Radford Ruether and Rosemary Skinner Keller, Women and
Religion in America.
Leslie Silko, "An Old-Time Indian Attack Conducted in Two
Parts:..." from Geary Hobson, edl, The Remembered
Week II Myth, Ritual, and Celebration
Miller as Resident
In this week we focused on "traditional" rituals and celebrations,
and the relationship of these to "natural" markers and boundaries of
time, space, biological rhythms and life cycles. We also examined
such phenomena as Quaker efforts at de-ritualiztion.
Susan Davis, " 'Making Night Hideous:' Christmas Revelry and
Public Order in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia," American
J. William Frost, The Quaker Origins of Anti-Slavery.
Langston Hughes, The Big Sea.
Charles Joyner, Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave
Hugh T. Kerr and John M. Mulder, eds., Conversions: The
Colleen Mc Dannell, Material Christianity: Religion and Popular
Culture in America.
Anne Moody, Comng of Age in Mississippi.
Phillips P. Moulton, The Journal and Major Essays of John
Robert Anthony Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and
Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950.
Michael C. Osborne, "The Diary of Ann Whitall," (Manuscript in
Haverford College Quaker Collection)
Jack Wertheimer, ed., The Uses of Tradition: Jewish Continuity
in the Modern Era.
Week III Transforming Religious Traditions
Bruce as Resident
Religious beliefs and practices often provide the discipline that
sets rules about "civilized" public life--what to eat, with whom to
mate, where to live, what work is honorable, appropriate gender
behavior, how resources of time, money, intellectual energy, etc.
should be allocated, how to tell if you or your neighbors have had a
proper conversion experience. The readings and discussions addressed
the question of what stresses are put on marginal communities when
larger community norms are at odds with local community dictates.
David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed.
Caroline Golab. Immigrant Destinations.
Stuart Hall, "Old and New Identies, Old and New Ethnicities," in
Anthony King, ed., Culture, Globalization and the World-System:
Contemprary Conditions for the Representation of Identity.
Susan Juster, " 'In a Different Voice: '" Male and Female
Narratives of Conversion in Postrevolutionary America, American
Sally Kitch, Chaste Liberation: Celibacy and Female Cultural
Joel Martin, "Indians Were Everywhere and Are Here Forever: Themes
for a Post-Colonial History of American Religion," in Thomas A.
Tweed, ed., Narrating U. S. Religious History.
John H. Wigger, "Taking Heaven by Storm: Enthusiasm and Early
American Methodism, 1770-1820," Journal of the Early Republic,
"Susannah Wright to Eliza Norris...at Fairhill." (Poem, ca. 1750)
Week IV Religion and Community: Region, Cohesion, Time and
Bruce as resident
Despite the strictures of majority culture--and because of
them--"underground" groups have sought physical, emotional and
intellectual spaces in which to maintain a strong and culturally
self-sufficient cohesion. Sometimes this has taken the form of
physical migration, sometimes the form of a dual language (one for
"public" use, one for use inside the minority communities). In this
week we read about various groups who have used these, and other
techniques to protect the integrity of their convictions about
"causality and purpose."
W. E. B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk.
Thomas D. Hamm, "Hicksite Quakers and the Antebellum Nonresistance
Movement," Church History, (Decemer, 1994)
Thomas D. Hamm, The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox
Week V New Realities in a Changing Society
Lapsansky as Resident Scholar
In this final week, the discussions were more open, as the group
explored the implications of modern-day "marginal" religious concerns
in social context. We explored such questions as "what does the new
fragmentation mean about rules for community coherence?" "What does
television evangelism have to tell us about geography, ethnicity
and/or race in the definitions of cohesion of belief, tradition and
initiation--in other words the definition of "religious community?"
"What does the new feminism portend for the way we visualize
orthodoxy?" "What is presaged by the entrance of a stronger Asian
voice in the American conversation?"
Susan Cole Cady et al.,Wisdom's Feast.
Council of Bishops. Task Force on the Study of Wisdom, "Biblical
Wisdom and Current Theological Ferment" in Circuit Rider
David A. Snow and Richard Machalek, "On the Presumed Fragility of
Unconventional Beliefs," Journal for the Scientific Study of
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This page updated 1/28/97.