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Distinguished Visiting Humanist Wendy Doniger discusses science, religion

March 17, 2017
carving of Hindu imagery(iStock photo)

Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, is this year’s Distinguished Visiting Humanist. Doniger, a scholar of Hinduism and mythology, will be in residence at the University from March 22 to 24.

She’ll deliver a lecture, free and open to the public, titled “The Subversion of Religion by Science in Ancient India, and the Subversion of Science by Religion in Contemporary India,” at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, in the Hawkins-Carlson Room at Rush Rhees Library.

Doniger’s work brings together a variety of academic fields, including religion, anthropology, linguistics, and gender studies. A member of Chicago’s faculty since 1978, she holds appointments in the Divinity School, the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on Social Thought, and the College.

She has published more than 40 books, including The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth (Columbia University Press, 1998); The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was (Oxford University Press, 2006); and Redeeming the Kamasutra (Oxford University Press, 2016).

One of her recent books— Hindus: An Alternative History (Penguin, 2009), which the New York Times Book Review called “staggeringly comprehensive”—embroiled her in controversy, provoking angry responses from conservative Hindu groups and raising issues of censorship and rights of free speech.

Doniger will discuss the episode in a lecture at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, also in the Hawkins-Carlson Room. The talk, “How My Mother (Who Died in 1991) Prepared Me to Confront Hindu Fundamentalists in 2010,” is free and open to the public.

Nora Rubel, an associate professor of religion and the director of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies, says that Doniger’s work highlights the “often messy collision of religion, science, and politics—an intersection that for scholars today is of immediate concern.”religion

The Humanities Center hosts the Distinguished Visiting Humanist program, which brings eminent scholars and public intellectuals to the University to participate in public lectures, courses, workshops and demonstrations, and discussions. Previous guest speakers have included Kwame Anthony Appiah and Noam Chomsky. A full listing of Doniger’s events at Rochester is available at the Humanities Center website.

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Category: Society & Culture