University of Rochester

2006 Morgan Lecturer Examines Experiences of Evangelical Christians

October 6, 2006

Anthropologist Tanya M. Luhrmann, the Max Palevsky Professor in the Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago, will explore the ways people learn to develop an intimate relationship with God in evangelical Christianity at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the University of Rochester. As part of the annual Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures, Luhrmann will speak on "Hearing God: Making God Real in Evangelical Christianity," followed by an Oct. 12 discussion with a panel of anthropologists and medical faculty. Both programs are free and open to the public.

Luhrmann's first field work was among middle-class people in England who practiced what they called magic and witchcraft. In a recent paper, she said her goal was to understand "how apparently reasonable people could come to believe in apparently unreasonable beliefs." Her work has continued to delve into the fields of psychiatry and religion, and the way that social practice alters psychological mechanisms.

The Oct. 11 lecture will be held in Lander Auditorium of Hutchison Hall on the University's River Campus. A reception will follow in the Green Carpet Lounge. On Thursday, Oct. 12, the discussion on "Absorption and Spiritual Experience" will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus.

Luhrmann will be joined by Mary Dombeck, professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Rochester; Ayala Emmett, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester; Ernestine McHugh, associate professor in the Humanities at the Eastman School of Music; and Dr. Michael A. Scharf of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Thomas P. Gibson, professor and chair of anthropology at the University of Rochester, will moderate.

This year's Morgan Lecturer has described her current work as looking at the experience of voices and visions both in the new style of American religion and among psychiatric clients, and the way the interpretation of these phenomena may affect the experience of God and the identification, experience, and outcome of psychiatric illness.

Luhrmann received her doctoral degree at the University of Cambridge and taught for many years at the University of California at San Diego. She joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2000 and is the author of several books and numerous articles.

The Morgan Lecture Series honors the memory of Lewis Henry Morgan, the distinguished 19th-century anthropologist and University of Rochester benefactor, and has been presented annually since 1963. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious lecture series in anthropology in North America. Presentations by the speakers are published by University of Chicago Press.

For more information, contact the Department of Anthropology at (585) 275-8614.