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Religion & US Empire

March 15 @ 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

This event is open to the public.

A panel discussion with Sylvester A. Johnson (Virginia Tech) and Tisa Wenger (Yale), co-editors of Religion and US Empire: Critical New Histories (NYU Press 2022). The speakers will be in discussion with CHAT fellows: Nicholas Andersen, Catie Peterson, Sasha Sabherwal, and Hannah Waits.

About the Talk:

The United States has arguably always been an empire, and one with intimate ties to religion. Yet the relation between these social formations is anything but simple. Grasping the full force of their entanglement, past and present, requires a thorough rethinking of our notions of US empire and religion alike. Where and when do these formations converge? In what ways has US empire engendered new forms of religious life and thought? How have the cultural logics of religion facilitated processes of empire-building, as well as counter-imperial resistance? What might it mean to think of religion as a repertoire for imperial domination and defiance? This panel discussion coincides with the recent release of Wenger and Johnson’s new edited volume, Religion and US Empire: Critical New Histories, in August 2022.


About the Speakers:

Sylvester A. Johnson, the founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities, is a nationally recognized humanities scholar specializing in the study of technology, race, religion, and national security. He is also associate vice provost for public interest technology at Virginia Tech and executive director of the university’s Tech for Humanity initiative. Johnson, who holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Religion and Culture, has authored The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth-Century American Christianity, a study of race and religious hatred that won the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book award; and African American Religions, 1500-2000, an award-winning interpretation of five centuries of democracy, colonialism, and freedom in the Atlantic world. Johnson has also co-edited The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11. A founding co-editor of the Journal of Africana Religions, he has published more than 70 scholarly articles, essays, and reviews.

Tisa Wenger is Professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School, Religious Studies, and American Studies at Yale. She is the author of We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (UNC Press, 2009) and Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal (UNC Press, 2017), and co-editor, with Sylvester Johnson, of Religion and U.S. Empire: Critical New Histories (NYU Press, 2022). Wenger co-edits the journal Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, as well as the University Press of Kansas book series, Studies in US Religion, Politics, and Law. A Guggenheim Fellowship in 2021-2022 supported research towards her next book, How Settler Colonialism Made American Religion.


March 15
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm


Center for the Humanities, the Department of History, International Relations Program, Civic Studies Program, NEMAAR, the Department of Religion


Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room, 15 Talbot Avenue
15 Talbot Ave.
Medford, MA 02155 United States
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