In a two-day International Conference on Chinese Religio-Environmental Ethics and Practice, an array of speakers touched on environmental issues such as the extinction of animals and how traditional Chinese religious cultures view them. Panelists spoke about religious rituals like making trees and forests sacred, the care of animals, preserving sacred sites and native places, and the ethics of these religious practices.
Languages build bridges, says Sabah Hamad, a UC Santa Barbara graduate student in Arabic, Hebrew Literature, and Black Studies. Hamad believes that being able to communicate with people from other parts of the world is rewarding and offers a better understanding of their beliefs and traditions.
Hamad is a Palestinian-American who believes that much of the Israel-Palestinian conflict has to do with the misunderstanding and bias, made worse by ignorance of Palestinian and Israeli literature and languages. In a recent interview, she discussed these issues and how she is pursuing interests in Middle East cultures through the Religion Studies Department.
For many U.S. college students, hearing mention of Iraq evokes images of soldiers, oil, refugees, and destruction. In 2003, the United States invaded the country and American soldiers remained there for roughly eight years. Those soldiers and the combat that surrounded them dominated U.S. media coverage, leaving little room for the stories of Iraqi civilians and the hardships they endured during and after the occupation.
Now, 15 years after the invasion, several departments at UC Santa Barbara came together for a symposium to flip the script and reframe U.S. perspectives on Iraq. “[The goal is to] re-orient us towards Iraq in order to overturn these reductive and insufficient representations of human beings,” said organizer Mona Damluji, a professor in the Film and Media Studies Department.
The two-day event, called “Iraq Front and Center” was held earlier this month to create a space for interdisciplinary conversations, bringing together guest speakers from the diverse perspectives of novelist, journalist, filmmaker, and doctor.
Elizabeth Pérez, assistant professor in Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara, has won a top
honor for her first book, Religion in the Kitchen: Cooking, Talking, and the Making of Black
Atlantic Traditions. Pérez was awarded the Clifford Geertz Prize in the anthropology of religion
at the 2017 American Anthropological Association meeting in Washington, D.C.
"When I was a PhD student and waiting to talk to people about larger-scale rituals, I was put to
work in the kitchen: slicing vegetables, frying plantains for Platanos Fritos, or rolling little
dumplings or balls of different kinds of flour. I found that it wasn't just the glamorous rituals with the splendid altars and the exciting music that were important, but that what I was doing had a place in the tradition, especially in the formation of religious subjects."
Novelist and filmmaker David Bezmozgis said his novel The Betrayers (2014) oﬀers one “provocative” answer to the moral dilemma. “If we accept that there are sociopaths and psychopaths in this world, why would we not also accept that the opposite exists,” he asked. “That some people are good, because they are born that way? That there is a limit to how good anyone can actually be? The only way you will know is when you are tested.”
“We tried to define the parameters [of the event] around not vilifying religion as the culprit of xenophobia,” said Kathleen Moore, a UC Santa Barbara Religious Studies professor and co-organizer of the “Thank G@d We’re Not Like Them: The Global Dimensions of Religious Othering" workshop. “We wanted to isolate religion enough to understand why it’s instrumental in the way that people construct the archetypal enemy and use religion as a negative mirror to reflect the values that are positive about oneself.