IUPUI professor’s new book examines ‘Islam in the African Diaspora’

'The Call of Bilal' cover

‘The Call of Bilal’ cover

A new book by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor Edward Curtis examines Islam in the global African diaspora, showing the many ways Islam is practiced by people of African descent while looking at the ways those practices have been influenced by their experience and interpretation of diaspora.

Bilal, whose mother was Ethiopian, is the historical figure whose rise from slavery inspired future Muslims of African descent to “claim his heritage as proof of their legitimate role as moral leaders for Muslims worldwide,” Curtis writes in “The Call of Bilal: Islam in the African Diaspora,” published by the University of North Carolina Press. Bilal not only rose to become Muhammad’s companion but was asked by the Prophet to call Muslims to prayer. He issued the adhan — the call to prayer — for the remainder of his life.

Curtis is the Millennium Chair of Liberal Arts and professor of religious studies at IUPUI. The concept for “The Call of Bilal” began for Curtis while he was visiting villages along the Dead Sea in the Jordan Valley.

“In Jordan on one of my study abroad trips there for IUPUI, I met and spoke with many Muslims of African descent,” he said. “These encounters made me want to learn some of their stories, and to learn those of other Africana Muslims in the diaspora.”

The professor said that as he looked to African diaspora in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia, he came to understand better how Muslims of African descent sometimes dismiss the idea that they are part of an African diaspora. Others cherish the connections they have to African-descended people around the globe, though their political and cultural ideas about what binds them together differ.

He realized that the idea of diaspora was also sometimes interpreted in a religious fashion to emphasize the theological, ethical, aesthetic and ritualized elements of the African diaspora, orientations that linked the destiny of the black diaspora as much to the heavens as to the Earth.

Most Muslims in the African diaspora are Sunni Muslims, Curtis said, meaning that they identify with the majority tradition in Islam that makes incumbent certain basic interpretations of Islam (sometimes called the pillars of faith) and the “five pillars of practice” (the declaration of faith, daily prayer, fasting during Ramadan, pilgrimage to Mecca and alms for the poor).

“But what it means to be a religious Muslim beyond these shared traditions shatters any facile, American-based assumptions about the practices of black Muslims,” he said. “For example, I studied the prayers, healing rituals, instrumental music, singing, spirit possession ceremonies and dancing performed by some Siddi and Habshi Muslims in Pakistan and India at shrines devoted to their African ancestor saints, Bava Gor (or Gori Pir) and his sister, Mai Mishra. These saints are not household names among African American Muslims. (Generally speaking, the veneration of Muslim saints is not very popular in the Americas as opposed to in Africa and Asia.)”

Curtis encountered many surprises during his research, despite his long history of studying Islam.

“In the end, what seemed most important to me is that by studying Islam in the African diaspora, you can develop a very thorough understanding of Islamic tradition,” he said. “Since they have been part of so many Muslim countries and regions, their experience offers a wide view on what it means to be Muslim.”

Consecrating Science Wonder, Ethics, and the New Cosmology: a Roundtable with Dr. Lisa Sideris

Lisa Sideris

Lisa Sideris

What is the role of wonder in contemporary environmental discourse? Come join Dr. Lisa Sideris on Friday, December 5 at 1:30 p.m. in the IUPUI University Library, Room 4115P, as she examines a constellation of movements referred to as the New Story/Universe Story/Epic of Evolution/Big History—forms of science-based ecospirituality that have emerged in recent decades. One of her central claims is that these narratives encourage awe and wonder at scientific information and expert knowledge as that which is most “real,” over and above lived encounters with the natural world. She questions whether these new myths are likely to engender the environmental values and ethics they seek to cultivate. This privileging of abstract information is pronounced in iterations of the new cosmology that take inspiration from the work of E. O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins—who promote a mythopoeic rendering of science as a superior rival to religion—but many of the same criticisms can be made of the new cosmology as it has come to dominate the broad discipline of “religion and ecology.” Dr. Sideris’s talk will draw comparisons between the forms (and objects) of wonder celebrated in these movements and accounts of wonder as an enduring orientation, such as Rachel Carson defends in The Sense of Wonder and other writings.

LISA SIDERIS is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the IU Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics, and Society (CSRES) at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research interests include environmental ethics, religion and nature, and the science-religion interface. She is author of Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection (Columbia, 2003) and editor of Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge (SUNY, 2008). Her current research focuses on the role played by wonder in discourse at the intersection of science, religion, and nature, and the turn to science for a common sacred narrative.

This is a public program open to all. An RSVP to Abby Gitlitz agitlitz@indiana.edu is appreciated but not required. Religion and Ethics Roundtables highlight the work of scholars at IUB, IUPUI, and beyond, with the goal of engaging the IU community and the public in dialogue about important issues at the intersection of religion, ethics, and society.

Marc Lamont Hill to keynote IUPUI dinner honoring Martin Luther King’s legacy

Marc Lamont Hill

Marc Lamont Hill

Journalist, educator, hip-hop generation intellectual and Ebony Power 100 honoree Marc Lamont Hill will deliver the keynote address during the 46th annual Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner.

Hill, distinguished professor of African American studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta, was included among Ebony magazine’s annual list of the 100 “most influential and intriguing men and women in Black America” and celebrated as such during a Hollywood ceremony Wednesday. The 2014 Ebony Power 100 list is featured in the magazine’s December issue.

The IUPUI Black Student Union will host the annual IUPUI King Dinner, one of Indianapolis’ longest-running events honoring the slain civil rights leader, at 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18, at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, 140 W. Washington St.

Hill, the host of HuffPost Live and BET News, will address the dinner’s theme of “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.”

“Today as one of the world’s leading hip-hop intellectuals, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill enjoys sharing his teachings as well as his experiences with audiences all around the world, and we truly look forward to having him share them with us as well,” said Karina Garduño, coordinator for social justice education in the IUPUI Office of Student Involvement.

Individual dinner tickets are $25 for IUPUI students, $65 for IUPUI faculty and staff and $75 for general admission community guest tickets. They are on sale now at the Office of Student Involvement at the IUPUI Campus Center, Suite 370, 420 University Blvd.

Sponsorship packages are also available for $1,000, $850 and $435 and include respectively, 10, 10 and five dinner tickets, along with advertisement space in the dinner program and sponsorship of student tickets.

The deadline for ticket purchases is Dec. 19.

For additional information, contact the Office of Student Involvement at 317-274-3931 or dinner@iupui.edu .

Indiana Humanities & Indiana Landmarks Grant Workshop Opportunities

indexindexa;dfjIndiana Humanities & Indiana Landmarks invite you to a Grant Workshop on Dec. 5, 2014, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The workshop will be held at Indiana Landmarks, 1201 Central Avenue, Indianapolis.

Focusing on opportunities for funding public programs in history, preservation, literature and related fields, the workshop will provide information on available grants, offer examples of innovative projects and give you a chance to meet grants officers and colleagues. Senior program officer Chrissy Cortina will talk about grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Advance registration is required. More information at: www.indianahumanities.org/Grants or contact Nancy Conner, 800.675.8897 or nconner@indianahumanities.org.

New book by IUPUI Shakespeare expert explores mystery of multiple Hamlets

"Young Hamlet" Cover

“Young Hamlet” Cover

One of the biggest questions in Shakespeare studies is, “Why are there three different versions of ‘Hamlet,’ printed respectively in 1603, 1605 and 1623?”

Are they all written by Shakespeare? And when? And why should we care?

A new, heavily researched and anticipated book — “Young Shakespeare’s Young Hamlet” (Palgrave MacMillan) by Terri Bourus, associate professor of English drama in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI — looks to solve the mystery of the earliest printed version of the play, sometimes called “Q1 Hamlet.”

Bourus, who is also director and general editor of the New Oxford Shakespeare Project, has long been writing and teaching about a “younger, less philosophical” “Hamlet.”  She examines the life of William Shakespeare, the late-16th-century London theatre environment, the London printing houses and book shops, and, of course, the play itself. How did Shakespeare come to write it? What did the play mean to him? Why are there three versions, and of those three, why is the earliest so different from the other two?

The book grew out of Bourus’ research for a graduate seminar on the book trade in Shakespeare’s London. For the required research paper, she chose to investigate the printing operations of Nicholas Ling, a prominent businessman who published some of Shakespeare’s plays, including the early “Hamlets.” Her exploration grew beyond the class research paper and eventually became her dissertation. Bourus said a book was the next natural step.

Researching the project included visiting London printing houses and theaters and, most importantly, several research trips to the British Library and the National Archives in London (for which she won several prestigious grants). Only by working with original documents in London and in Norwich (Ling’s birthplace) could Bourus track down the events in both Ling’s and Shakespeare’s lives that might lead to some answers about this troublesome quarto. The printers might be the key.

“After all, without the printing houses, we would not have Shakespeare’s plays today,” Bourus said. “Shakespeare’s plays come down to us, not only on the stage, but primarily from the page.”

One of the findings that most fascinated Bourus was what she discovered about the interactions between the printers and actors, the printing houses and theaters.

“These ‘dramatic intersections,’ as I like to call them, added a rich layer of story to my research,” she said. “I was able to talk about the relationship of Nicholas Ling to the players, especially Shakespeare, and I was also able to discuss the personal relationship between Shakespeare and his friend and longtime colleague Richard Burbage (the earliest actor to play Hamlet). This allowed me to get to know these Elizabethan and Jacobean Players (as actors were called) and businessmen in an entirely new light.”

Because Shakespeare wrote plays — not novels — Bourus said viewing the play is crucial to understanding the work.

“The best way to really understand a play is to see it on stage and to hear the words on the page spoken by actors,” she said. “A play does not have a ‘narrative voice’ like a book. Instead, a play is explicated through ‘action,’ the action of an actor on a stage with his or her primary tool: language. … Through theater, through performance, through the stage, we come to understand Shakespeare’s use of the English language — language that creates images, ideas, colors, landscapes … paintings made of words.”

In 2011, as she worked on the mystery of the printed “Hamlet,” Bourus decided to see whether she could stage this version of the play successfully and formed Hoosier Bard Productions. Her first production, based on “Q1 Hamlet,” was called “Young Hamlet” because of the age of the protagonist and the young age, she believes, of the playwright himself. Bourus’ book includes images and lively details about how directing the production further shaped her understanding of the history of the text.

Bourus said one of her toughest challenges in completing the project was the continuing resistance to any change in the Shakespearian “tradition.” Some Shakespeare scholars refuse to accept evidence that alters Shakespeare’s legacy. Even the thought that Shakespeare, like all writers, revised his work in order to craft his masterpiece is preposterous to some.

“But he was young once, too, and he was learning his trade,” Bourus said. “The first edition of ‘Hamlet’ was, I argue, Shakespeare’s first play. It’s a good story for university students because they are all, as Shakespeare once was, just embarking on the life they will lead and the legacy they will create.”

IU Center for Civic Literacy receives Simon Family Foundation grant

Sheila Kennedy

Sheila Kennedy

The Indiana University Center for Civic Literacy recently received a $25,000 grant from the Simon Family Foundation to study the gap in civics education available to students in wealthy and poor neighborhoods.

“There are so many things we don’t know about the distressing deficit of civic knowledge,” said Sheila Kennedy, professor of law and policy and director of the center. “One of the most troubling aspects of the decline in both civic literacy and civic engagement is unequal access to civic opportunities and instruction. We are so grateful to the Herbert Simon Family Foundation for enabling us to study and analyze that problem.”

The Center for Civic Literacy, a multidisciplinary research center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, pursues an aggressive research agenda to identify and address the causes and civic consequences of Americans’ low levels of constitutional, economic and scientific knowledge. It hosts a website and blog, and it publishes a quarterly newsletter and the free online, peer-reviewed journal Civic Literacy.

Established in July 2012, the center is supported by the IUPUI Signature Centers Initiative, which is designed to provide selected centers initial funding for a period of three years. The Simon Family Foundation grant is the first grant the center has received outside of IUPUI.

National Endowment for the Humanities Grants Available Now

NEH LogoSustaining Cultural Heritage Collections (SCHC): Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections (SCHC) helps cultural institutions meet the complex challenge of preserving large and diverse holdings of humanities materials for future generations by supporting preventive conservation measures that mitigate deterioration and prolong the useful life of collections.

SCHC offers two kinds of awards: 1. PLANNING−To help an institution develop and assess preventive conservation strategies, grants will support planning projects, which may encompass such activities as site visits, risk assessments, planning sessions, monitoring, testing, modeling, project-specific research, and preliminary designs for implementation projects. Planning grants must focus on exploring sustainable preventive conservation strategies. 2. IMPLEMENTATION−Projects should be based on planning that has been specific to the needs of the institution and its collections within the context of its local environment. It is not necessary to receive an NEH planning grant to be eligible for an implementation grant. Planning could be supported by NEH, other federal agencies, private foundations, or an institution’s internal funds. Projects that seek to implement preventive conservation measures in sustainable ways are especially encouraged. ! Deadline: December 3, 2014. http://www.neh.gov/grants/preservation/sustaining-cultural-heritage-collections

Digital Projects for the Public: NEH’s Division of Public Programs supports activities that engage millions of Americans in understanding significant humanities works and ideas. At the center of every NEH-funded public humanities project is a core set of humanities ideas developed by scholars, matched to imaginative formats that bring humanities ideas alive for people of all ages and all walks of life. The Digital Projects for the Public program supports projects such as websites, mobile applications, games, and virtual environments that significantly contribute to the public’s engagement with humanities ideas. Projects must be analytical and deeply grounded in humanities scholarship in a discipline such as history, religion, anthropology, jurisprudence, or art history. Digital Projects for the Public grants support projects that are largely created for digital platforms. While these projects can take many forms, shapes, and size! s, you should apply to this program primarily to create digital projects or the digital components of a larger project. NEH is a national funding agency, so these projects should demonstrate the potential to attract a broad, general audience. Projects can have specific targeted audiences (including K-12 students), but they should also strive to cultivate a more inclusive audience. Deadline: June 11, 2015. http://www.neh.gov/grants/public/digital-projects-the-public

Reading at the Table presents Dr. Jonathan Eller with Ray Bradbury Unbound

Jonathan Eller, director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI, with a few pulps featuring Bradbury's stories from the center's archives.  Photo: Nuvo

Jonathan Eller, director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI, with a few pulps featuring Bradbury’s stories from the center’s archives.
Photo: Nuvo

The Office of Academic Affairs and the Faculty Club invite you to attend the Reading at the Table presentation scheduled for Wednesday, December 10, 2014, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., when Dr. Jonathan Eller discusses his latest book in the Ray Bradbury series:  Ray Bradbury Unbound.

At the height of his powers as a poetic prose stylist, Bradbury shifted his creative attention to film and television, where new successes gave him an enduring platform as a compelling cultural commentator. His passionate advocacy validated the U.S. space program’s mission, extending his pivotal role as a chronicler of human values in an age of technological wonders.
Informed by many years of interviews with Bradbury as well as an unprecedented access to personal papers and private collections, Ray Bradbury Unbound provides the definitive portrait of how a legendary American author helped shape his times.
A buffet lunch is available for $13, including taxes and gratuity.  Dessert and soft drinks are extra.  Please register in advance for this event.

New Signature Center Initiative Category Announced

The Signature Centers Initiative (SCI) was begun in 2006 in an effort to create strong research units that are uniquely identifiable with IUPUI. The centers were created as an integral part of the Academic Plan for IUPUI, with the goal that they will lead the way in world-class research and creative activities that will substantially enhance IUPUI’s reputation. With these aims in mind, a call for proposals in the Fall of 2006 resulted in a total of 19 center proposals selected for support.  As there was a great deal of interest and enthusiasm for the Signature Centers Initiative, and as the quality of the proposals submitted was very high, in 2007 it was decided to continue the development of Signature Centers across the IUPUI campus. This has resulted in subsequent rounds of calls for proposals.

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research will introduce a new Signature Centers Initiative (SCI) funding category in 2015. This new category is for SCI planning grants that will allow collaborative research groups to build capacity and strengthen a future application for a center grant. The funding level for each approved proposal in this category is expected not to exceed $50,000 for one year.

Note: Proposals for this category require that the applicant has attended the annual SCI workshop, which will take place on January 16, 2015, from 1-3 pm in University Library Room 1126.

For more detailed information on SCI planning grants, please download the SCI guidelines.

African Studies Association panel discusses our response to ebola-related stigma and violence targeting Africans and first responders

indexThe African Studies Association will be holding its 57th Annual Meeting in Indianapolis next week. As part of our Annual Meeting, the Association will host a pre-conference workshop, “Responding to Ebola-Related Stigma and Violence Targeting Africans and First Responders” on Wednesday, Nov 19, 9:30 am-12:00 pm at the JW Marriott Indianapolis, Room 105. This workshop is being organized by a member of the African Studies Association Board of Directors, Dr. Sheryl McCurdy.

This workshop seeks to bring together interdisciplinary experts to discuss the Ebola crisis and possible ways forward, as well as the development of possible responses and resources for future teach-ins and forums. Current panelists include Dr. McCurdy, Dr. Pamela Scully, Emory University, Dr. Mary Beth Riner, Indiana University, and Dr. Ruth Stone, Indiana University.

The School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is a sponsor of this year’s meeting, and as part of your sponsorship benefits, we would like to open the workshop, free of charge, to interested students and faculty from the School.

Interested students and faculty can sign up to attend the workshop via this form.

Registration will be granted on a first come, first serve basis, and will remain open until the workshop hits capacity.