Current Affiliates

Visiting Scholars

The CSWR welcomes the following Visiting Scholars for the 2022-23 Academic Year:

David AbramDavid Abram joins the “Transcendence and Transformation” initiative in partnership with The Constellation Project as Senior Visiting Scholar in Ecology and Natural Philosophy at the CSWR. He is the author of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Pantheon, 1996) and Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (Pantheon, 2010). Described as “daring” and “truly original” by the journal Science, David’s work explores the ecological depths of the imagination, articulating the ways in which sensory perception, language, and wonder inform the relation between the human animal and the animate earth. In his first book, Abram coined the phrase "the more-than-human world" in order to speak of nature as a realm that thoroughly includes humankind, yet also necessarily exceeds humankind; the phrase has now been taken up as a key term within the worldwide movement for ecological sanity.

Dr. Abram was perhaps the first contemporary philosopher to advocate for a reappraisal of "animism" as a complexly nuanced and uniquely viable worldview, one that roots human cognition in the dynamic sentience of the body while affirming the ongoing entanglement of our sentience with the uncanny intelligence of other animals. A close student of the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of diverse indigenous peoples, his work also articulates the entwinement of human subjectivity with the varied sensitivities of the plants upon whom we depend, as well as with the agency of the particular places (or bioregions) that surround and sustain our communities. Our unique modalities of mind, Abram suggests, simply cannot be understood in isolation from the material dynamism and fragility of the breathing Earth.

Abram's essays on the cultural causes and consequences of environmental disarray are published in many journals and academic anthologies. His numerous awards include the international Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction as well as Rockefeller and Watson Fellowships. He recently held the international Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and Ecology at the University of Oslo, and he is co-founder and director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics (AWE). When not at Harvard, David lives with his family in the foothills of the southern Rockies.

Fadeke CastorN. Fadeke Castor is an Assistant Professor of Religion and Africana Studies at Northeastern University and award-winning author of Spiritual Citizenship: Transnational Pathways from Black Power to Ifá in Trinidad (Duke University Press, 2017). A Black feminist ethnographer, African Diaspora Studies scholar of Trinidadian heritage and Yorùbá Ifá initiate, she is both inspired by and aspires to create Black liberation imaginaries. Her writings, which can be found in Cultural Anthropology, Fieldwork in Religion, Tarka, and The Black Scholar, emerge from an engagement of Spirit with the Black radical tradition and social justice. In her current project she explores how Black spiritual praxis, often drawn from non-Christian religious and spiritual ontologies and epistemologies, shifts centers of being and ways of knowing towards collective care and healing, and social transformation.

Postdoctoral Fellows in Transcendence and Transformation

The CSWR also welcomes the following Postdoctoral Fellows in Transcendence and Transformation for the 2022-23 Academic Year:

Sravana Borkataky-VarmaSravana Borkataky-Varma is a historian, educator, and social entrepreneur. As a historian, she studies Indian religions focusing on esoteric rituals and gender, particularly in Hindu Śākta (Goddess) Tantra traditions. As an educator, she is the Instructional Assistant Professor at the University of Houston. At present, she is a Center for the Study of World Religions fellow at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University. In the past, she has taught at Harvard University, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, the University of Montana, and Rice University.

Sravana is currently working on four book projects: Divinized Divas: Superwomen, Wives, Hijṛās in Hindu Śākta Tantra, The Serpent's Tale: Kuṇḍalinī and the History of an Experience, Living Folk Religions, and Religious Responses to the Pandemic & Crises: Isolation, Survival, and #Covidchaos. Details of her already published works can be found on her website, sravana.me.

As a social entrepreneur, she is the co-founder of a nonprofit, Lumen Tree Portal. Sravana invests in building communities with individuals from various faith backgrounds who believe in kindness, compassion, and fulfillment. She is also a Board of Trustee at Esalen Institute, California, and an Advisory Board Member for Compassionate Houston, Texas. In a previous non-academic avatar, Sravana worked in customer service, in the financial and IT industry.

Matthew J. DillonMatthew J. Dillon is a historian of religions with a focus on mystical and gnostic currents in Christianity. He received his PhD from Rice University’s Department of Religion with specializations in Early Christianity and History of Religions in America. His research traces the afterlives of apocryphal Christian scriptures, philosophies, and mythemes in American religions and culture. His first book, The Kingdom is Within You: The Lost Gospels and Post-Christianity in America, (University Press of Virginia, forthcoming), analyzes the religious reception of the Nag Hammadi Codices across traditional Christianities, new religions, media, popular culture, and those who identify as “spiritual but not religious.” At the CSWR, he is embarking on his next book, Electric Soul: Psychology, Technology, and the Divine Double.

CSWR Temp LogoMichael Ennis is a historian of patristic Christianity, focusing on the fourth and fifth centuries.  His research sits at the intersection of philology and theology. His dissertation studied the poet Ephrem the Syrian’s symbolic theology in its interreligious contexts, spanning Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac authors. In addition to revising the dissertation for publication as a monograph, Michael will spend his time at the CSWR working on a new book project examining the central texts of the late 4th century Origenist Controversy. Michael holds an AB in Greek and Latin from Brown University, and an MTS and ThD from Harvard Divinity School.

Hadi FakhouryOriginally from Beirut, Hadi Fakhoury received his master's degree from the Institute of Islamic Studies, and his PhD from the School of Religious Studies, both at McGill University, Montreal. His master's thesis studied the influence of modern Russian religious thinkers on the French scholar of Islamic theosophy, Henry Corbin (1903-1978). His doctoral dissertation focused on the relation between philosophy and religion in the later thought of the German philosopher F.W.J. Schelling (1775-1854) through the study of his treatise Monotheism. Hadi’s postdoctoral research project at the CSWR is titled "‘Towards a Hierology’: Henry Corbin and the Reorientation of the Study of Religion." He is currently preparing an edition of Corbin’s unpublished early writings on Eastern Christianity and is co-organizing, with CSWR director Charles Stang, an international conference on Corbin to be held at the CSWR in 2022.

HajianiShiraz Hajiani is a scholar of religion and history with over a decade of experience in teaching and advising undergraduates, graduates and life-long learners, including at the University of Chicago and Harvard. He specialises in Islamic history and thought, Shiʿism, Ismaili studies and has regional expertise in the study of the Middle East, North Africa, Central and South Asia. His dissertation completed at Chicago (2019), contributes new approaches and readings of the history and thought of the early Nizari Ismailis and their polity in Iran (1090-1256 CE). His re-readings of the chronicles along with the newly discovered doctrinal treatises he has edited and translated reveal not only complex relations and tumultuous conflict between the Nizaris and their religio-political adversaries but also uncover long-standing factionalisms among the Nizaris which influenced their eschatological beliefs. Shiraz is preparing a monograph,The Life and Times of Our Master: A study of the biography of Ḥasan-i Ṣabbāḥ (Sar guẕasht-i Sayyidnā) and through lenses of Shiʿism and the Nizari polity, will examine Islamicate history of the early Middle Period. He is also completing an annotated translation, from Persian, of the lengthy account on the Fatimids (fl. 909-1171) and the Nizari polity in the Ilkhanid Mongol wazīr, Rashīd al-Dīn Faḍlallāh’s (d. 1318) Jāmiʿ al-tawārīkh (Compendium of Histories).

In 2017, supported by the Fulbright Research Fellowship, Shiraz spent a year in Tajikistan and began his second research project, an ethnographic study of the histories of transmission of religious knowledge in Central Asia before during and after the Soviet period. Shiraz is a founder of the Ismaili Studies Conference. He holds a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Master of Arts in History and a Doctorate in Islamic Studies from the University of Chicago. Shiraz is the Alwaleed Bin Talal Postdoctoral Fellow in Islamic Studies hosted by the Center for the Study of World Religions. In Fall 2022, he will teach "Religion and Society in Islamicate History (900-1300 CE) from Shiʿi Centuries to Mongol Invasions."

Research Associates in Transcendence and Transformation

The CSWR also welcomes the following Research Associates in Transcendence and Transformation for the 2022-23 Academic Year:

Barakatullo AshurovBarakatullo Ashurov is a linguist and historian from Tajikistan. His research and teaching focus on the history of religions, cultures, and languages of Ancient Iran encompassing the modern territories of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Central Asian countries. One of his primary scholarly focuses is history of Eastern Syriac Christianity among Iranian and Turkic-speaking ethnolinguistic communities of West and Central Asia. More specifically, his interests include: the Syriac Christian tradition among Sogdian, especially the spread of the East Syrian tradition along the Silk Roads; other philosophical and religious movements of the ancient Iranian world. Ashurov’s current projects include “Studies on Sogdian body-part words”; “Politeness and Impoliteness in Sogdian language”; and a book project, “Christianity in Central Asia: An Introductory History”.

Michael FergusonMichael Ferguson, PhD, is an Instructor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School and the Neurospirituality Research Director for the Center for Brain Circuit Therapeutics at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He is a Lecturer on Neurospirituality at Harvard Divinity School, instructs a Cognitive Neuroscience of Meditation semester course at Harvard College, and leads graduate directed readings in Mysticism and Neuroscience. Dr. Ferguson earned his doctorate in bioengineering at the University of Utah, where he conducted brain imaging research on ecstatic religious experience. He also trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University and Harvard Medical School before joining faculty at Harvard. Dr. Ferguson is deeply interested in multidisciplinary work spanning science, medicine, and mysticism.

Giovanna ParmigianiGiovanna Parmigiani received an MA in Literature and Philosophy from the Università degli Studi of Milan (Italy) in 2002, a MSc in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics (UK) in 2009, and a PhD in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from the University of Toronto in 2015. She is an anthropologist of religion, a scholar of Contemporary Paganisms, and a member of the steering committee of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Unit at the AAR. Her work is firmly grounded in ethnographic and auto-ethnographic practices, and her main focus of interest are the relationships between religion, politics, and gender. Her first monograph, Feminism, Violence and Representation in Modern Italy: ‘We Are Witnesses, Not Victims’ (Indiana University Press, 2019) dealt with violence against women, and her second, The Spider Dance: Tradition, Time, and Healing in Southern Italy (Equinox Publishing, forthcoming) with contemporary Pagan women and healing. Her article "Magic and Politics: Conspirituality and COVID-19" was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion in 2021. As a Research Associate in the Transcendence and Transformation Initiative at the CSWR, she is starting a new ethnographic project titled "Magic and Populism in Southern Europe." At HDS, she teaches courses on Earth-based Spiritualities, the Anthropology of Magic, Religion and Healing, and Religion, Materiality, and the Senses.

Senior Fellow

The CSWR also welcomes the following Senior Fellow for the 2022-23 Academic Year:

Andrew JacobsAndrew Jacobs is a historian of early Christianity with a focus on varieties of religious difference, particularly heresy and Jewish-Christian relations. He has published three monographs, most recently Epiphanius of Cyprus: A Cultural Biography of Late Antiquity, which won the Philip Schaff Prize from the American Society of Church History. He is also the co-editor, with Bart Ehrman, of Christianity in Late Antiquity, 300-450, A Reader and the collection Garb of Being: Embodiment and the Pursuit of Holiness in Late Ancient Christianity, with Georgia Frank and Susan Holman. He has taught at the University of California, Riverside, and Scripps College. He is currently working on two book-length projects: Gospel Thrillers: The Bible and Conspiracy in U.S. Popular Culture and Ex-Jews: Conversion in Late Antiquity.