Research Associate in Transcendence and Transformation
The CSWR welcomes the following Research Associate in Transcendence and Transformation for the 2021-22 Academic Year:
Giovanna 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 latest issue of JAAR. 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.
Postdoctoral Fellows in Transcendence and Transformation
The CSWR also welcomes the following Postdoctoral Fellows in Transcendence and Transformation for the 2021-22 Academic Year:
Sravana Borkataky-Varma is a historian, educator, and social entrepreneur. As a historian, she studies Indian religions focusing on esoteric rituals and gender, particularly in Hinduism (Goddess Tantra). As an educator, she is currently a lecturer at Harvard Divinity School and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. In the past she has taught at the University of Houston, the University of Montana, Rice University, and Dalian Neusoft University, China.
Sravana’s current project includes a co-edited volume titled Living Folk Religions (under contract with Routledge, 2022), Digital Tantra a co-edited special issue journal by International Journal of Hindu Studies (under contract with Springer, 2022), and her monograph titled Spotlight and Shadow: Superwomen, Women and Hijṛās (2023). In addition, book chapters such as “Taming Hindu Śakta Tantra on the Internet: Online Pūjās for the Goddess Tripurasundarī,” in Digital Hinduism (Routledge, 2020), “The Yogic Body in Global Transmission,” in The Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies (Routledge, 2021), and “WhatsApp Bagalāmukhī:! The Social Life and Experiences of a Tantric Goddess” in The Ethnography of Tantra (State University of New York Press, 2022). Also, sample titles of her published articles are: “Red: An Ethnographic Study of Cross-Pollination Between the Vedic and the Tantric” (2019), “The Dead Speak: A Case Study from the Tiwa Tribe Highlighting the Hybrid World of Śākta Tantra in Assam” (2018).
In a previous non-academic avatar, Sravana worked in customer service, in the financial and IT industry. 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.
Matthew 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.
Originally from Beirut, Hadi Fakhoury received his Master's from the Institute of Islamic Studies, and his Ph.D. 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 Dir. Charles Stang an international conference on Corbin to be held at the CSWR in 2022.
J. Christian Greer is a scholar of Religious Studies with a special focus on esotericism. In addition to earning a MDiv at Harvard Divinity School, he received his MA and PhD (cum laude) in Western esotericism from the History of Hermetic Philosophy department at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). His research addresses Popular Culture & Religion, Radical Politics & Religious Activism, Ecological Spiritualities, and Drugs & Religion. His forthcoming book, Angelheaded Hipsters: Psychedelic Militancy in Nineteen Eighties North America (Oxford University Press), analyzes the growth, diversification, and expansion of psychedelic culture within fanzine networks in the late Cold War era. In addition to occupying a postdoctoral position at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University, he teaches the “Visions of the Occult: Introduction to Esotericism” seminar each summer and winter at UvA.
The CSWR also welcomes the following Visiting Scholars for the 2021-22 Academic Year:
Barakatullo 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”.
Abdulaziz BinTaleb is Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at College of Education of King Saud University, The kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. He has spent about half of his professional life in international education sector, which includes working in Australia for 8 years. He authored two books and published many articles. His research interests include: religious education and professional development of teachers. His current research project is about teaching about world religions in the Saudi curriculum.
Michael 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.
Yuqiang Zhao is a scholar of Chinese Taoism and Leisure studies from China. He received Ph.D. of Chinese Classical Philology in 2009, and finished Philosophical Postdoctoral study in 2012, both in Zhejiang University. He is the academic director of philosophy department, Hangzhou Normal University. His research mainly focuses on traditional Taoist thought and its enlightenment to modern society, especially he does good field investigations on the development of Taoism in China. Based on Taoist research, he pays much attention to the leisure study, and studies the etymology and meaning of Chinese traditional leisure and its relationship with Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. He has published 4 books and 13 articles and is the deputy editor in chief of the Chinese Leisure Classics Series, which contained 320 books. His current research project is Body, Ecology, and Leisure: the Body Philosophy of Taoism.
The CSWR also welcomes the following Senior Fellows for the 2021-22 Academic Year:
Andrew 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.