Conference: Is the new spirituality your grandmother’s religion? And other ‘big questions’

INDIANAPOLIS — As more and more Americans define themselves as “spiritual” but not RNS-FARNSLEY-COLUMNreligious, and scholars talk about and study “lived religion,” is the once-familiar term “religion” now primarily a reference to institutions or denominations?

And how fares the debate over the existence of “civil religion” — patriotism as the true faith of Americans as opposed to what is practiced in churches, synagogues or mosques?

These questions and others are up for discussion next week when more than 100 scholars from across the country gather in Indianapolis for the fourth in a series of conferences on the role of religion in American life.

The Fourth Biennial Conference on Religion and American Culture takes place June 4 to 7 at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. The registration fee is $135 for professionals, $85 for students.

“As in the past, this conference will address many of the ‘big questions’ in the field,” said Philip Goff, executive director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, part of the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “This conference will have something for everyone as we struggle together with the big questions behind our work.”

Answering the question “What does religion mean?” is relevant given the continuing changes across the entire field of American religion and the various disciplines that study it, including history and sociology.

“As the landscape of religion in America changes, we have to keep track of the way we are describing it,” said Arthur E. Farnsley II, associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture. “What do different academic fields mean by religion when they talk about it? Do historians think about religion as sociologists do? It is not that we all have to agree, but we had better understand what everyone is saying.”

Other “big” questions for discussion during the conference are:

How does globalization affect our research and teaching about American religion?
In what ways do markets, class and labor shape religion, and how does religion shape them?
How has an era of constantly being at war influenced our thinking about civil religion and cults and sects?
And what do we make of the seemingly competing models of pluralism and secularization?

The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture and its Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation are conference sponsors.

A complete conference schedule and registration are available online.

Media Arts & Science Students and Faculty Go Behind the Scenes of Pixar During Trip to San Francisco

Zeb Wood and Travis Faas, both lecturers in the media arts and science (MAS) program informatics logoin the School of Informatics and Computing, along with 11 students, recently traveled to San Francisco, California as part the Game Developers Conference (GDC).

The GDC, now in its 29th year, has grown from the informal gathering of a small group of developers to what it is today hosting over 24,000 game development professionals, and being the primary forum for those involved in the development of interactive games, to gather and exchange ideas and shape the future of the industry. The conference featured over 400 lectures, panels, tutorials and round-table discussions.

The group was able to tour the Pixar grounds and learn about production operations. They learned about work flow and volume, working on several films at once, as well as pre-production art and the life of studio artists – Everything from eating habits, workouts, yoga, to what it’s like on-the-job.

After the tour, they were able to have dinner and some one-on-one conversation with Tai. “When you watch a Pixar movie, it is normal to dream of one day working there, but to meet someone who was once a student just like me, that is actually working there, it’s like meeting a famous actor. Being able to spend time with him, getting his insight and knowing that he took the time to share his experience with us was one of the best memories of the trip,” said Shannon.

Superintendents to discuss public education’s future at annual Cohen Lecture

INDIANAPOLIS — Superintendents from three Indiana school corporations, including the school of education'state’s two largest, will be part of a panel discussing the future of education during the second annual Michael R. Cohen Lecture on Meaning and Motivation in Education.

Presented by the Indiana University School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the panel titled “The Future of Public Education” will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23, at the Indianapolis Public Library Central Library branch, 40 E. St. Clair St. The event is free and open to the public.

The panelists are actively involved in the administration of public education and have been outspoken advocates on behalf of their schools and education in general. The panel includes Lewis Ferebee, superintendent of the Indianapolis Public Schools, the largest district in Indiana. Before joining IPS in September 2013, Ferebee was the chief of staff for the Durham Public Schools and regional superintendent for Guilford County Schools, both in North Carolina.

Joining Ferebee will be Rocky Killion, superintendent of the West Lafayette Community School Corp. since 2007 and best known for championing public education through the documentary he commissioned, “Rise Above the Mark.” Killion has spoken often in conjunction with film screenings about the challenges facing public education both economically and politically. Last year the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents named him Superintendent of the Year.

Wendy Robinson, superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, is also on the panel. Robinson is nationally recognized for expertise in urban education. In 2009, the National Alliance of Black School Educators presented her with the Superintendent of the Year award. She has led the state’s second-largest school district since 2003 and has been in the Fort Wayne schools for nearly four decades.

The discussion will be moderated by Scott Elliot, the founding bureau chief of Chalkbeat Indiana, a nonprofit news organization covering educational change in Indiana.

The Cohen Lecture began last year. It honors professor emeritus in science education Michael Cohen, faculty member at the School of Education from 1968 to 2003. Cohen was selected in 1984 as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an honor bestowed upon members by their peers in recognition of meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications. He wrote an influential elementary school textbook called “Discover Science,” and his research has focused on children and adults’ concepts and misconceptions of science and the environment.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the Indiana Urban Schools Association, the Indiana Coalition on Public Education, and WFYI public radio and television in Indianapolis. More details and registration are available online.

IUPUI University Library to cohost Digital Public Library of America’s national conference

With 90-plus digitized collections of unique and historically important materials accessible to any user via the Web, the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis University Library is gaining recognition as a national leader in digital scholarship.image courtesy of

That leadership role will expand this month as the library co-hosts the Digital Public Library of America’s national conference.

The conference, DPLAfest 2015 takes place April 17 and 18 in Indianapolis.

As co-hosts, IUPUI University Library, the Indianapolis Public Library, the Indiana State Library and the Indiana Historical Society are helping to organize and staff the event and will serve as meeting sites for conference workshops, presentations and discussions. The four local groups had submitted a proposal to host the conference, which 300 people from across the country are currently registered to attend.

“We are excited to be given the opportunity to share the city of Indianapolis with members of the Digital Public Library of America and showcase some of the work that we have done in preserving the history of Indianapolis,” said Jennifer A. Johnson, digital scholarship outreach librarian in the University Library Center for Digital Scholarship.

With its community partners, the IUPUI University Library has created over 90 digital collections, covering topics in local history such as Crispus Attucks High School, poet James Whitcomb Riley and Indiana artists.

The Digital Public Library of America offers open online access to almost 9 million items through partnerships with national-caliber content providers such as the HathiTrust and the Library of Congress, plus a network of member archives, museums, cultural heritage centers and libraries such as the IUPUI University Library, all of whom operate under state-based DPLA service hubs. As such, the two-year-old DPLA is a goldmine for researchers around the globe, making the riches of America’s libraries and museums freely available online to the worldwide public.

“For example, a basketball fan in Texas could view Oscar Robertson’s high school scrapbook about the 1954-55 Crispus Attucks state championship team by searching the Crispus Attucks Museum digital collection,” Johnson said.

The DPLAfest conference offers a mix of interactive workshops and hands-on activities, as well as presentations and discussions for a range of professionals including librarians, archivists, museum staff, developers, technologists, publishers and authors, teachers, students and others.

While the conference will feature several national speakers, the IUPUI and Bloomington campuses will be represented in a wide range of presentations.  Presenters include:

David Lewis, Kristi Palmer and Jenny Johnson, IUPUI University Library.

Andrea Copeland, IUPUI School of Informatics and Computing.

Jason Kelly, IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute.

Lea Shaver, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

Benjamin Keele, Ruth Lilly Law Library.

Robert McDonald, Indiana University associate dean for library technologies.

Dirk Herr-Hoyman, Indiana University Bloomington, HathiTrust Research Center operations manager.

Conference: DPLAfest 2015

On April 17th and 18th, Indianapolis Central Library, Indiana State Library, IUPUI University Library, and the Indiana Historical Society will host DPLAfest 2015.

DPLAfest 2015, presented by the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), brings hundreds together to discuss everything from technology and development, to (e)books, law, genealogy, and education. DPLAfest 2015 will appeal to teachers and students, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and technologists, publishers and authors, genealogists, and members of the public alike who are interested in an engaging mix of interactive workshops, hands-on activities (including scanning stations to digitize your family treasures), discussions with community leaders, hackathons, fun events, and so much more. DPLAfest 2015 is open to the public; registration is required.

Price: $75/two-day, $50/one-day (open to the public)

Register here.

The Digital Public Library of America offers a single point of access to millions of items from libraries, archives, and The The Digital Public Library of America offers a single point of access to millions of items from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Users can browse and search DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, virtual bookshelf, and faceted search; save and share customized lists of items; explore digital exhibitions; and interact with DPLA-powered apps in the app library. DPLA currently provides free and open access to some 8.4 million digital items.

Herron School of Art and Design presents pop artist and surrealist Wayne White

Wayne WhiteKnown for his humor and distinct aesthetic, pop artist and surrealist Wayne White will be the keynote speaker at the Foundations in Art: Theory and Education’s national biennial conference, hosted in Indianapolis.

As sponsor of the biennial conference, Herron School of Art and Design is hosting the keynote address at 7 p.m. Friday, March 27, in Room 450 of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Campus Center, 420 University Blvd.

White is a three-time Emmy Award winner for his set design and puppeteering work on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” He has also directed numerous music videos for various artists including Peter Gabriel and Smashing Pumpkins. The artist’s works are held in prominent permanent collections including New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Detroit Institute of Art.

The Foundations in Art: Theory and Education conference runs March 25 to 28. The conference theme, ‘Tectonic Shifts: Breaking New Ground,’ reflects plans to examine how the forces of change are shaping the foundation landscape. Organizers see the conference as a continuum of the conversation during the 2013 event, which attracted more than 500 artists, designers, historians and educators.

Foundations in Art: Theory and Education is a national association dedicated to the promotion of excellence in the development and teaching of college-level foundation courses in both studio and art history. Its members represent independent colleges of art and design, university art departments, and community colleges throughout the United States.

White’s lecture is free and open to the public.

Following the lecture, a reception will take place in Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St.

China’s evolving philanthropy sector is focus of two-day summit in Indianapolis

Gene Tempel

Gene Tempel

Scott Kennedy

Scott Kennedy

Philanthropists, scholars and business people from around the world are gathering Friday and Saturday in Indianapolis for a summit on the present and future role of philanthropy in one of the world’s most rapidly growing economies, China.

The academic conference, at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ Hine Hall, attracted so much interest that registration had to be closed. Organizers are hoping to eventually present some of the sessions online.

Scott Kennedy, director of the Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business at IU Bloomington, said he was surprised by public interest in the topic. More often, he sees Americans’ interest in China driven by concerns over its growing military and economic influence.

“I thought there would be less interest in social activism in China and what could be done to make the country a better place, but obviously I was wrong,” said Kennedy, whose center is based within the School of Global and International Studies. “There are people who are concerned about the environment, health care and a lot of other issues that the Chinese government can’t solve on its own.

“It just so turns out that America is the home of the global philanthropic movement,” he added. “Americans, both individually and through organizations, contribute a lot to our country and have been quite involved in China as well.”

Conference organizers had planned for about 75 people, but nearly twice as many — about 140 — are registered for the China Philanthropy Summit.

The conference highlights a three-year Initiative on Philanthropy in China funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Ford Foundation, jointly carried out by the IU Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business and the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“We are pleased to welcome our distinguished colleagues from China and U.S. institutions, both those presenting and those learning along with us as attendees,” said Gene Tempel, founding dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“This is an exciting time in China and in the world of philanthropy. The summit is a continuation of our work to learn from and learn with our Chinese colleagues as we work together to strengthen and inform philanthropy in both countries,” Tempel said.

Researchers from several leading U.S. and Chinese universities and institutions, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Maryland, Tsinghua University and Sun Yat-Sen University, will present the findings from 11 research projects associated with the initiative.

In addition, panels of both young and seasoned practitioners from China’s philanthropic community will participate in a variety of panels. Among them will be Yang Peng, former president of the Shenzhen-based One Foundation, and Holly Chang, founder and president of the Beijing-based Golden Bridges Foundation. The co-founders of the Hong Kong-based organization Philanthropy in Motion also are participating.

Today in China, about 3,000 foundations and non-governmental organizations are rapidly expanding activities. Corporate social responsibility programs are proliferating and social enterprises are taking root. A substantial community of experts and activists with strong ties with the global philanthropic community has become increasingly active.

Although China’s economic development path has been very successful, a growing gap between the extent of problems facing society and the government’s ability to address them has developed, said Angela Bies, endowed associate professor of global philanthropy and nonprofit leadership at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. Philanthropic activity could be a key way to fill that gap.

“China’s contemporary philanthropic sector is at a pivotal juncture where societal needs are complex and pressing,” Bies said. “And while philanthropic capacity is immense and social innovation and experimentation exciting, the institutional environment and organizational capacity for philanthropy remain emergent and in flux. In this regard, it is vital for scholars and practitioners to come together and jointly reflect on these issues.”

The Initiative on Philanthropy in China was announced last summer, and since then there have been nearly a dozen research projects and a workshop and conferences in China. Last spring, a new course on philanthropy in China was offered at IU Bloomington and IUPUI. Three students received internships in China, working with Cummins Inc., Mercy Corps and China Development Brief.

One highlight of the China Philanthropy Summit will be the conceptual presentation of “My Philanthropic Story,” a bilingual, user-driven website that will go live early next year. The site will be dedicated to promoting philanthropy in China through the personal stories of givers and recipients.

“It will be a way to promote philanthropy, not through academic research like the kinds we’re going to see this week, but through the voices of average people, which we think will be more powerful,” Kennedy said.

A mix of social media and connections from other key websites, combined with support from within the philanthropic sector in China, will draw attention to “My Philanthropic Story.”

Editors: As previously mentioned, registration for the conference is closed, but media are welcome. Contact George Vlahakis at IU Communications or Adriene Davis Kalugyer of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to arrange for interviews.

The Ideology Problem in Teaching and Scholarship: U.S. Intellectual History Conference in Indianapolis, Oct. 9, 2014

S-USIH Conference Program ImageThe sixth annual U.S. Intellectual History Conference in Indianapolis, Oct. 9-12th, 2014, will open with a special two-hour plenary session on THE IDEOLOGY PROBLEM IN TEACHING AND SCHOLARSHIP. This event will be free and open to the public.

We are also happy to announce that RICK PERLSTEIN will be joining our distinguished panel to discuss this subject. The suggestion to add Rick to this panel came from S-USIH’s own Mike O’Connor who noted, as any native Hoosier should, the close proximity of Chicago to Indy. 

The panel will address a series of questions, including: Can the writer-educator avoid being “biased” in favor of a particular set of political or religious ideals? Are disciplinary norms of “objectivity” or “neutrality” themselves in service of partisan agendas? The “ideology problem” is one that has surfaced both explicitly and implicitly at the USIH Blog over the past few years, generating a lot of commentary. For example, see Andrew Hartman’s post of entitled Ideology and Teaching.  Or a post by Ben Alpers called,“Disrespect and the Teaching of Intellectual History.” Or L.D. Burnett’s The Reluctant Historian.

The conference chairs thought it would make a great subject for a plenary to integrate questions of pedagogy as well as research, writing, and the historian’s public role in the debate over ideology and the practice of history. Presenters plan to ask if ideology really is out-of-place in the classroom and to take up some practical questions such as various efforts to ban Howard Zinn’s writings in Indiana schools. You can learn more about our panelists below.


Andrew Hartman is an associate professor of history at Illinois State University, and was the 2013-14 Danish Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American Studies. He is the author of Education and the Cold War: The Battle for the American School (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), and A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Hartman is the founding president of S-USIH, one of the original USIH bloggers, and is chairing the 2015 S-USIH Conference to be held in Washington, DC.

David Sehat is associate professor of history at Georgia State University. His first book, The Myth of American Religious Freedom, won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians.  His second book, The Jefferson Rule: Why We Think the Founding Fathers Have All the Answers, will be published in May of next year.

Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American ConsensusNixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, and The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. A frequent blogger and essayist for publications including the NationRolling Stone, and the New Republic, he lives in Chicago.

Michael J. Kramer holds a visiting assistant professorship at Northwestern University, where he teaches history, American studies, digital humanities, and civic engagement and works an editor in the Design, Publications, and New Media Department at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. His book, The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. He is the co-founder of the Northwestern University Digital Humanities Laboratory and is currently developing a multimedia project about the Berkeley Folk Music Festival (1958-1970) and the history of technology and culture in the US folk revival. Additionally, he serves as director of the Chicago Dance History Project, a large-scale oral history and archival digital documentation of dance in the Chicago region, and he is the dramaturg for The Seldoms Contemporary Dance Company. He blogs about art, culture, and politics at Culture Rover.

Christopher Shannon is associate professor of history at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia.  He is the author of two book in the field of U.S. Intellectual History, Conspicuous Criticism:  Tradition, the Individual and Culture in Modern American Social Thought (Johns Hopkins, 1996) and A World Made Safe for Differences:  Cold War Intellectuals and the Politics of Identity (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001).  His forthcoming work, The Past as Pilgrimage:  Narrative, Tradition and the Renewal of Catholic History (Christendom Press, 2014), co-authored with Christopher Blum, addresses the relation between faith traditions and the ideology of secularism in the writing of history.

Susan Curtis is Professor of History and American Studies at Purdue University.  She is the author of A Consuming Faith(1991), Dancing to a Black Man’s Tune (1994), The First Black Actors on the Great White Way (1998), Colored Memories(2008), and the co-author of a letter to Purdue President Mitch Daniels challenging his support for efforts to ban the work of Howard Zinn from Indiana public schools (2013).


35th Indiana Association of Historians Annual Meeting hosted by IUPUI

Indianapolis Skyline

Indianapolis Skyline

Rights, Riots, and Reactions

The Indiana Association of Historians (IAH) invites papers and panel proposals for its annual meeting to be held on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 28, 2015.

In the year 2015 we focus on civil rights, not only in the context of United States history, but also from a global view of the struggle for equal rights. Possible “anniversary” topics suggested by the year 2015 include the Battle of Waterloo, the Battle of New Orleans, the Congress of Vienna, the end of the Civil War, the passage of the 13th amendment, World War I, the creation of the United Nations (leading to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the end of World War II, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

While papers and panels from all fields and related to all topics of history are welcomed, the program committee is particularly interested in proposals that focus on civil rights, not only in the context of United States history, but also from a global view of the struggle for equal rights. Possible “anniversary” topics suggested by the year 2015 include the Battle of Waterloo, the Battle of New Orleans, the Congress of Vienna, the end of the Civil War, the passage of the 13th amendment, World War I, the creation of the United Nations (leading to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the end of World War II, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Events leading up to these milestones and reaction to them are also encouraged as the basis of papers.

The committee also welcomes submissions in the fields of K-12 history education and public history. Academic, public, and independent historians, as well as graduate students, are eligible to present papers. All presenters must be present at the conference.

Conference papers (approximately 10 pages/2,500 words) may be based on original research, synthesis of scholarship, or participant experience. Sessions will consist of two or three papers with comments.

To submit a proposal for a paper and/or session,send a one-page proposal for each presentation and a one-page c.v. Panel proposals should include a one-page proposal, which specifies the topic each participant will discuss, and a one-page c.v. per participant. The deadline for submitting paper and/or session proposals is November 10, 2014. E-mail submissions are encouraged and will be accepted until the deadline.

Submit proposals to:
IAH Program 2015
c/o IAH president, Nancy Conner
1500 N. Delaware Street,Indianapolis,IN 46202

Brian Dirck, Professor of History, Anderson University, will provide the keynote address. His first book, Lincoln and Davis: Imagining America,1809-1865, offered a comparative analysis of the two Civil War presidents’ lives and careers. He has since focused most of his attention on Abraham Lincoln. His publications include Lincoln the Lawyer, an overview of Lincoln’s legal career that was awarded the Benjamin Barondess Award from the New York Civil War Roundtable for the best book published on Abraham Lincoln in 2007. In 2012 he published Lincoln and the Constitution as part of the Concise Lincoln Library Series and Lincoln and White America, an analysis of Lincoln’s views concerning white supremacy and racism.

Founded in 1980, the IAH is the statewide organization of historians with a mission to furnish opportunities for persons within the state’s historical community to become acquainted, to share research and ideas, to promote and strengthen the historical profession, and to encourage the pursuit of history by the general public. IAH members include historians who live or work in Indiana and specialize in various fields of history, not just Indiana history. Visit their website for membership information.

Notre Dame historian and professor to discuss ‘The Bible Then and Now’ in public talk

Dr. Mark Noll

Dr. Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame

Noted historian and National Endowment for the Humanities medal recipient Mark Noll will deliver a public talk Thursday, Aug. 7, as part of the IUPUI Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture’s The Bible and American Life Conference.

Noll will present “The Bible Then and Now” at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, 125 Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Registration is not required for this keynote talk, which is open to the entire Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus as well as the general public.

Noll is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His numerous books include “The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith” (InterVarsity Press, 2009); “God and Race in American Politics: A Short History” (Princeton University Press, 2008); and “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis” (University of North Carolina Press, 2006). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; in 2006 he received the National Endowment for the Humanities medal at a White House ceremony.

The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture is part of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. The Bible and American Life Conference, taking place Wednesday through Friday at Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre, is the second stage of a project that seeks to provide the first large-scale investigation of the Bible in American life.

Earlier this year, the center released the first part of the project: a report based on a national survey of American Bible reading. Among its many findings, the study discovered:

  • There is a 50/50 split among Americans who read any form of scripture in the past year and those who did not.
  • Among those who read any form of scripture in the past year, 95 percent named the Bible as the scripture they read.
  • Despite the proliferation of Bible translations, the King James Version is the top choice — and by a wide margin — of Bible readers.
  • The strongest correlation with Bible reading is race, with African Americans reading the Bible at considerably higher rates than others.
  • Bible readers consult scripture for personal prayer and devotion three times more to learn about culture war issues such as abortion, homosexuality, war or poverty.

A conference schedule and registration information are available online.