New seminar talks ethics and religion in turbulent times


Brian Steensland, a professor of sociology at IU-Purdue University Indianapolis, is the director for the Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society. The consortium recently announced the creation of a new seminar series on economic justice, Islam, ethics and more to begin in spring 2017. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

After a turbulent election cycle, the Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society has announced the beginning of a new seminar series discussing ethics, Islam and economics, all of which are topics that arose during the 2016 presidential election.

Founded in 2013, the consortium is an interdisciplinary group of scholars, academic programs and research centers from all eight IU campuses. The organization, led by director Brian Steensland, put out a call for topics that would compel students, researchers and faculty from different campuses to come and join.

“I tried to drum up some interest,” Steensland said.

Steensland said the 
topics are a reflection of the current political and social climate. He said Islam and environmental justice, in particular, were featured heavily in the election cycle.

“It’s hard to read the paper without seeing how the view of Muslims played in the United States presidential election,” Steensland said.

The series is an important step in realizing their goal of connecting and raising awareness of research at IU, Steensland said. Different seminars are desinged to be of greater interest to specific campuses.

For example, Asma Afsaruddin and Abdulkader Sinno, both IU-Bloomington professors from the School of Global and International Studies, will be leading the discussion about Islam in Bloomington.

School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington; and Abdulkader Sinno, Department of Political Science and Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the School of Global and International Studies

The consortium is also seeking new seminar proposals for another series that will begin fall 2017. Proposals are being accepted from March 1 until April 1. The exact dates of the seminars are still fluctuating. Steve Hinnefeld, a news and media specialist with IU, said the consortium may plan more public events or involvement as the year progresses. Each of the seminars has a different purpose behind them, Steensland said later in an interview.

Some will be what he termed “outward” and “inward” facing. The outward-facing sessions will be focused on community involvement and local action. The inward-facing programs will be more about developing research topics for professors and faculty and may not be necessarily open to all.

“Some are oriented toward public engagement,” Steensland said. “Others are oriented toward scholarly development and academic research. The mix of goals and activities matches the diverse ways in which religion and ethics impact 

Each session or talk will meet six times throughout the course of two semesters and will be lead by a pair of faculty members from various IU campuses who will decide on what the focus for the seminar will be and whether broader public engagement is what they want, Steensland said.

This seminar program is the inaugural series for the Consortium. Steensland said he hopes the seminars serve to educate people so they can continue them as part of a long-term program in the future.

“I hope that people leave knowing more than when they walked in,” he said. “This is the first step.”

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