This semester, I have been on leave, so to speak --at least from teaching, but not from Lowell House. It has been a busy semester, with many highlights. In April, my new book, India: A Sacred Geography, was published. This has been a long, long project and it's great to have it finally out. I had a month in India in January and realized once again, while clambering up the hillside at Bateshwarsthan along the Ganga, that I could easily continue working on this for many years. The work goes on, but the book is done. It's first review was in The Economist, and a good one at that!
The Pluralism Project completed our pilot project "America's Interfaith Infrastructure," looking at twenty cities in the U.S. and the emerging networks and initiatives that bridge faith and culture divides. The interactive website has Google maps, community portraits, case-studies, and promising practices in this cities-based research. With the support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, we have been able to launch new research on a phenomenon that is critically under-studied in the U.S., and in the world for that matter.
In February, I participated in a National Forum on "Civility and American Democracy" sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Massachusetts Council on the Humanities at the new Center for Civil Discourse at U Mass Boston. The sessions went on all day, but it is online, if you are interested. My own presentation was more on incivility, entitled "Civility in the Face of Organized Hostility," on the emerging networks of organized hostility to Islam.
I also lectured in Jacksonville, Florida, an event co-sponsored by the University of North Florida and OneJax, the Jacksonville interfaith organization. "The Power of Religion: Practical Pluralism in a World of Difference." This was an especially interesting visit, since I have been teaching one of our Pluralism Project case-studies that explores the civic controversy in Jacksonville, when a Muslim professor of finance from UNF was nominated to the Human Rights Commission and immediately encountered strong and well-organized opposition. In meeting religious, political, and civic leaders, I felt as if I were meeting old friends.
Commencement on May 24, both in the University and here at Lowell House, brought both the excitement of a great academic festival and the poignancy of farewells to a beloved class of seniors. This was followed a weekend at my Smith College '67 reunion, which gave me a chance to delight once again in the ongoing legacy of a Smith education and the vibrant work in global studies that is taking off there. On a personal note, I also visited the very bulletin board where I stood as a sophomore in college and found that poster about a study abroad program in India that set me on a pilgrimage that changed my life.
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