2022 Religion and Peace Studies Newsletter
Message from the Chair
Greetings to all of our alumni from The George Washington University Department of Religion and Peace Studies!
I am pleased to report that we remain back on campus and are once again enjoying the benefits of in-person engagement and collaboration. Through this newsletter, you’ll read about a few of the exciting things happening in the department, including the achievements of our Religion and Peace Studies community and news from across Columbian College and the university. There are also some fabulous alumni events on the docket, and I hope you have the opportunity to attend one of them and engage with fellow graduates. Thank you so much for your support and involvement. Please stay in touch!
Dr. Irene Oh
Religion and Peace Studies Department Chair
Religion Majors to Publish Senior Theses
Two recent religion alumni—Katie Kunkel, BA ’22, and Kate Twomey, BA ’22—have produced senior theses that will be published in the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa, a national student honors society for religious studies and theology sponsored by the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. Kunkel’s article analyzes the phenomenon of Buddhist monks who utilize self-immolation as a form of political protest. It builds on her thesis, “A Body in Flames: The Necropolitics of Self-Immolation Protests in Tibet.” Twomey’s article, “The Saint and the Bomb: The Mystical in Salvador Dalí’s ‘Madonna of Port Lligat’ (1950),” examines the religious symbolism and motivations in Dali’s mid-century surrealist art.
The David and Sherry Berz Endowed Lecture headlined novelist Eman Quotah, who recently published a highly acclaimed novel, Bride of the Sea. The Abbie Ziffren Memorial Lecture headlined Ruth Ozeki, an award-winning novelist and Zen Buddhist priest, who spoke to a large audience of faculty, students and friends.
Speaking to a full auditorium at the GW Student Center, Quotah shared insights about religion from her childhood spent in Ohio and Saudi Arabia. She discussed her creative process and read excerpts from her book. Her talk was published in the journal Kweli.
Ozeki read excerpts from The Book of Form and Emptiness, a novel that follows the life of a 13-year-old who hears objects speaking to him. She discussed the many influences that contribute to her writing and answered numerous questions from a riveted audience. The Book of Form and Emptiness recently won the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the BC and Yukon Book Prize.
- Paul Duff collaborated with Margaret M. Mitchell from the University of Chicago on a revision of the new revised standard version (NRSV) translation of 2 Corinthians for the 30th anniversary of the publication of the NRSV Bible. He also wrote “The Corinthian Correspondence” in T&T Clark Handbook on the Historical Paul and “From Sinai to Corinth: Paul’s Allusions to Moses and Scripture in 2 Cor 2:14-4:6” in Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 2 Corinthians and Philippians.
- Robert Eisen’s forthcoming book, Jews, Judaism, and Success: How Religion Paved the Way to Modern Jewish Achievement, has been accepted at the University of Toronto Press, and is due out in May 2023.
- Mohammad Faghfoory delivered a keynote speech on “The Possibility of Integration of Islamic Concept of the Science of the Soul and Modern Psychology” at the Alkaram Institute. He gave several lectures this year including “The Meaning of Ramadan and the Eid al-fitr celebration,” delivered to 67 global MBA students participating in Consulting Abroad Program, Trachtenberg School of Business Administration. He wrote the following publications: “Combating the Religionization of Terrorism: Governmental, Inter-Governmental, and Non-Governmental Perspectives”; “Nasir al-Din Al-Tusi’s Ethics and Concept of Social Class”; an essay review on Ayman S. Ibrahim; Conversion to Islam: Competing Themes in Early Islamic Historiography; and “Shah Esma‘il, Deputy of the Hidden Imam” (in collaboration with Willem Floor) in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft. For the second year in a row, he delivered the invocation speech at GW’s commencement ceremony on the National Mall.
- Irene Oh and ESIA Professor Rollie Lal secured a $3,625 grant to establish a University Seminar, GARNET: The Global Affairs and Religion Network. GARNET brings together faculty and graduate students from across the university to discuss research and current events over monthly roundtable discussions.
Alumni Class Notes
- Fiona Carmichael, BA ’22, winner of the Harry Yeide Prize, received a Dean’s Scholarship for the University of Maryland Law School and is a first year law student.
- Ricardo Flores, BA ’22, works in the finance department for SPIDR Tech, a law enforcement software company.
- Matthew DeGioia, BA ’13, JD ’20, is a practicing lawyer at Andalman & Flynn, P.C. He is barred in Maryland and the District of Columbia and specializes in disability benefits, estate planning, probate litigation, guardianships and other areas of civil litigation.
- Olivia Dunn, BA ’20, began working with the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in procurement, finance, and acquisitions after a year of teaching special education.
- William Klein, BA ’19, is pursuing a Master of Arts degree from the Graduate Theological Union with a focus on inter-religious studies. His time in the religion department helped set the course for his career.
- Elyssa Scharaga, BA ’09, is a clinical neuropsychologist and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Health in New York.