Ideas Matter

IDEAS MATTER lectures explore ideas that make a difference in the world.   Lecturers are invited to bring their expertise and individual experience into the discussion.  This page is intended to provide a brief history of the IDEAS MATTER lecture series, and to highlight some of the interesting ideas which have emerged from these lectures. This is "history" in a rather loose sense. We are more interested in the ideas raised than the actual "history" of our various series. There has been a lecture series each year since 1992. For some of these we have papers which served as the basis for the lectures actually given at that time. In other cases, however, the lecturers have given us permission to use other papers which deal with the same subject.

Each year, a different topic is chosen.    See the right hand column for details on each year's events since the program began.


After a three year break, Ideas Matters returns to OSU in Fall 2014
Our topic this year is:

Healings and Hurtings:
Religion, Self, and Body

Religious thought, ritual, and liturgy often manifests in attentiveness to the human body.  Some traditions and practices are directed towards liberation or transcendence of the self from the body; other practices emphasize self-expression through the body; still other traditions seek healing resources within the body, through cleansing rituals with water, as well as through invasive medical procedures performed within the body.

The 2014 Ideas Matter Lecture series, sponsored by the Hundere Endowment in Religion and Culture, in affiliation with the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion is devoted to critical examination of the human body and its manifold meanings in religious experience. Our speakers include distinguished national scholars as well as prominent civic leaders, physicians, and OSU faculty.    We have also organized a reading group to coincide with each event.   Papers and details will be made available on this website.

 NOTE:  All talks listed below will be held in the MU Journey Room at 7pm



Title / Abstract


Ariel Glucklich

Ariel Glucklich

“The Pleasure of Hurting for God”

This talk focuses on the phenomenon of religious subjectivity where pain and pleasure (joy) interact in complicated and mutually reinforcing ways.  I shall look at pilgrims, mystics, snake handlers and others as illustrations of this phenomenon.

Glucklich is a Professor of Theology at Georgetown University.   He teaches courses in Hinduism, Psychology of Religion and Anthropology of Religion. He is interested in a wide range of issues including classical Indian law, Hindu myths and rituals, contemporary folk religion and magic in Banaras, theories and methods in the study of religion, phenomenology, neuro-psychology and the evolutionary psychology of religious experience. He is currently researching the way that religious emotions are implicated in human self destructiveness.


Reading Group:   10/06 | Milam Hall, Room 319
Paper:   "Religious Ways of Hurting"



Manuel Vasquez

Manuel Vasquez

“Beyond the Body: An Ecological Approach of Religious Materiality"

With the current turn toward practice and materiality in religious studies, the body has gained increasing prominence.  However, in her recent work, Carolyn Walker Bynum has called for scholars to go beyond the body toward a rich and more holistic study of religious materiality in its multiple expressions.  Along the same line, the “new materialists” and their fellow travelers, including Jane Bennett, Diana Coole, Rosi Braidoti, Karen Barad, Manuel DeLanda, and Bruno Latour, have called for the recognition of the efficaciousness of non-human, post-human, and/or hybrid forms of agencies.  In this presentation, I will argue for continued centrality of the body in the study of religion.  However, I contend that we must develop new understandings of the body that take dynamism, relationality, and simultaneous embeddedness in multiple scales and contexts, including ecological, cultural, and social networks and fields, as our point of departure.  Borrowing from Merleau-Ponty, I argue that the body is the crucial spatio-temporal reality in and through which our flesh touches and is touched by the flesh of the world, summoning each other in an intra-active process. As such, a non-reductive materialist phenomenology of embodiment is still key to the study of how religion is lived.

Reading Group:   10/09 | Milam Hall, Room 301
Paper:   "Toward a Materialist Phenomenology of Religion"



John Frohnmayer

A panel discussion with
John Frohnmayer
Amy Koehlinger, and
Stuart Sarbacker.


“The Athletic Body”

Frohnmayer: “The Perfect Catch: A Philosophy of Rowology”

Water has spiritual significance for almost all religions, and indeed, for those who are not religious at all.  The mind/body divide, for which Plato rightly receives much of the  blame, has led philosophers away from the wonders of the body, particularly as a vehicle that can lead us to experience profound and wonderful insights.  Rowing is a metaphor that reveals much of what our bodies can teach us, often when the mind is not paying attention.



Koehlinger:   "Bruising, Blood and Boxing: Understanding Religious Embodiment and Pain"

Sarbacker:   "Embodiment and Accomplishment: Yoga and/as Sport"


Reading Group:   12pm | Milam Hall, Room 301
Paper:   Jefferson, James, Dewey and Rorty

10/20 Thomas Csordas

Thomas Csordas

“The Extraordinary Action of Beings without Bodies"

The contemporary practice of exorcism in the Roman Catholic Church is a form of healing through prayer to relieve affliction attributed to the extraordinary action of demonic spirits, understood as intelligent ontological entities without corporeality.  Approached from the cultural phenomenology of embodiment, the action of these evil spirits traces the outlines of human corporeal experience and sensibility, as well as the threshold between disturbed and quotidian corporality.  This presentation draws on comparative ethnographic work on Catholic exorcism in the United States and Italy.

Dr. Thomas Csordas is an anthropologist whose principal interests are in medical and psychological anthropology, comparative religion, anthropological theory, cultural phenomenology and embodiment, globalization and social change, language and culture.  He has conducted ethnographic research with Charismatic Catholics, Navajo Indians, and adolescents in the American Southwest on topics including therapeutic process in religious healing, ritual language and creativity, sensory imagery, self transformation, techniques of the body, causal reasoning about illness, and the experience of psychiatric inpatients.

Dr. Csordas was not filmed, but here are some wonderful pictures taken by Mina Carson

Thomas Csordas Thomas Csordas Thomas Csordas

Reading Group:   12pm | Milam Hall, Room 301
Paper:   Words from the Holy People:  A Case Study in Cultural Phenomenology


Paul Stoller

Paul Stoller

“Storytelling, Religion and the Contours of Well-Being”

It is through stories that most of us not only make sense of the world, but also of ourselves. In this presentation, I tell a story that begs the question of possibility.  It begins with the tragic tale of my good friend and colleague, the French anthropologist and poet, Jean-Marie Gibbal who, in 1993, died from brain cancer at the age of 53. The great Malian musician Ali Farka Toure claimed in an interview in Le Monde, that Gibbal, who had researched spirit possession troupes along the Niger River, had revealed sacred secrets in his published work.  As a result of this transgression, Farke Toure further claimed that Gibbal’s premature death resulted directly from korte or death magic that practitioners had sent from Mali to France.  Gibbal’s widow asked me:  “Is this possible?”  This fundamentally existential question provides the framework for a wide-ranging and narratively contoured discussion of ethics, embodiment, epistemology, religion, storytelling and our never-ending quest for well-being in the world.

Reading Group:   12pm | Milam Hall, Room 319
Paper:   Stranger in the Village of the Sick


Susan Shaw

Susan Shaw (above)
& Crystal Bosen

Boson: “You Unzip Your Body and They Slide Right In:Hoodoo, Possession, and Gender Performance"

Shaw:  "Bodies, the Erotic, and Joy: Feminist Theological Perspectives"


Reading Group:   12pm | Milam Hall, Room 319
Paper:   Haitian Vodou and Voodoo: Imagined Religion and Popular Culture

11/10 Hector Avalos

Hector Avalos

"Approaches to Disability: Redemptionism, Rejectionism, and Historicism"

Since the 1990s, biblical scholars have produced a large corpus of work on disabilities in biblical literature. This lecture will present three approaches from that scholarship: 1) a redemptionist approach, which seeks to portray biblical views of disabilities in a positive light; 2) a rejectionist approach which argues that many biblical views of disability should be rejected; and 3) historicist approach, which studies disabilities in a purely historical mode. This provides insight about biblical scholarship’s view of the body.


Reading Group:   12pm | Milam Hall, Room 319
Paper:   Redemptionism, Rejectionism, and Historicism as Emerging Approaches in Disability Studies


Medical symbol

Corvallis Physicians
Panel with
Dr. Charli Clark,
Dr. Shawn Foley,

Dr. David Grube, &
Dr. Lorri Hendon

“Spirituality in Physician-Patient Relationships”

Do questions of spirituality and religious meaning arise in physician-patient interactions? Is there such a thing as “spiritual health”? Should physicians make assessments of spiritual health, and if so, on what basis? Upon patient invitation, should physicians participate in prayers or other religious rituals? A panel of local physicians will address the treatment of the physical body and its spiritual and religious implications.

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