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On Tuesday, 3 November, at 15:00 religious studies scholar and Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) visiting professor Michael Strmiska will give a public talk titled Why Latvian Higher Education — and Latvian Society — Needs Religious Studies.

The event will take place online. To attend the event, please register here. The link to the event's Zoom session will be sent via email, as well as made available on the Facebook event 30 min before the start.

About the talk

Religious Studies occupies a unique position in the social sciences. Unlike the discipline of theology, it is not about declaring the truth of Christianity or any other religious tradition, but rather to examine the varied forms of religion in human society and the social, cultural, and psychological purposes religion serves in different contexts. Religion has inspired some of the world's greatest accomplishments as well as some of its most horrible atrocities. It is a persistent element of world cultures that we ignore at our peril. The combination of religion and politics has brought us Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and right-wing Christian nationalism in Poland and Hungary that threatens the death of democracy in those countries. To prepare Latvian society for the challenges of the future, Latvian higher education needs to promote understanding of religion, not ignorance, apathy or disdain. Examples of Religious Studies programmes in other countries will be examined as possible options for Latvian universities and research programmes.

About the speaker

Michael Strmiska is Associate Professor of World History at SUNY-Orange, with a PhD in Comparative Religion from Boston University. He has published articles on Modern Paganism and New Religious Movements in Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia and the United States and serves on the editorial board of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, and is the editor of the volume Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. In January of 2020, he came to Latvia through the Fulbright Fellowship programme to teach Anthropology of Religion at Rīga Stradiņš University. He has remained in Latvia during the COVID-19 crisis and is currently working on a book titled Unchristian Eastern Europe: Pagans, Jews, Gypsies and Muslims.

Language: English

The event takes place within the Narrating the Human series and is co-organised by the Latvian Association of Anthropologists, the National Library of Latvia, and Rīga Stradiņš University.

Contact: Ieva Puzo, Head of the Social Anthropology master's study programme, ieva[pnkts]puzoatrsu[pnkts]lv