WYOMING HUMANITIES COUNCIL HUMANITIES FORUMS 2012-2013 with DR. SETH WARD

WYOMING HUMANITIES COUNCIL
HUMANITIES FORUMS
2012-2013
DR. SETH WARD

Dr. Ward is listed as a Humanities Forum presenter for these four topics on the Humanities website:
http://www.uwyo.edu/humanities/humanities%20forum/2013%20topics%20and%20presenters.html#Ward.
These topics are presented in greater detail below.

INTRODUCTION TO ISLAM FOR THE EQUALITY STATE

MOSES, JESUS AND MUHAMMAD

UNDERSTANDING THE “ARAB SPRING:” HISTORY, BACKGROUND, RAMIFICATIONS

MIDDLE EAST AND ISRAEL IN FILM

About the Humanities Forum on the Wyoming Humanities Council Forum Website:http://www.uwyo.edu/humanities/humanities%20forum/index.html

AN INTRODUCTION TO ISLAM FOR THE EQUALITY STATE

Over ten years ago, September 11, 2001 drastically changed the way we think about Islam. A decade later, the so-called “Arab Spring” Our Wyoming communities have come together to talk about the many important and difficult issues that have arisen since then, and Islam is more familiar now than a decade ago. Those who attacked our country have announced agendas which are largely political and social, about U.S. presence in the Middle East, about the Saudi monarchy, and about the status of women for example. They are expressed in terms of religious imperatives—although this is hardly unique to Islam, and indeed, much of our political discourse uses religious terminology and symbolism, as, for example, debates about the Pledge of Allegiance or the Ten Commandments amply demonstrate. Yet now to understand the debate, the news, and the ideas expressed, we need a working knowledge of the language of Islam, the sense of shared beliefs, practices, history and literature that unite over one billion people on our planet.

This presentation will focus on defining the scope of Islamic history and geography; explaining the five pillars; introducing Islamic scripture and Prophet–the Qur’an and Muhammad; and letting Islamic texts talk for themselves. A one-page review of Islam is the main guide; a handy resume of the most important points, it has been developed by Dr. Ward in numerous venues, and synthesizes the very points made both by Muslims talking about their own tradition and academics analyzing Islam from a historical or religious-studies perspective.

The presentation includes an introduction to contemporary Islamic concerns in America; an assessment of the size and vigor of the community in Wyoming (where, for example, many Muslims are, like other citizens of the Equality State, active in military service or support for US service men and women), as well as in neighboring Colorado, with a more varied and much larger Islamic presence. Usually, a the presentation includes reading Islamic texts from Qur’an and other sources, including a famous narrative which can be understood as envisioning a radical State of Equality between men and women, free and slave, urban and rurual, from which this presentation takes its name.

This presentation was designed for adults who have little prior background; it can be shaped for the university classroom (for which it was developed), for secondary education, and for other venues.

Dr. Seth Ward teaches Islamic History, Judaic Studies, and Religions of the Middle East: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in the Program in Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming.

Contact: sward@uwyo.edu

MOSES, JESUS AND MUHAMMAD

Much of our world today has been shaped by religious traditions ascribed to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Moses is seen by Christians and Jews as the great Lawgiver; Jesus, the Messiah or Christ, believed by Christians to be the Son of God who died for the sins of humanity; and Muhammad, believed by Muslims to be the Seal of the Prophets. Judaism, Christianity and Islam repeat narratives about them, and the sacred year is organized around events in their lives.

What can we say about the history of these individuals? There is a tension between the religious narratives and the findings of scholars. In order to assess this material, it is necessary to discuss how Scripture is read and understood, the role of Abraham, who wrote the Bible, the “historical Jesus” and the career of Muhammad.

In this presentation, based on a course taught by Dr. Seth Ward at the University of Wyoming, parallels from the lives of the three individuals are presented and discussed in order to illustrate aspects of contemporary research, religious piety, and the development of religious ideas over time. For example, birth and infancy narratives about Moses, retold by Medieval Jews, appear to make the ancient Lawgiver far more Christlike than he appears to be in the passage in Exodus.

The goal of this presentation is to promote greater awareness of the breadth of interpretation, to balance critical inquiry with empathy, and to underscore the diversity of understandings. Not only are there similarities to celebrate, but there are profound differences to respect.

Dr. Seth Ward teaches Islamic History, Judaic Studies, and Religions of the Middle East: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in the Program in Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming.

Contact: sward@uwyo.edu  

UNDERSTANDING THE “ARAB SPRING:” HISTORY, BACKGROUND, RAMIFICATIONS

Every day brings news from the Middle East: elections in Tunisia and Egypt; ongoing violence in Syria; Lebanese government in tension; Iranian nuclear ambitions and support of terror; the religious party governing Turkey; the ongoing situation in Israel.

In this forum, the basic issues of one or more of these conflicts are presented and forum participants invited to debate the various roles of religion, ethnicity, national self-determination, external political influences, and various ideological movements in shaping the ongoing “Arab spring” and hopes for a new Middle East. Presentations may use political or literary texts selections from videos or movies or other cultural products to illustrate the issues.

The revolution set in motion late in 2010 has spread throughout the Arab world, with ongoing relevance for US foreign policy and indeed for world peace.

Dr. Seth Ward teaches Islamic History, Judaic Studies, and Religions of the Middle East: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in the Program in Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming.

Contact: sward@uwyo.edu

MIDDLE EAST AND ISRAEL IN FILM

In 2012, the University of Wyoming inaugurated a course on Middle East and Israel in film, taught by Seth Ward. Cultural products, such as novels, song-writing and film, provide a window into the deepest issues in that part of the world, or among those interested in that part of the world. Films in particular provide an attractive way to examine issues on a highly personal level.

There are several ways to approach this forum. For some presentations, the forum could be run as the class was: some time to introduce the film, screening the entire film, and then a discussion. More frequently, the forum may be oriented towards some of the themes that appear in the film: violence and peace, religion and religiosity, relations between various religious and ethnic groups, the reasons for terror, the reasons for love.

Some films memorialize the Holocaust—as it appeared in the Middle East—or for that matter trivialize it. Some are utopian, others realistic. Most embed more complex views into the narrative than might appear at first glance.

This presentation requires adequate equipment to project film or film clips; usually from a computer laptop or DVD player or both. It is ideal as a complement to a screening of a full length film. Dr. Ward can be available both before and after the screening to present the film and moderate discussion.

Dr. Seth Ward teaches Islamic History, Judaic Studies, and Religions of the Middle East: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in the Program in Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming.

Contact: sward@uwyo.edu

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