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Robert A. Orsi featured in American Academy of Religion

November 17, 2022

On November 20, 2022, American Academy of Religion features the work and legacy of Professor Robert A. Orsi. See details below regarding the session on Sunday.


Catholic Studies Unit and Cultural History of the Study of Religion Unit

Theme: Real Lives, Real Presence: A Roundtable on Robert Orsi's Contributions to the Study of Religion

Sunday, 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Hyatt Regency-Mineral E (Third Level)

Matthew Cressler, College of Charleston, Presiding

Robert Orsi began his first book by declaring, “It is the central assumption of this history that the [annual festa of the Madonna of 115th Street] cannot be understood apart from an understanding of the lives of the people who took part in it.” He insisted that religion must be studied amidst the joys, sorrows, sufferings, and idiosyncrasies of ordinary life. When viewed from this vantage point, it became impossible to ignore the real presence of special suprahuman beings in people’s lives. This emphasis on real lives and real presence raises critical methodological, theoretical, and ethical considerations for religious studies writ large. In a conversation spanning subfields—from cultural history and Catholic studies to African American studies, Chinese philosophy, environmentalism, the study of secularism, and more—this roundtable will reflect on key questions and central assumptions that define Orsi’s work as both scholar and teacher. They will do so with an eye to the future of the field and consider the implications his work holds for their own—both its limits and possibilities.



Sarah M. Pike, California State University, Chico

Jason C. Bivins, North Carolina State University

Katherine Dugan, Springfield College

Josef Sorett, Columbia University

Michael Puett, Harvard University

Kristy Nabhan-Warren, University of Iowa

James Hill, Northwestern University

Mona Oraby, Howard University

Kathryn Lofton, Yale University

John Seitz, Fordham University



Robert A. Orsi, Northwestern University