Friday, June 23, 2017
WWAC Annual Meeting for Members
Members Only Dinner at 5:30 pm to be followed by a brief members meeting
We will welcome new members who join us during May and June
The General Public is invited to arrive at 6:45 pm for the talk, which will begin at 7:00 pm
Amer Latif, Professor of Religion, Marlboro College will speak on
“An Islamic Christmas Tree: Insights from Cognitive Science on Making Peace”
This talk will outline a way of using reason and imagination in forging a rigorous method for making peace at a deep level between apparent religious contradictions, a way of finding harmony and unity that accommodates difference and multiplicity. The talk will also discuss how this method for finding common ground appears from the perspective of contemporary cognitive science about the nature of human understanding.
Amer Latif has been professor of religious studies at Marlboro College since 2003. His research focuses primarily on Islamic mystical texts and practices. He is also interested in the issues surrounding cultural translation and has published translations of the poetry of Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13thcentury Muslim scholar and mystic. A current resident of Putney, he grew up in Pakistan and came to the United States for college. After getting a BA in physics from Bard College, he received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Stony Brook University. He is currently working on a book titled “Only God is Good”: Islam in the Words of Jesus.
More About Amer
When he left his home in Islamabad, Pakistan, Amer Latif hoped to find some answers to his many questions about the universe in science. But by the time he graduated with a degree in physics from Bard College, Amer knew that the answers to his questions—and often the questions themselves—transcended science. His liberal arts education had allowed other questions to surface: “questions of beauty and meaning,” he says. He found himself driven by a desire to know the deeper significance of things in addition to the measurement of them. “The first place I found that did not shy away from these questions was in the writings of Rumi,” says Amer.
Amer completed his doctoral degree at Stony Brook University in 2009, with a dissertation examining the interpretations of the Qur’anic narratives of Pharaoh by Rumi—the 13th-century Muslim scholar and mystic. “What interests me is how some people are able to move from one system of ‘signs’ to another,” says Amer, who is working on turning his dissertation into a book. “Rumi is like a translator. He takes stories of Pharoah and Moses in the Qur’an, and tells people that this is something that is happening right within you.” Amer’s work also involves translating texts from Persian, Arabic, Urdu and Turkish.
Amer feels that religious studies can be viewed much like learning a language. Religion is expressed through the languages of myth, ritual and symbol. “These languages give a structure to one’s thoughts and provide categories that shape one’s perception and experience of the world.” Amer’s goal is to allow students to understand and enter the conceptual universe of different religions through the combined use of art, literature, ethnography and historical studies. “For me, knowledge is one,” says Amer. “There are ways of making sense of things, and how they relate to each other, in a unified vision; that appeals to me.”
Gifts for our speakers are being provided by: