James & David Orr Lecture on Culture & Religion

The James and David Orr Memorial Lectures on Culture and Religion bring to Dartmouth each year scholars and writers whose achievements are at the highest level, but whose main fields of interest are not necessarily religion. Past Orr Lecturers include historians, anthropologists, novelists, biologists, and philosophers.

In 1972 James H. Orr, a Boston financier and supporter of the Religion Department at Dartmouth, provided the funding in memory of his son, David, for a lecture series now known as the "James and David Orr Memorial Lectures on Culture and Religion." The initial "Orr Lecture" was given that year by Mircea Eliade of the University of Chicago who lectured on "Sacred City, Sacred Time." Past Orr Lecturers include Lionel Trilling, Mary Douglas, Edward Said, Carolyn Bynum, Edward Shils, Rodney Needham, Donald Davidson, Amartya Sen, Gita Mehta, Judith Butler, Karen Armstrong, and Steven Pinker.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

"The End of College: Religion Departments and the Battle Over An Ideal"
Robert Wilson-Black
CEO, Sojourners
Founding Board Chair, National Museum of American Religion

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Location: Moore B03
Free & open to all

Abstract: "Religion departments made their way into institutions of higher education in the 1930s to the early 1960s, at a time when significant shifts that transformed the college into the university were occurring. Higher education leaders found they were losing sight of the college ideal and hoped religion as a taught subject could bring back moral formation, a curricular focus on personal piety, and national unity. Protestant Christian leaders created religion departments during this shift in educational ideals—while religion professors themselves attempted to create a legitimate academic subject quite apart from the piety of chapel programs, narrow moralizing, and, above all, the centrality of Western Christian thought championed in the college model. Religion departments at mid-century were a response to the lack of an agreed-upon curricular center in the wake of the very changes that spelled the end of the college ideal, attempting to provide a cultural and religious center that might hold. That hope was never realized. What remained in its wake were specialized religion departments seeking entirely different ends that helped to cement the university model."

Zoom recording of the lecture is available here:

Thursday, April 21, 2022

William Chester Jordan
Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Princeton University

Talk title: "The Due Reward of Our Deeds:  Reflections on the Death Penalty in Medieval Europe"

Abstract: "Philosophical, religious and legal objections to capital punishment are almost non-existent in the High Middle Ages, and apparently reflecting this, the penalty was prescribed for many crimes. Yet, the actual use of capital punishment as retribution for "ordinary" felonies—the execution of convicted criminals—was comparatively rare.  Capital punishment, of course, served several functions, and its comparative rarity does not mean it was insignificant either discursively or in the "spectacular" performance of governmental authority (an aspect of statebuilding and preserving the state).  But the disjuncture between the low-level use of a penalty and its extraordinary prominence in law codes needs to be addressed."

Thursday, April 21, 2022
Moore B03

Thursday, May 12, 2022

"The Islamic State is a Post-Colonial Mirage"

Abdullahi An-Na'im
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory Law, and senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University

Abstract: TBA

Location: TBA