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Religion and Complex Social Issues

The Religion and Complex Social Issues series began in fall 2017 to provide informative, thoughtful, discussion-oriented opportunities for students, faculty, and various other communities of Saint Louis University to engage topics of enormous consequence through the frameworks of theology and religion.

Racism, sexuality, incarceration, politics, law, immigration, media, art, violence all of these and more are part of the histories and experiences of religion. This fora creates space to explore such intersections through the lenses of academic rigor and the Jesuit mission of Saint Louis University.

Facilitated by faculty experts, professionals from a variety of fields, and student leaders from across the university, the Religion and Complex Social Issues series prioritizes discussion and dialogue. We invite all members of the Saint Louis University as well as our neighbors and, when possible, those far beyond to join these conversations in an effort to create more understandings of the many ways that religion and theology continue to shape what it means to be human, together.

Upcoming Events


White Christian Privilege
A Conversation with Prof. Khyati Joshi
October 29, 7 p.m. CST

Khyati Joshi, Ed.D., Farleigh Dickinson University

The United States is recognized as the most religiously diverse country in the world, and yet its laws and customs, which many have come to see as normal features of American life, actually keep the Constitutional ideal of “religious freedom for all” from becoming a reality. Christian beliefs, norms, and practices infuse our society; they are embedded in our institutions, creating the structures and expectations that define the idea of “Americanness.” Religious minorities still struggle for recognition and for the opportunity to be treated as fully and equally legitimate members of American society. From the courtroom to the classroom, their scriptures and practices are viewed with suspicion, and bias embedded in centuries of Supreme Court rulings create structural disadvantages that endure today.

Through the voices of Christians and religious minorities, Joshi explores how Christian privilege and White racial norms affect the lives of all Americans, often in subtle ways that society overlooks. By shining a light on the inequalities these privileges create, Joshi points the way forward, urging readers to help remake America as a diverse democracy with a commitment to true religious freedom.

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Yoga and Race in the United States
A Conversation with Shreena Niketa Gandhi, Ph.D. 
November 12, 7 p.m. CST

Shreena Niketa Gandhi, Ph.D., Michigan State University

This discussion will consider how we can think about white supremacy via various parts of culture ... in this case, yoga. How has yoga been raced, classed, and gendered to serve a particular community in the United States? And how can examining this history give us some understanding about how white supremacy works in our cultural lives?

Shreena Niketa Gandhi is a multi-faceted cultural historian of religion with expertise in religion, race, the Americas and Hinduism. Trained at Swarthmore, Harvard, and the University of Florida, Professor Gandhi currently teaches at Michigan State University. In all of her classes, she starts the first few weeks by introducing students to the concept of structural white supremacy and why that is important for a better understanding of religion in the U.S. Her research and public scholarship are on the history of yoga, and she is revising a manuscript on this using the framework of white supremacy and cultural appropriation. Through her scholarship, she hopes to make all Americans from all backgrounds better understand how we have all benefited and suffered because of systematic white supremacy and racism. Her scholarship on yoga is one illustration of this system.

Professor Gandhi is also a part of a multi-year collaborative project on intersectional Hinduism, which is supported through the American Academy of Religion and partially funded through the Wabash Center.

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