by: Madeline Leibin
Right after I got out of class on Friday, we hit the road for Raleigh, North Carolina. Four hours later— and just in time!— we arrived at the Southeastern Conference for the Study of Religion. I quickly threw on some business clothes, and checked in to the first session. Immediately, I was immersed in a paper titled, Telling Lies on the Stump: Ethics & the Presidential Election, by scholar-lawyer Heidi Tauscher. Later, I would track this brilliant woman down in a hallway, and have an hour long conversation with her about her path between religion and law, a journey I am preparing for as an aspiring human rights lawyer. And, later than that, I would speak with another scholar of American secularism about the need for legal advocacy. These conversations with wise, well-versed professionals guided my thoughts as I hid away in my hotel room preparing for the LSAT and postgraduate opportunities later that night.
These moments skipped and sped by, and before I knew it, I was the one at the podium, reading my paper Spirituality & the Law, an investigation into how those who identity as “spiritual, but not religious” are understood— and subsequently prosecuted and/or protected— within the postmodern American courtroom. My paper was well-received, and provoked much discussion about what the law should do, what it means when it does so do, and where it should belong as a productive infrastructure. These topics were made all the more interesting in company with the two other papers on my panel, on Social Liberation and National Identity in the Old Testament and Poetic Expressions of Muslim and Jewish Identity in Al-Andalus. While these two other papers spread into earlier eras, together our theses were considered in the background of the contemporary socio-political context, where identities (perceived, claimed, and created) are, some may say, at large.
Overall, I considered the weekend very, very rewarding. The interactions were memorable, the discourse rich, and my subsequent thoughts (about the topics, the conference, and my future in the field) deeply reflective. I can thank The School of Humanities and Social Sciences for making this academic experience textured and nuanced in ways I wouldn’t have had otherwise. For the weekend and for the reverberations that have followed— thank you.
Madeline is a senior in the Honors College tripe majoring in religious studies, philosophy and international studies. She received funding from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Travel Award to help make her trip possible.