January 2023 Update

A year ago this week we departed from Southwestern Ontario for Thunder Bay, and arrived in the North amidst a terrible snowstorm. But since then, many things have become clearer, including the research programme that I use this site to catalogue.

2021 was a big year, with the publication of a journal special issue that I edited and the defense of my dissertation in early May, some teaching in the Spring and Fall, taking over as Director of Pandora Press midway through the year, the beginning of a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto in September, and the publication of my first book, Postsecular History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) at the end of the year.

2022 was all the more intense, with an 18-hour move to a new city, the launch of my book, several lectures and presentations, a book chapter summarizing my Mennonite work, a few articles (including one in Angelaki!), the publication of several books I edited for the press (including one with praise from Margaret Atwood!), the first review of my first book and the publication of a symposium on it, and an exciting new position as a Research Associate in the Centre for Social Accountability at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University. And amidst it all, I managed to unpack my library and settle into a new home and a new community of people.

2023 has already been a whirlwind, and it’s only been a few weeks. A few days ago I submitted the final revised manuscript for my second book, Ontologies of Violence (Brill, 2023) – a text that has come a long way since the dissertation version of two years ago, thanks to two helpful peer reviewers and comments from series editor Ulrich Schmiedel and some friends. The conclusion of the book turns from the abstract reconceptualization of the concept of violence that the book focuses on to form connections between violence, public health, social accountability, and the social determinants of health.

My current and future work, beyond my postdoctoral fellowship (which concludes in a few months), will carry these themes forward, especially as I make connections between my third book project on conspiratorial thinking, and the study of public health. In connection with three large grant proposals that were submitted last year, I am also working on bringing together the discourse on Social Accountability (in the area of medical education) with the conversations I specialize in, most especially the interdisciplinary study of religion and critical theory. I have posted some initial thoughts here, but this is a piece of writing that will be expanded this year into a shorter book called Social Accountability: A Critical Theory (so it is all subject to change).

On top of it all, I am fortunate enough to be teaching 200+ students at the University of Toronto this term, in an online course called “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” hosted by the Department for the Study of Religion. I’m fortunate to have an excellent team of teaching assistants, and a great group of first-year students, which makes teaching a joy. The syllabus for the course is here, and in the future I hope to turn the course material into a short booklet on religion and apocalypse, so keep an eye out for that if the topic interests you.

Later in the year, another project that I have been working on will come to fruition. I am excited to re-launch the Pandora Press series in “Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies” as a new independent scholarly book series, and the first five volumes will be published in 2023 under my editorship, in consultation with several helpful peer reviewers and the Pandora Press editorial board. More details on the series are available here, and submissions are open, with several titles scheduled for 2024.

For those who encounter my work for the first time, it may be difficult to trace a through line in all of the projects outlined above. The best way that I have to describe my approach is to say that I am trained as a scholar of religion and culture in the Social Sciences and Humanities, and I take an interdisciplinary approach to key terms and topics by drawing from critical theory, political theology, and the philosophy of religion. Key terms like the ‘postsecular,’ ‘violence,’ ‘conspiracy,’ and ‘accountability’ are the focus of my work, and I see deep connections between the study of the religious-secular distinction, the notion that violence is defined by the violation of value-laden boundaries, the problem of conspiratorial thinking, and the social bonds of public trust that underpin social accountability. My future work will aim, in a variety of ways, to clarify these connections.

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