School of Humanities and Cultural Studies

Piediscalzi Lecture

This lecture series aims to create an opportunity for members of the university community to join with residents of the broader Dayton region to consider a topic of current religious interest. It honors Dr. Nicholas Piediscalzi, a founding member of the religion department.

2018–2019 Piediscalzi Lecture in Religion
Thursday, April 4, 2019, 3:30–5 p.m.
163 Student Union (Discovery Room)

Speaker: Dr. Alicia Turner, Associate Professor Of Humanities and Religious Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada
Topic: "The Violence of Buddhist Tolerance: Escalating Religious Difference in Myanmar/Burma"

This talk charts the genealogy of the idea of Burma as a place of particular religious tolerance starting in the 18th century, and its intersections with the European construction of Buddhism as a world religion in the second half of the 19th century. The content of what constituted tolerance shifted over the decades, but the comparators that evidenced exceptional Burmese tolerance did not: there were consistent positive comparisons with Europe that elevated Burma on the colonial civilizational scale and continual negative contrasts with Indian (and to a lesser extent Chinese) others, labeling Hindus and Muslims in particular as backward for their intolerance. By the twentieth century, the equation of Burmeseness, Buddhism, and tolerance fused within nationalist discourse and led to a drive to defend Buddhism against less tolerant Indian others. The themes compelling the contemporary violence—the radical difference between Burmese and Indians, the need to preserve free Buddhist women from Muslim men and the idea that a tolerant religion could be overrun by the forces of religious intolerance all originate in these secular colonial discourses of religious difference. 

The lecture of free and open to the public. For more information, please contact the Religion department at 937-775-2274 or

History of the Lecture

The Piediscalzi Lecture Series was inaugurated in 1989 to honor Nicholas Piediscalzi, the founder and long-time chair of the Wright State Department of Religion. Dr. Piediscalzi came to Wright State in 1965 one year after the university’s founding, and it was under his guidance that the academic study of religion became an integral part of the curriculum. For 23 years Dr. Piediscalzi taught a variety of courses concerning the relationship between religion and society and when he retired in 1988 his colleagues, and many of his students and friends decided that a lecture series in his honor would be a fitting tribute to his contribution both to the Religion department and to the university.

Past Lectures

  • 2017-2018: Dr. Tracy Fessenden, Arizona State University, "Religion Around Billie Holiday"
  • 2016-2017: Dr. Judith E. Tucker, Professor, "Understanding Islamic Law: Sex Crimes in Doctrine and Practice” 
  • 2015-2016: Dr. Darla Schumm, "Religion and Disability"
  • 2014-2015: Dr. Sarah Iles Johnston, “There and Back Again: The Story World of Greek Myth”
  • 2013-2014: Dr. David Barr, “Jerusalem, Jesus and Jihad: The Politics of the End Times”
  • 2012-2013: Dr. Asma Barlas, Ithaca College, “The Qur’an, the Shari`ah, and Women’s Rights”
  • 2011-2012: “Dr. Steve Friesen, University of Texas, Austin, “Poverty in the Roman Empire: Four Early Christina Responses”; Dr. Alla Semenova, Dickenson College, “How Money Came About: Temples, Taxes, or Traders?”
  • 2010-2011: Dr. L. Carl Brown, Princeton University, “Looking at Ourselves Looking at Islam”
  • 2007-2008” Dr. Nicholas Piediscalzi, “Religion and Health: The Resacralization of Medicine and the Renaturalization of Religion in America Today”
  • 2005-2006: Dr. Judith Kelleher Schafer, Tulane University, “The Struggle to Stay Free People of Color in Antebellum New Orleans”
  • 2004-2005: Ellen Bruno, “Speaking Truth to Power”
  • 2002-2003: Dr. John Kelsay, Florida State University, “War, Peace, and Justice in Islam”
  • 2001-2002: Dr. Michael Barkun, Syracuse University, “Violence and the Millennium: Why Law Enforcement Got it Wrong about the Year 2000”
  • 1997-1998: Dr. Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School, “Reclaiming the Power of Naming: Feminist Studies in Religion”
  • 1996-1997: Congressman Tony Hall, 3rd District, Ohio, “The Role of Religion in American Politics”
  • 1995-1996: Dr. Paul Boyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “666 and All That: Bible Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture"


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