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History, philosophy, religious studies cross boundaries in new school

October 05, 2009

The Arizona State University community is invited to a series of events Oct. 14 to officially launch the new School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The launch celebration begins a year of special lectures, research conferences, colloquia and an art exhibit to introduce students, faculty and staff to the new school.

"Though our core is firmly based in the humanities – the critical, historical and comparative study of texts, practices and contexts – we cross boundaries to sustain strong ties with our colleagues in the natural and social sciences, the professional schools and beyond," says Mark von Hagen, a professor of history and founding director of the school.

ASU President Michael Crow will be among the speakers at the launch ceremony and reception, which begins at 10 a.m. Oct 14 in Old Main Carson Ballroom on ASU's Tempe campus. Other speakers include von Hagen; Quentin Wheeler, ASU vice president and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Deborah Losse, dean of humanities.

The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies was established last year through action by the Arizona Board of Regents. It combines three previous departments: history, philosophy and religious studies.

The new school creates a research and teaching environment that cuts across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences while maintaining existing degree programs in traditional areas. Faculty members will develop educational and research opportunities – including new curriculum – at the intellectual intersections of these fields.

Within the school are 80 faculty members representing a wide range of disciplines. They are organized into three faculties, each with a faculty leader: Associate Professor Kent Wright (History), Professor Peter de Marneffe (Philosophy) and Associate Professor Joel Gereboff (Religious Studies).

Among the current strengths of the new school are: history and philosophy of science, intellectual history and history of philosophy, American and global religious history and cultures, environmental history and bioethics, women's history and feminist philosophy, Native American history and indigenous epistemologies, history and philosophy of politics and the quest for justice; history, philosophy and politics of religion.

Also planned for the Oct. 14 launch is a Chinese socialist realist art exhibit, film screening and panel discussion – a retrospective of the past 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China.

The exhibit of Chinese art, including work by Jin Zhilin, will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 30 in the Old Main Basha Family Library, with the exception of Oct. 19-21, when the exhibit is closed.

At noon on Oct. 14 is the screening of a segment of the documentary "From the Masses to the Masses: An Artist in Mao's China." The clip depicts China's cultural revolution. "From the Masses to the Masses" is the third in the Beyond the Border eight-part collection of films covering war, geography, politics, history and current affairs. It originally debuted in 2004 and was produced by Combat Films and Research for the David M. Kennedy Center at Brigham Young University.

The documentary segment will be shown in Old Main Carson Ballroom and be followed by a panel discussion on a 60-year retrospective of China. Panel members include Assistant Professor John Zou from the School of International Letters and Cultures in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and professors Stephen Mackinnon and Hoyt Tillman from the new School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

A lecture by von Hagen is set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 in Coor Hall, Room 4403. The lecture is titled "History Wars: Memory and Geopolitics in Eastern Europe and Eurasia."

Other events to celebrate the new school are planned throughout the year. Information about those events, the launch ceremony and the new School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies is online at or at 480-965-5778.