2024 APRIL Summer Colloquium

“Nonfiction Religion”

22-29 June, New York City

 

For 2024, APRIL’s annual summer colloquium is being re-invented as a week-long writing workshop in creative nonfiction (which includes but is not limited to memoir, long-form reportage, criticism, and history). APRIL’s Coolidge Fellows will meet as a group each day to discuss each other’s works in progress. Other time will be free to write and conduct research. Access to Columbia University’s Butler Library and Union Seminary’s library will be provided.

APRIL is thrilled to announce that Brook Wilensky-Lanford (MFA, Columbia Univ; PhD, UNC; author of Paradise Lust) will serve as the creative director for the Colloquium/Workshop, and will coordinate our time together.

We will be meeting through the week at our partner’s location, Judson Memorial Church, on Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park.

Meet the fellows for 2024:


Swasti Bhattacharyya

Swasti Bhattacharyya

 

Swasti Bhattacharyya

Currently, as I am writing full-time on a long-term ethnographic project, I am learning to take on the title of “Writer.” In addition, after two decades of teaching, researching, and writing in religious studies and applied ethics, I am a Professor Emerita of Philosophy and Religion. In a previous life that overlapped with graduate school, I was also a registered nurse.

My project for this colloquium is a creative nonfiction book based on the lives and teachings of the sisters of the Brahma Vidya Mandir Ashram. These strong, independent-minded women are followers of Vinoba Bhave (disciple, confidant, and spiritual successor to Mahatma Gandhi). He inspired them to commit to a lifelong experiment in women’s spirituality. Their pragmatic definition of spirituality, “simple living and high thinking,” is grounded in the principles of ahimsa (nonviolence), truth, love, and Sarvodaya (the holistic uplifting of all humanity and the earth).

 


Annie Li

Annie Li

 

Annie Li

My name is Annie Li, and I am an incoming PhD candidate in the Department of Religion at Princeton University and a current MPhil candidate in Theology at the University of Oxford under the Marshall Scholarship. My research centers on race, religion, and civil rights activism in twentieth-century Asian American communities. I previously served as founding Editor-in-Chief of Emory In Via, a Christian thought journal, and am a John R. Lewis Fellow with the Faith and Politics Institute.

During the APRIL Colloquium/Writing Workshop, I will work on my research project examining Chinese Americans from San Francisco’s Chinatown who participated in the Civil Rights and Asian American Movements. Alongside the other fellows, I hope to hone my craft as a nonfiction writer and develop methodologies to recover neglected histories.

 

 

 


Sara Moslener

Sara Moslener

 

Sara Moslener

I am a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy, Anthropology, and Religion at Central Michigan University where I teach about the history of religious and racial discrimination in the United States. I write and publish on evangelical purity culture including the book Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence (Oxford University Press: 2015) and the podcast Pure White: Sexual Purity and White Supremacy (Axis Mundi Media: 2023). During the APRIL writing fellowship, I will be revising my second book After Purity: Race, Sex, and Religion in White Christian America (forthcoming, Beacon Press.)

This project utilizes both academic analysis and creative non-fiction to develop a full-bodied portrait of white women’s racial formation vis-à-vis myths of national innocence embedded in evangelical purity culture.

 


Max Mueller

Max Mueller

 

Max Perry Mueller

I am a historian and theorist of race and religion with a particular interest in Indigenous and African American religious experiences, epistemologies, and cosmologies. The central animating question of my scholarship is how the act of writing—especially the writing of historical origin stories of nations and peoples—has affected the creation and contestation of “race” as a category of political and religious division in American history. My research and teaching also connect with my public scholarship. I have written on religion, race, and politics for outlets including SlateThe New Republic, and The Atlantic. I also co-founded Religion & Politics, the online journal of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis, whose mission is to bring the best scholarship on religion and American public life to audiences beyond the academy.

My time in the colloquium will be focused on refining my second book, Wakara Remains: A Native and Settler History of the American West (Basic Books). The book is the first, full-length biography of Wakara (ca. 1815-1855), the great Ute leader, horse thief, slave trader, and defender of Native sovereignty.

 


Elijah Siegler

Elijah Siegler

 

Elijah Siegler

I have taught at the College of Charleston, a public sort of liberal arts university, for 20 years, including classes on American religious history, “cults,” Asian religions in America, spirituality, religion and politics, and religion and film. I grew up in Toronto, and have enjoyed living in New York City and Chengdu, China. I have a BA from Harvard University, and an MA and PhD from The University of California at Santa Barbara, all in religious studies.

For this colloquium, I am excited to be working on a book project about how Asheville and Western North Carolina become home to a diverse collection of alternative religions and what that answer says about America. I am drafting chapters about appropriation, spiritual entrepreneurship, “conspirituality,” and fights over land. I have a few other research projects on the backburner, including an introduction to the field of religion and television, and a collection of short stories.

 

 


Heather White

Heather White

 

Heather White

Heather White is a specialist in American religious history with a research focus on sexuality, gender, and twentieth-century social movements. They are the author of Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights (UNC Press, 2015) and co-editor, along with Gillian Frank and Bethany Moreton, of Devotions and Desires: Histories of Religion and Sexuality in the Twentieth Century United States (UNC Press, 2018). Heather serves on the advisory board of the LGBT Religious Archive Network and is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender & Queer Studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

During the colloquium, they’ll be working on a book-length project for the APRIL colloquium, tentatively titled “The Church that Hosted Gay Liberation.”

 

2024 Colloquium Team