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Books, Wonder, and Exchange: American Protestants in 19th-Century Iran

A lecture by Adam H. Becker, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Classics, Director of the Religious Studies Program, New York University

Monday, November 29, 2010
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

This presentation compares the 1834 arrival in Iran of Justin Perkins, who led the ABCFM mission in Urmia, Iran, for thirty five years, with a trip Perkins made back to the United States in 1842. On his visit home, Perkins brought with him Mar Yohannan, the Bishop of Urmia, and the two spent over a year in the US before returning to Persia. On his first tour of Iran, Perkins distributed printed Classical Syriac books and in doing so disrupted the prior economy and culture of books that had existed among Christians in the region. Because of his Calvinism, Perkins misrecognized the process of gift exchange in which he was engaged with his Nestorian/East-Syrian hosts.  This episode illuminates the relationships between media and language ideology, between systems of gift-exchange and the theology of the free gift, and between gratitude and a sense of wonder. Ultimately, this paper shows how Protestant religious reform stimulated a secular understanding, and thus a further reification, of religion.

Cost : Free and open to the public

(310) 825-1455

Sponsor(s): , Center for the Study of Religion

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