Asha Noor
Roberto Sirvent

Mentoring Spotlight Part 2

Announcements, Mentoring Spotlight Feature

The Mentoring Initiative aims to bring together students and scholars engaged in different research methods but who are addressing a shared set of questions. Our hope is that the Political Theology Network Mentoring Initiative might even create a space where new research questions and methods will emerge.

Thanks to the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation, the Political Theology Network awarded a limited number of scholarships to help facilitate mentoring relationships between and within various underrepresented groups. The Political Theology Network Mentoring Initiative is designed to gather and equip the next generation of leaders in the field. The PhD students selected take an interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, or even anti-disciplinary approach to their studies. The Mentoring Initiative aims to bring together students and scholars engaged in different research methods but who are addressing a shared set of questions. Our hope is that the Political Theology Network Mentoring Initiative might even create a space where new research questions and methods will emerge. Asha Noor and Roberto Sirvent serve as co-leaders of the Initiative.

In an attempt to introduce the wider Political Theology Network to the PhD students selected, we will be featuring three of our Mentoring Initiative participants per week from the middle of October to the beginning of November. We hope you enjoy learning more about these distinguished scholars.


Abelardo de la Cruz

Abelardo de la Cruz is a macehualli (person/native speaker of nahuatl) from Chicontepec, Veracruz, México. He lived there all his childhood and his adolescence. When he was 18 years old, he emigrated to Zacatecas, México, to carry out his Bachelor’s Degree (2007-2012) and later his Master´s Degree (2013-2015) both at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas. During his Master studies, he carried out research about nahuatl religion of communities from the Huasteca Veracruzana, Northern of Veracruz. Now as a Ph. D. Student, at SUNY Albany, NY, he is interested in nahua religion studies from the past and the present. He is interested in colonial studies, specifically how the nahuas of 16th century accepted the Christianity. He is interested too on the influence of the elements of Christianity and how they have penetrated the different rituals and ceremonies that survives in the nahua culture of today. Since 2012 he has worked as professor of Nahuatl language at Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas, a non-profit corporation of Mexico. Since 2013 until now he works every summer at Yale University as a nahuatl language instructor. Additionally, he works with indigenous people from Chicontepec for the nahuatl´s revitalization because it is in danger of disappearing.

What was the highlight of your time at the 2017 AAR meeting in Boston?

I enjoyed spending time in Boston. I really liked attending the conference organized by Roberto Sirvent at the Divinity School at Harvard. It was wonderful to meet other people also interested in religion topics. It was not possible to attend the AAR conference because I went exclusively to participate in the meeting organized by the Political Theology Network. This year, I want to participate in AAR and in other meetings.

What do you wish you knew on Day 1 of your PhD program?

In my first day of my PhD program, I wanted to make sure I got to know new students, and excellent professors interested in my research about indigenous religion.

What’s a great book you read this year?

I liked this book: Holy Saints and Fiery Preachers: the Anthropology of Protestantism in Mexico, (2002) by Alan Sandstrom and James W. Down.

What’s a great journal article you read this year?

“Wrapped in cloth, clothed in skins: Aztec tlaquimilolli (sacred bundles and deity embodiment,” (2014) by Molly Bassett

Which two authors (one within the field of religion/theology and one outside the field) would you like to see in conversation with one another?

Alan Sandstrom, author of Corn Is Our Blood (1991) and Francisco Laguna Correa, a novelist from Mexico, author of Finales Felices (2012).

What’s a fun place you visited this year (e.g. country, new restaurant, museum, etc.)?

I visited Salt Lake City in this summer 2018. I spent time visiting the Mormon cathedral and the Mormon museum. Also, I went to the Arches National Park with my colleagues.

What music album should everyone be listening to?

I like to listen to huapangos music. This music is part of the traditional music from Northern Veracruz. This music is part of my childhood, so I like to listen because I remember my mother land.

What’s your favorite distraction from studying?

This year I tried to walk in the Hudson River close to my wife. When I have time, I enjoy watching movies.

What keeps you sane during your PhD program?

I enjoy spending time with my wife. The advice and recommendations of my adviser is fundamental in my studies. I try to have good relations with my classmates.

What keeps you hopeful?

My project of life is very important to me. In the future I would like to work in any department of Religion studies, in USA or Mexico.


Ahmad Greene-Hayes

Ahmad Greene-Hayes is a doctoral student in the Department of Religion at Princeton University in the Religion in the Americas subfield, and an interdisciplinary scholar pursuing graduate certificates in African American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies. His research interests include Africana religions; gender, sexuality and religion; Black Pentecostalism; Black Queer Studies; folk and popular religions; and American and Africana religious histories, specifically in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is the past recipient of fellowships and awards from the Mellon Mays Foundation, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Creating Connections Consortium (C3) at Columbia University, and the Political Theology Network. During the 2017-2018 academic year, he held the LGBT Studies Research Fellowship at Yale University, and he currently holds the Religion and Public Life Fellowship from the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton and is a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow.

What was the highlight of your time at the 2017 AAR meeting in Boston?

I enjoyed our dinner and getting to know other junior colleagues who are just as passionate about justice as they are books.

What do you wish you knew on Day 1 of your PhD program?

I wish I knew that everyone’s motivations for why they pursue the Ph.D. is different. For some, our research is directly connected to our lived experiences and to larger social movements; for others, it is solely about the title.

What’s a great book you read this year?

I read Pablo F. Gómez’ The Experiential Carribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic (UNC Press, 2018).

What’s a great journal article you read this year?

“No Mystery God”: Black Religions of the Flesh in Pre-War Urban America by Clarence E. Hardy (Church History, Vol. 77, No. 1 [March, 2008]).

Which two authors (one within the field of religion/theology and one outside the field) would you like to see in conversation with one another?

I would love to see Yvonne Chireau, author of Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition, in conversation with C. Riley Snorton, author of Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity. Both texts push us to rethink the binaries we construct about religious experiences, racialization, gender and sexuality.

What’s a fun place you visited this year (e.g. country, new restaurant, museum, etc.)?

I visited Salamanca, Barcelona and Madrid, Spain during my summer vacation.

What music album should everyone be listening to?

I think it’s essential that everyone listen to John Coltrane’s Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album.

What’s your favorite distraction from studying?

Working out!

What keeps you sane during your PhD program?

Bi-weekly visits to my therapist!

What keeps you hopeful?

When colleagues practice academic kindness and critical generosity, it gives me hope that we can do this work and really make a difference in the world.


Adeana McNicholl

Adeana McNicholl is a Ph.D. Candidate at Stanford University. She currently holds a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Her dissertation, titled “Hungry Ghosts and Celestial Seductresses: Preta Narratives in Early South Asian Buddhist Literature,” examines stories about the departed in ancient South Asian Buddhist literature. Her dissertation asks how Buddhist authors used the physio-moral embodiment of ghosts to project idealized visions of the religious and social world. She also has a research project on race and American Buddhism. This work investigates the placement of black American Buddhists within local and transnational discourses of race and religion.

What was the highlight of your time at the 2017 AAR meeting in Boston?

Besides having the opportunity to catch up with old friends, the highlight of my time at the 2017 AAR was meeting a reviewer for an article I had recently submitted to a journal. He outed himself to me and told me he liked my work. It was encouraging to hear that my work had an impact even on one person.

What do you wish you knew on Day 1 of your PhD program?

I wish someone had told me that it’s not only okay, but it is healthy to maintain a work-life balance. Sleep is important!

What’s a great book you read this year?

My favourite book I read this year was Tisa Wenger’s Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal. Wenger investigates the relationship between discourse about religious freedom and politics of race and empire. It is a masterfully written book that is sure to become a classic in the field.

What’s a great journal article you read this year?

One article that stands out to me is Audrey Truschke’s “The Power of the Islamic Sword in Narrating the Death of Indian Buddhism” in History of Religions. In this article Truschke tackles the persistent myth that Islam was responsible for the near-extinction of Buddhism in India.

Which two authors (one within the field of religion/theology and one outside the field) would you like to see in conversation with one another?

As one of my areas of interest is black Buddhism and race, I would love to see more engagement between historians who study the black Pacific community and empire, scholars of African American religion, and scholars of Asian/Asian American religions.

What’s a fun place you visited this year (e.g. country, new restaurant, museum, etc.)?

This year I had the opportunity to travel to Sri Lanka to photograph Kandyan-era temple paintings. I loved the country and it was so exciting to walk through sites I had only ever read about.

What music album should everyone be listening to?

I’m not sure I could say what album everyone should be listening to. I think the last significant album I listened to from start to finish was Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.”

What’s your favorite distraction from studying?

My worst distraction from studying is Netflix.

What keeps you sane during your PhD program?

I have a wonderful cohort of brilliant scholars around me. My writing group especially keeps me sane now that I’m writing my dissertation. I highly recommend that graduate students find a writing group with which to share their experiences.

What keeps you hopeful?

Teaching undergraduates gives me hope. My students are insightful, funny, and optimistic about the world around them. When I’m not teaching, I find hope in watching the successes of my friends and colleagues.

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