Religions in Diaspora & Global Affairs: Global Symposium

Oct 23–Oct 24, 2015
The Downtown Independent Theater

The UC Humanities Research Institute, funded by a grant from the Henry R. Luce Foundation, embarked on a three-year research initiative exploring the complex cultural and political relations between diasporic religious communities and their self-identified homelands. The initiative is funded by the Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, a grant program that seeks to deepen understanding of religion as a critical but often neglected dimension of national and international policies and politics. RIDAGA has supported the work of four humanities Studios, each of which supports research-driven collaboration across multiple disciplines, UC campuses, global partners, and media professionals.

Friday, October 23rd

6:00-7:00PM Opening Reception

7:00-8:00PM Film Screenings

Noche de Altares/Night of Altars Directed by James Ault and Jennifer Hughes

Latino activists and organizers have worked for more than a decade to create a powerful public ritual that makes the spirits of the dead truly present in the streets of Santa Ana. “Santaneros” reinvent the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead celebration to link death and mourning with cultural and community survival. They have created an annual tradition that is one of the largest celebrations in the state of California. This film is their story.

Manzanar, Diverted Directed by Ann Kaneko

In this short documentary, Manzanar becomes a portal into the ongoing fight for natural resources, particularly water rights and land use, in the Owens Valley. Although best known for its wartime history, Manzanar was also where Native Americans were driven out and farmers and ranchers were bought out by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. This place, once temporary home to the Japanese Americans, also symbolizes how history is shaped by political and economic power-brokers and has been the site of recurring injustices which continue to play out in an ecological and human fight for land.

8:00-9:30PM The Global Religious Festival: Immigration, Politics, and Public Religion in the United States


  • James Ault, Filmmaker
  • Jim Lee, Department of Asian-American Studies, UC Irvine
  • Amanda Lucia, Department of Religious Studies, UC Riverside
  • Ann Kaneko, Filmmaker
  • Jonathan Ritter, Department of Music, UC Riverside
  • Deepak Sarma, Department of Religious Studies, Case Western
  • Jennifer Hughes, Department of History, UC Riverside, Moderator

Saturday, October 24th

10:00AM-12:30PM Conversations on Humanitarianism & Religion

A moderated conversation by the Humanitarian Ethics Studio, including:

  • Petuuche Gilbert, UN Activist
  • Andrew Lam, Journalist, New American Media
  • Neda Atanasoski, UC Santa Cruz
  • Mariam Lam, UC Riverside
  • Natalie Avalos, UC Santa Barbara

2:00-4:30PM Film Screening: Descending with Angels directed by Christian Suhr

A film about jinn possession, Islamic healing, and psychiatry in Denmark presented by the Regulating Sex/Religion Studio.

Descending with Angels explores the journey of a Palestinian refugee living in Aarhus, Denmark, who is, depending on one’s interpretation, either (or both) mentally disturbed and in need of psychiatric treatment or possessed by jinn (invisible spirits). The man has been committed to psychiatric treatment in a Danish clinic after a severe case of jinn possession causes him to destroy a mosque interior, crash several cars, and insult a number of people. He sees no point in psychotropic medication since his illness has already been treated with Quranic incantations. The film compares two systems of treatment that seem quintessentially different, even as both share a view of healing as operating through submission – by faith – to an external non-human agent, namely God or biomedicine.

Christian Suhr is a filmmaker and assistant professor in the Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University. Descending with Angels is his first feature length film. The film is based on 18 months of fieldwork with patients and healers in the city of Aarhus, Denmark. It was produced as part of a PhD project including a 250 page text on experiences of illness and healing among Danish Muslims.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring:

  • Christian Suhr, Filmmaker & Anthropologist, Aarhus University
  • Stefania Pandolfo, Anthropologist, UC Berkeley
  • Abou Farman, Filmmaker & Anthropologist, The New School for Social Research
  • Dr. Jim Ghaznavi, Psychiatrist, Los Angeles
  • Mayathi Fernando, UC Santa Cruz, Moderator

7:00-8:00PM Reception & Exhibit

Featuring the work of California-based Muslim artists, including:

  • Mark Gonzales
  • Shireen Alihaji
  • Faezeh Fathizadeh
  • Mustafa Rony Zeno
  • Tarik Trad
  • Tanzila Ahmed

Presented by the Shari’a Revoiced Studio.

8:00-9:30PM Program & Panel Discussion 

Featuring Shari’a Revoiced Study Participants:

  • Umar Hakim, Executive Director, ILM Foundation
  • Edina Lekovic, Director of Policy & Programming, Muslim Public Affairs Council
  • Elena Meloni, Executive Director, New Star Family Justice Center

Optional Studio-related events on Saturday, October 24 & Sunday, October 25:

Saturday, 10/24 @ 12PM-12AM LA Day of the Dead

On Saturday evening, join the Global Religious Festivals Studio for a site visit to the LA Day of the Dead. The largest festival in Los Angeles, and in the country, the LA Day of the Dead takes place at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Please purchase your ticket in advance; tickets are $20.00 each and may be purchased online at: Stay tuned for an announcement regarding transportation to the cemetery.

Sunday, 10/25 @ 3:30PM Señor de los Milagros Procession

Join the Global Religious Festivals Studio for the Señor de los Milagros procession (Peruvian). The procession begins with a celebratory mass at Our Lady of Angeles Catholic Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. Traffic stops as the dramatic procession of several thousand makes its way from the cathedral to La Placita Church in the historic Mexican district. The procession will begin its journey to the Cathedral around 3:30PM.

About the four RIDAGA studios

Global Religious Festivals deploys a multidisciplinary research team to study large-scale street festivals, public processions, and open-air religious rituals that enact religious, racial, and ethnic identities that anchor diverse religious communities in secular cityscapes in California.

Shari’a Revoiced: Documenting American Muslims’ Experiences of Islamic Law is working to uncover new voices and understandings of Islamic law among Muslim communities in California. The studio documents how Muslim activists, students, feminists, lawyers, social workers, and other cultural brokers produce local forms of Islamic knowledge.

Humanitarian Ethics, Religious Affinities, and the Politics of Dissent investigates transnational faith-based networks organized in response to and out of the tensions that have arisen between visions of the political, social and cultural good pursued by secular human rights and humanitarian organizations and those pursued by religious humanitarian networks.

Regulating Sex/Religion: Secular Citizenship and the Politics of Diasporic Difference examines how sexuality and religion come together in the management of diasporic minorities in Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. The studio analyzes how secular rule, and the concomitant structure of secular citizenship, are subtended by the twinned regulation of religion and sexuality.