From time to time on this page, we will profile individual department faculty and their recent activities. For Fall 2009, we introduce the newest member of the department, Erika Dyson, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies.
Erika comes to HMC this semester as a new assistant professor of religious studies. She specializes in nineteenth-century American religious movements, church/state relations, and science and religion. Her dissertation research (done at Columbia University) examines the prosecution of Spiritualist mediums and ministers arrested under fortune telling laws at the turn of the twentieth century, for performing their central religious rite: delivering messages from the dead to the living. To complete this research, she received a fellowship from the American Association for University Women, and the New York State Archives in Albany.
On the way to Claremont from the east coast this summer, Erika accompanied 24 high school students to the Middle East as part of a pre-college program she organized. The program, entitled “Culture and History: Understanding the Arab World,” was taught jointly at Columbia University and King¹s Academy in Jordan. Erika is hoping to involve Mudders in future incarnations of this program as teaching and residential assistants, particularly any who are interested in Middle Eastern history and contemporary culture.
Erika is delighted to join the HMC community for many reasons, not the least of which is the chance to teach courses that incorporate both her research interests and her love of writing. This semester she will teach a writing-intensive seminar called “Ghosts and the Machines,” which explores the interfaces between occult religions and technologies. In the future, she hopes to teach an advanced seminar in non-fiction science writing (think Stephen Jay Gould, not technical reports) aimed at Mudders who would like to bring their intellectual passions to a non-academic audience.