Feeling is Believing, Professor Donovan Schaefer, January 9-11, 2024

The Humanities Research Center is pleased to invite students and faculty to meet with our scholar-in-residence, Professor Donovan Schaefer, from the University of Pennsylvania, who will be at DKU during the first week at of the spring semester.

Professor Schafer is well known for his work on affect theory and has published two major monographs on the relationship of religion, science and affect.

His first book, Religious Affects, draws on affect theory and evolutionary biology to explore the extent to which nonhuman animals have the capacity to practice religion, linking human forms of religion and power through a new analysis of the chimpanzee waterfall dance as observed by Jane Goodall. In his compelling case for the use of affect theory in religious studies, Donovan Schaefer provides a new model for mapping relations between religion, politics, species, globalization, secularism, race, and ethics.

His recent award-winning monograph, Wild Experiment, challenges the conventional wisdom that feeling and thinking are separate. Drawing on science studies, philosophy, and affect theory, Schaefer reconceptualizes rationality as defined by affective processes at every level. The fact that cognition is felt, Schaefer demonstrates, is both why science succeeds and why it fails. He concludes that science, secularism, atheism, and reason itself are not separate from feeling but comprehensively defined by it.

While at DKU, Professor Schaefer will lead three events.

University Colloquium

Feeling is Believing: A New Approach to Conspiracy Theory

Tuesday, January 9, 4pm-5:30pm, AB1087

What makes people believe? How do science and disinformation battle to convince us? And why has the apocalyptic discourse of conspiracy theory risen to prominence in the current political moment in America? This talk considers a new way of assessing the relationship between thinking and feeling, suggesting that we see them as deeply interrelated rather than fundamentally separate. Shifting our frame of reference allows us to draw a clearer map of how and why conspiracy theories have managed to gain such a powerful hold in contemporary society.

Jointly organized with the University Colloquium Committee

Faculty Workshop

Thursday, January 11, 3:30-4:30pm, in the Library Tea House

The Affective Academic: Reflecting on Embodied Research and Emotional Pedagogy

In this workshop, participants have the opportunity to explore the emotional dimension of research and teaching. How does affect/emotion affect the process of research discovery and publication? How does affect/emotion shape faculty pedagogy  positively or negatively? How can paying attention to the affective dimension of faculty life help to strengthen well-being and performance?

This event will be followed by faculty happy hour from 4:30-5:30pm.

Jointly organized with the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Office of Faculty Development

Superdeep Seminar

Thursday, January 11, 6-7pm, IB2026

Wild Experiment: Feeling Science and Secularism after Darwin

In this seminar, Professor Schaefer will discuss the main ideas of his recent book that defines rationality as a process shaped by affect. Professor Miller will respond with a discussion of Chinese philosophical ideas of the heart/mind  (xin 心) and Daoist theories of embodied knowledge. All participants are invited to contribute their own ideas to the conversation.

Jointly organized with Superdeep.

Student Report on Citizenship Lab Research Symposium

Reported by Cody Schmidt, class of 2025

This symposium was hosted by HRC’s Citizenship Lab. The Lab provides funding and resources to various research projects exploring manifestations and expressions of citizenship throughout the world.

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab hosted a research symposium on November 24th, providing students and faculty an opportunity to present and solicit feedback on their work. Multiple disciplines were represented across the three convened panels, each of which involved Q&A sessions to foster dialogue among participants and audience members.

The Citizenship Lab’s co-directors, Professor Quinlan Bowman and Professor Robin Rodd, began the symposium by providing opening remarks regarding the Citizenship Lab’s mission, including understanding the citizen’s role in mobilization for resistance and activism.

The first panel of the symposium, “Equality, Belonging, and Solidarity,” was moderated by Professor Rodd. Professor Hyun Jeong Ha began the panel with her research into a South Korean religious group, the Shincheonji. Her research to date has featured interviews with 20 Koreans to analyze their experiences with the group and explore how their identification with this religious movement shapes their sense of belonging in Korean society. The second presenter for this session was a senior student, Jiyuan Sun. He provided an overview of his signature work project on autonomy-based conceptions of democratic equality.

Jiyuan reflected on his experience, saying, “I feel glad to have the opportunity to present my signature work at the point where a full draft is coming into shape, and to jump out of philosophy’s ‘armchair’ and engage with faculty members and students approaching citizenship topics from diverse disciplinary vantage points.”

“Nature, Culture, and Citizenship” was the overarching theme of the second panel. Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science Claudia Nisa served as the moderator, and also presented her work on the use of reclassification of farm animals as domestic pets and the subsequent effect it has on individuals. Julián Bilmes from Universidad Nacional de La Plata/Fudan Development Institute examined the Chinese-Argentinian relations in the area of natural resource governance. An iMEP student Lingyu He closed the session, presenting fieldwork she undertook in Tibet concerning religious artifacts and their commodification in modern consumer markets.

The final session was entitled “Power and Social Movements.” Professor Coraline Goron moderated and presented first on the panel. Her fieldwork explored citizen science projects in China and how they play a role in expanding citizen capacities in the country. Tanya Torchylo, a senior student, followed. She presented her insights into the way in which Information and Communication Technology facilitated the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2014.

“The symposium provided a fantastic opportunity for me to contemplate the progress of my signature work. Given that my research is ongoing, this reflection allowed me to organize the theories I’ve already explored, pinpoint weaknesses, and develop a clearer vision of how I want to shape my key argument,” Tanya said of the symposium.

Fellow undergraduates, Cody Schmidt and Lucas Chacko, presented next. Like Tanya, they focused on their signature work projects. They explained the meaning of “degrowth” and its connections to current political movements in Colombia. A PhD student at James Cook University, Helena Lopez Anderson, closed the symposium. She led the audience through a digital tour of Perth, Australia, describing how architecture throughout the city reflects the different stories and perspectives of citizenship for white and Indigenous groups.

Superdeep #21: “Behind the Text: AI’s Absent Subjectivity” | Thu Dec 7, 6:04pm

IB 2026 | Zoom 6979897969

Superdeep ends the semester with yet another such Workshop session, with Siyu (Sue) Wang helping us see “Behind the Text: AI’s Absent Subjectivity” (…& food & drink). 6:04pm, IB 2026 | Zoom 6979897969.


The Workshop is Superdeep‘s venue for philosophical work-in-progress research & practice. For more info or to submit proposals for the Workshop, follow this link; for more info on Superdeep more generally, follow this one.

Superdeep is sponsored by DKU’s Humanities Research Center.

Superdeep Nighthawks: “Past Lives” (Song 2023) | Dec 7, 8:04pm

8:04pm | IB 1008

What could better bring closure to another hurlyburly semester than a heart-rending meditation on life’s very big counterfactuals. Join the Nighthawks for the love of Celine Song’s 2023 Past Lives (…& food & drink).


Superdeep Nighthawks meet on Thu eve (~8pm till late). For more info, or to submit proposals for the Nighthawks, follow this link; for info on Superdeep more generally, follow this one.

Superdeep is sponsored by DKU’s Humanities Research Center.