In 2003, Scripps College sponsored a three-part conference series that focused on issues of globalization and interpretations of the New Testament. Organized in part by Kathleen Wicker, beloved professor emerita of religious studies at Scripps, the conferences roused the campus community to find a way to continue to explore these ideas.
“As I was about to retire, students and alumnae approached Scripps about raising endowment funds to bring lecturers with different interpretations of religious traditions to campus,” says Wicker. Just a year later, the Kathleen O’Brien Wicker Endowed Lecture Series was born, which brings a distinguished theological scholar to Scripps each year.
In keeping with Wicker’s interdisciplinary and multicultural approach to religious studies, the lecture series is broad in scope. With an emphasis on women’s issues, past lecturers have discussed the intersection of spiritual belief, political agency, and culture and its impact on women living everywhere from Botswana to Haiti to the United States. Such discussions remain relevant, Wicker asserts, because in our contemporary global society, we are in constant contact with traditions other than our own. “While some global citizens are not committed to particular religious traditions, others whose views and values differ from ours often do impact our lives directly,” she says. “Knowledge of [unfamiliar] traditions can be vital to understanding the world in which we live.”
Presented at Scripps by Dr. amina wadud on November 7, 2019, this year’s lecture, “Is There a Feminist in the House of Islam?” provides an opportunity to deepen that understanding. No stranger to controversy, Dr. wadud is a world-renowned scholar of Islam and gender, whose history of activism has established her as one of the intellectual foremothers of Islamic feminism. Her work has elicited both censure and praise from many—as well as the respect of fellow scholars.
“It is a significant honor to host Dr. amina wadud at Scripps this fall for the Wicker Endowed Lecture,” says Lara Deeb, professor of anthropology and interim chair of religious studies at Scripps. Part of the committee who recommended Dr. wadud to Professor Wicker as this year’s speaker, Professor Deeb regards the scholar’s work as a model of feminism, gender activist practice, and the possibilities for hermeneutic reinterpretations of religious text. “Today, Dr. wadud is perhaps the best-known Islamic feminist in the world,” she notes. “We are looking forward to this opportunity to engage with her ideas at Scripps.”
Though often avoided at the dinner table, these subjects of religion, feminism, and politics are springboards of discussion at Scripps. From its inception, this lecture series has thinned the divide between classroom and community, allowing students, faculty, staff, and others to share in the conversation. It’s a fitting recognition of Professor Wicker, made possible by the endowment supporters who admire her as a teacher and friend.
“What most thrilled me about this endowment is that it came from the students first,” adds Wicker. “They were the ones who talked about its creation and got instrumental people involved to encourage support. I’m appreciative to the development staff, students, and the College for their commitment to making this series happen.”
Dr. wadud’s lecture will be presented on November 7, 2019, at 6 p.m. in the Hampton Room above Malott Commons. To continue the College’s legacy of creating thought-provoking conversations for Scripps students and all those within the College’s reach, make a gift of any size today or reach out to Associate Vice President for Philanthropy Enrique Gonzalez-Salgado at [email protected] | (909) 607-8255 to start an endowment of your own!