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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Boisi Center Symposia on Religion & Politics

graduate symposium on religion and politics

The Boisi Center is pleased to announce its tenth annual Graduate Symposium on Religion and Politics, which provides an opportunity for informal reflection and conversation among graduate students from different disciplines on the relationship between religion, politics, art, and culture.

Deep Stories: Narrative’s Role in American Religion and Politics

In her recent book, Strangers in Their Own Land, Arlie Russell Hochschild writes, “A deep story is a feels-as-if story—it’s the story feelings tell, in the language of symbols.  It removes judgment.  It removes fact.  It tells us how things feel. . . . And I don’t believe we understand anyone’s politics, right or left, without it.  For we all have a deep story.”  Assuming this is true, our own deep stories are a blend of elements from the many narratives we hear and internalize—familial, religious, social, historical, political.   And these narratives play significant and decisive roles in our lived experience and our interpretation of the world around us.

This year’s Graduate Symposium will gather students from a variety of disciplines to explore the role narratives play in the lives of Americans.  The seminar will begin by reviewing perspectives on the power of narrative or story and the influence of different narratives upon one another as they shape our “deep stories.”  With a particular focus on the interplay of religious and political narratives, participants will then discern the ways our narratives have been formed, how they have evolved, and how some seek to manipulate them.   Then we will turn to the way stories influence American perspectives on important topics, such as race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.

The Symposium, an informal and student-led graduate seminar, will meet approximately once a month from November through April for a free meal and discussion at the Boisi Center (24 Quincy Road, Chestnut Hill, MA).  Designed to be interdisciplinary and limited to a small number of engaged participants, students will be invited to lead a session and to suggest short readings, as modeled below.  All participants will be asked to commit to at least four of the six total sessions through the academic year.  Meeting dates and times will be determined to best accommodate the participants’ various schedules.


Interested graduate students should e-mail Zac Karanovich at by Friday, October 25th, describing your course of study, relevant experience, and your interest in this year’s symposium theme.