Harold A. Durfee and Doris G. Durfee Lecture  

The Annual Durfee Lecture was initiated in 2007 by a generous gift from Harold A. Durfee and Doris G. Durfee. Held every spring, the series provides our students and American University community with the opportunity to meet distinguished scholars in religious studies. 

“Seeing and Believing: Social Media and Social Justice”
16th Annual Durfee Lecture, Spring 2024
February 28, 5:30 p.m. | Butler Boardroom
Refreshments will be provided

Ellen T. Armour (Vanderbilt Divinity School)

Ellen T. Armour


We call social media the new public square. How is this new visually saturated media landscape affecting the struggles for social justice?  What role is photography playing in it and on it, and thus in and on those struggles? We live (virtually) in social media “bubbles,” research tells us. What we see there tends to reinforce what we already believe, it seems, and what we already believe shapes what we see. And yet the #BlackLivesMatter movement (among others) demonstrates this new media landscape’s power to draw (at least some of) us together across lines that tend to divide us. Drawing on Seeing and Believing, Armour analyzes these challenges and opportunities offering strategies drawn from religious ways of seeing for navigating them to advance social justice.


Ellen T. Armour is Professor and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair of Feminist Theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School where she directs the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality. In addition to Seeing and Believing: Religion, Digital Visual Culture and Social Justice (New York: Columbia University Press, 2023), she is the author of Signs and Wonders: Theology after Modernity (Columbia University Press, 2016) and Deconstruction, Feminist Theology, and the Problem of Difference: Subverting the Race/Gender Divide (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999). She also co-edited Bodily Citations: Judith Butler and Religion (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006).

Past Lectures

15. "God and Hip Hop," 2023

Alex Nava
Professor of Religious Studies and Classics at the University of Arizona
God and Hip Hop video.

14. "Postcolonialism, Interreligious Engagement, and Peacebuilding," 2022

Kwok Pui Lan
Dean's Professor of Systematic Theology, Emory University, Candler School of Theology 

13. "The Pre-Monastic Ascetic Landscape of Mesopotamia: Marcionites, Manichaeans, and Other Conversation Partners", 2021

Father Columba Stewart, OSB
2020 Phi Beta Kappa Fellow, Benedictine Monk, and Executive Director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John's University
Watch the 2021 Durfee Lecture

12. "Prophets, Profits, and Pain: The Politics of Prosperity Gospel in Nigeria", 2019

Anthea Butler 
Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and the graduate chair of Religious Studies

11. "Reading The Qur'an In America", 2018

Jane McAuliffe
Inaugural Director of National and International Outreach
Library of Congress

10. "Rest, Bullet: Ritual Homecoming Practices among Combat Veterans", 2017

Kathryn McClymond
Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies
Georgia State University

9. "Locating Contemporary Spirituality: New Thoughts on the Changing American Religious Landscape", 2016

Courtney Bender
Professor of Religion
Columbia University

8. "Religious Difference Without Religious Conflict", 2015

Stephen Prothero
Professor of Religion
Boston University

7. "The Religious-Secular Binary as a Space of Pluralism", 2014

Slavica Jakelic
Assistant Professor of Humanities and Social Thought
Valparaiso University
Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture
University of Virginia

6. "God's Fifth Abode: Entrepreneurial Faith in the Hindu Himalayas", 2013

Brian K. Pennington
Chair, Division of Humanities; Professor of Religion
Maryville College

5. "Islam and Human Rights: Religious and Secular in Conversation", 2012

Abdulaziz Sachedina
Frances Myers Ball Professor of Religious Studies
University of Virginia, Charlottesville

4. "A for Antigone: Reading Derrida's Difference Again", 2011

Amy Hollywood
Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Studies
Harvard Divinity School

3. "Sheep Gone Astray: The Tragic History of the Religious Right", 2009

Randall Balmer
Professor of American Religious History
Bernard College, Columbia University

2. "Religion and National Conflict: Reflections on Myanmar, Iraq, and Other Current Examples", 2008

David Little
Professor of the Practice in Religion, Ethnicity, and
International Conflict, Harvard Divinity School;
Fellow of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs
Harvard University

1. "Parmenides in the 21st Century", 2007

Harold A. Durfee
Professor Emeritus
Department of Philosophy and Religion
American University