Each spring, the Department of Religious Studies offers awards to undergraduate students writing on topics associated with the study of religion. The Senior Honors Thesis Award was awarded to Lucy Kidwell for her award-winning thesis, “Step by Step: Contra Dance and American Revival Christianity.” It is a remarkable essay that examines the rise of Contra Dance in the US alongside the development of revival Protestantism in the late-colonial and the early republican eras. Tracking six major themes—democratization, community, emotionalism, progress, mobilization, and bodily ritual—Lucy argues that "these two cultural phenomena [religion and dance] were bound by the yoke of folk communitas, rendering the ‘separate' spheres of the sacred and the profane mutually reinforcing and radically reciprocal. Only . . . by studying the reflective relationship of American contra dance to early Christianity can we understand the ethos of America in the 18th century." Her readers were especially impressed with the way that the work breaks new ground, not just synthesizing extant information but deploying work in religious history, theory, theology, hymnody, as well as histories and theories of dance to generate a substantial new way to understand an old, old story.
The Bill Gallagher Essay Contest which invites essays that deal with issues pertinent to the study of religion was awarded to Danielle Osborne (1st place); Emily Worth (2nd place); and Darius Sohrab (3rd place). Bill Gallagher went to college to study business and currently owns a successful petroleum distribution business in Denver, Colorado. It was the academic study of religion, however, that he credits with preparing him for the complexity of the world he navigates daily. Inspired by professors at the University of Colorado, where he earned his BA, and then at the University of Chicago, where he earned an MA at the Divinity School, he has long wanted to encourage students to learn more about religion. This desire led him to seek out a former classmate who now teaches at IU, in order to establish a contest at IU’s Department of Religious Studies. The Bill Gallagher Essay Contest has attracted outstanding submissions from students throughout the College of Arts and Sciences for the past eight years. Bill’s endowment of $25,000 ensures that the contest, with its generous prize money for remarkable undergraduate essays, will be a permanent tradition in the department.
2021 Student Awards
Monday, April 19, 2021