Dr. Jeremy Rinker, Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, presented an invited paper at Ohio University’s Baker Peace Conference in February. The Baker Peace Conference is an annual event that brings together a diverse group of leading experts to discuss a significant national or international issue related to peace. Started in 1988, the Baker Peace conference has addressed issues from Populism and the Press (2018) to Communism in a Violent Century (2017) to Women’s Rights as Human Rights (2010) and is sponsored jointly by the Contemporary History Institute and the Peace Studies Program at Ohio University. Endowed by John C. Baker, a past president of Ohio University, the annual conference aims to encourage the education of students and the general public in the means by which peace can be established and maintained throughout the world.
The 2020 Baker Peace Conference, focused on Religion and Peace: Global Perspectives and Possibilities, was attended by scholars from across the US and Canada. Dr. Rinker’s talk, entitled “Centering Interpretive and Devotional Networks as Sources of Positive Peace in South Asian Religious Traditions” explored the role of Dalit (untouchable) Buddhism and progressive Hindu devotionalism in overcoming Hindu nationalist communal violence.
Arguing for the importance of not just encounter, dialogue, or strong religious literacy and/or leadership, but rather for the significance of a targeted devotional narrative as a critical grounds for religious peacebuilding, Rinker’s presentation was well received.
From the Bhakti (devotionalism) of South Asian communities in the United States, to religiously based social movements of anti-caste activism in India, devotional registers play a powerful role in the establishment of positive peace. Dr. Rinker’s paper presentation was the only that addressed the important region of South Asia. His paper will be included as a chapter in an edited volume of the proceedings to be published by Ohio University Press in 2021.