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David Seljak
David Seljak
Professor
Department of Religious Studies

PhD, McGill University

MA, University of Toronto

BA, University of Toronto

519-884-8111 

28232
SH 2028
Image of Dr. David Seljak
BIOGRAPHY

Questions of right and wrong, meaning, purpose, and direction have always fascinated me. I am especially interested in how and why people have developed so many different ways of approaching life and questions of ultimate meaning. In other words, I’ve always had a keen interest in religion, my own and that of others—not to mention the absence of religion among many people.

 

My research interests have taken two directions. The first is “religion and identity,” in other words, how do people integrate religion into their sense of who they are and what they should be doing. This means that religion will intersect with other poles of identity, such as gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, as well as sexual identity and orientation. I have had the privilege of working with a number of brilliant scholars on questions of religion and identity in Canada. The most important of these projects was the Religion and Ethnicity in Canada project, a three-book volume that looked at Christianity, the minority religious traditions, and Indigenous spirituality. I have also done research on religious intolerance and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

 

This research has important implications for public policy. Consequently, I have served as a consultant on religion and multiculturalism to the Canadian government’s Multiculturalism and Human Rights Program. I have also worked with the Ontario Human Rights Commission on its policy on protecting religious freedom.

 

The second research direction looks at religious responses to evil in the modern world. Modernity is a unique social order that has brought unprecedented power and prosperity to millions of people. However, it has also introduced uniquely dangerous forms of harm, such as totalitarianism, genocide, total war (including the possibility of nuclear war), and environmental destruction.  I look at religious thinkers who have confronted the dark side of modernity by going back to the roots of their traditions. These thinkers, I argue, end up rethinking and redefining the fundamental beliefs, values, practices, and forms of community-building of their respective traditions in light of the dangers of the modern world. They also conclude that sometimes it is their own tradition that contributes to the harm and call for spiritual revival and reform. My work as Editor of (and sometimes writer for) the Ecumenist has been especially rewarding in this field of research.

 

My research always serves to inform my classroom teaching. I teach in the area of religious diversity in Canada and contribute to the Laurier-Waterloo PhD program in Religious Diversity in North America. I am amazed at how much the religious landscape of Canada has changed over the course of my life. In the 1960s, Canada was a “Christian country” with few members of other religions. Now, many Canadians have become secular, and immigration has given us many more members of other faiths, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam. I also teach a popular course called Evil, in which I look at religious responses to the unique forms of evil in the modern world.

 

PUBLICATIONS

The content that follows may only represent a portion of the Faculty member’s work.

 

Chapters

Co-authored with Paul Bramadat, “Between Secularism and Post-Secularism: A Canadian Interregnum,” in The Secular State and Religious Diversity: Secularism, Tolerance, and Accommodation, 97-119, ed. André Laliberté, Bruce Berman, and Rajeev Bhargava. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2013.

 

Articles

“Post-secularism, Multiculturalism, Human Rights, and Religion in Ontario,” Studies in Religion, Vol. 45, No. 4 (2016): 542–565.

 

“Truth, Relevance, and Social Transformation in Quebec,” Theoforum, Vol. 45, No. 2 (2014): 317-322.

GRANTS, FELLOWSHIPS, AWARDS

Grants

Internal

St. Jerome’s University Faculty Research Grant. The Challenge of Religious Intolerance and Discrimination to Multiculturalism in Canada (2015-2016)
St. Jerome's University Faculty Research Grant. Evil in the Thought of Gregory Baum (2010-2011)
St. Jerome’s University Faculty Research Grant. The Changing Role of the Chaplaincy in the Canadian Military (2005-2006)
St. Jerome’s University Faculty Research Grant. Who Teaches What? World Religions in Canadian Classrooms (2002-2003)
Special One-Time SSHRC Special Institutional Grant (2000-2001)

 

External

Research contract taken as grant. Citizenship and Immigration Canada report on Christianity and Citizenship (October 2010-March 2011)
Research contract taken as grant. Multiculturalism and Human Rights Branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada for report on Research Themes on Multiculturalism (2008-2010)
Research contract taken as grant. Multiculturalism and Human Rights Program at the Department of Canadian Heritage for a report entitled, “Secularization and the Separation of Church and State in Canada.”  (July 2007-March 2008)
Research contract taken as grant. Multiculturalism and Human Rights Program at the Department of Canadian Heritage for a report entitled “Religion, Human Rights, and Multiculturalism in Canada: The Challenge of Religious Discrimination and Intolerance.” (January-March 2007)
Grant (co-applicant with Paul Bramadat, University of Victoria), Metropolis Project, Citizenship and Immigration Canada for the Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada project (Fall 2005)
Grant (co-applicant with Paul Bramadat, University of Victoria). Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Department of Canadian Heritage for a two-book project on religion and ethnicity in Canada (2004-2006)

 

Fellowships

Visiting Fellow, Centre interdisciplinaire de recherché sur la citoyenneté et les minorités, Université d’Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario (October 2018)
Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia (February 2016)
Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia (January 2012)

COURSES TAUGHT

RS 121: Evil
RS 100: Religions of Asia
RS 398: Directed Readings in Special Subjects
RS 499: Senior Honours Seminar

PROFESSIONAL, ADMINISTRATIVE, AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
The content that follows may only represent a portion of the Faculty member’s work.
 
Professional
Editor, The Ecumenist: A Journal of Theology, Culture and Society, published quarterly by Novalis, December (2003-present)
Advisory Council, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia (2013-present)
Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences (November 2000-2004)
Member, General Assembly of the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences, representing the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion (2000- 2008)
Member, Religion Committee, Aid to Scholarly Publications Programme.  A programme administered by Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences, the ASPP grants subventions for the publication of Canadian scholarship (2003-2006)
Secretary, Canadian Society for the Study of Religion (1997-2000)

 

Administrative

St. Jerome's University
Faculty Advocate, Faculty Advocate for the University of Waterloo’s HeForShe and Impact 10x10x10 initiatives. HeForShe is a United Nations Women campaign. Impact 10x10x10 brings together ten heads of state, ten CEOs, and 10 university presidents who pledge to make gender equity a priority. (August, 2015-present)
Member, Vice-President and Academic Dean’s Search Committee (July 2015-February 2016)
Member, Joint Committee on the Administration of the Collective Agreement for the Academic Staff Association (October 2015-present)
Chair, Department of Religious Studies (July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015)
Member, Renewal, Promotion, and Tenure Committee (May 1, 2014-present)
Member, Ad Hoc Senate Council Committee on Renewal, Tenure, and Promotion Policy (May 1, 2014- October 16, 2015)
Member, Search Committee, Sociology and Legal Studies Department (March-April 2014)
Past President, Academic Staff Association (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2015)
President, Academic Staff Association (March 2009-June 30, 2013, on sabbatical July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010).
President, Faculty Association (October 2008-March 2009)
Acting Chair, Department of Religious Studies (January 1, 2012-April 30, 2012)
President Search Committee, Board of Governors (2011-2012)
Member, Board of Governors (2010-2013)
Director, St. Jerome's University's Centre for Catholic Experience (1998-2006, on sabbatical 2002-2003)
Acting Chair, Department of Religious Studies, (January 1, 2004-June 30, 2005)
Director, Institute for Studies in Theological Renewal (1998-2000)
Alternate Academic Advisor, Department of Religious Studies (1996-present)
Admissions Committee, Master of Catholic Thought (2006-present)
Member, Senate, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario (1997-2000)
Member, working committee, consortium for lay pastoral formation for the Hamilton Diocese (1999-2002)
Program Co-chair (with Dr. John English), The Hidden Pierre Trudeau: His Spirituality, His Faith, His Life, His Times.  St. Jerome's University and University of Waterloo (May 9-10, 2003)
Conference Co-coordinator, Teach-in on Racism and War, a two-day forum on the aftermath of September 11th and the war in Afghanistan sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group and St. Jerome's University, University of Waterloo (October 26-27, 2001)
Conference Coordinator, Catholics in Public Life Forum, a two-day forum organized by St. Jerome's University and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, which took place on April 5-6, 2002
 
University of Waterloo
Member, Vice-President Academic and Provost Search Committee (July 2017-January 2018)
Member, Ad hoc Indigenization Consultation Committee (June 2016-May 2017)
Member, Dean of Arts Nominating Committee (July-November, 2015)
Member, Curriculum Committee, Department of Religious Studies (2013-present)
Organizer, Ontario Human Rights Commission public consultation on “creed” rights at the University of Waterloo (November 20-21, 2013)
Chair, Search Committee, Contemporary Islam in Asia position, Faculty of Arts (2012-2013)
Chair, Department of Religious Studies (April 2006-June 2013)
Graduate Officer, Department of Religious Studies, for Joint PhD program with Wilfrid Laurier University in Religious Diversity in North America (2003-2006)
Member, Graduate Affairs Committee, Department of Religious Studies (2003-2013)
Member, Joint Committee of the UW/WLU Doctoral Program in Religious Diversity in North America (2003-2013)
Member, Curriculum Committee, Department of Religious Studies (1999-2001, 2013-present)
 
Community

Course organizer and presenter, Religion, Peace, and Conflict in the 21st Century, a series of six public lectures for the Georgian Triangle Lifelong Learning Institute, Collingwood, Ontario.  I delivered two of the lectures, “The Pope, The Poor, and the Planet” (January 12) and “The Globalization of Addiction as Spiritual Crisis” (February 2) (Winter 2018)
A Spirituality of Hope and the Idolatry of Money, a two-part presentation at Rockway Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ontario (April 10 and 17, 2016)
Scapegoating the `Other,’ public lecture as introductory lecture of “Scapegoating: a Theory of Violence,” an eight-part lecture series for an audience of over 600 people at RIM Park, Waterloo, Ontario (January 12, 2016)
Invited speaker, Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Launch of its Policy on Preventing Discrimination Based on Creed, University of Toronto Multi-Faith Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario (December 10, 2015)
Course organizer and presenter, Now that religion has refused to die: Canadian and global perspectives, Third Age Learning – KW. Organized an eight-part lecture series for an audience of over 600 people at RIM Park, Waterloo, Ontario. Presented three of the eight lectures. (January-March 2015)
Invited participant, “Human Rights, Creed and Freedom of Religion,” Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Ontario (March 29-30, 2012)
Each year, I give 6-12 interviews to newspaper, radio, and television outlets.  These have included CBC Newsworld, The National, CBC Radio, Radio-Canada International, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Hamilton Spectator, and the Sun chain of papers, etc. In years that a pope has died, been elected, or resigned the number increases substantially. 
Evil in Modern Society. A series of five lectures to inmates at Newton Correctional Facility, Iowa Department of Corrections, in Newton, Iowa (September-January, 2009-2010)
Buddhism: An Introduction. A class offered to inmates at Iowa Correctional Institute for Women, Iowa Department of Corrections, in Mitchellville, Iowa (April 22, 2010)