What was it worth missing the #AARSBL17 blogger gathering and Durham reception for?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would be missing both the Durham University reception and the religion bloggers’ gathering yesterday evening (to say nothing of the Enoch Seminar gathering). The reason was an invitation to dinner from Wisam Breegi and his family. Breegi is an amazing inventor in the realm of medical technology, working on an affordable high tech yet portable incubator. He is also a Mandaean. It was so interesting to hear how two generations of Mandaeans who have settled in the United States view their own religious tradition. In the business meeting for the Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity AAR program unit, we actually spoke yesterday afternoon about the possibility of having a session explore the role of social media in sustaining community identity among minority religious groups, especially among immigrant, refugee, and diaspora populations. While some worry that tensions and bickering might be a threat to small groups whose ongoing persistence seems debatable, the vibrant debates and engagement in online discussion forums might instead be considered a sign of vitality, especially among the young. The fact that this potential focus for a future conference session came up naturally in the course of the evening’s conversation was very encouraging, as was the interest in and feedback about some of the ideas that I have been pondering, and hypotheses I have been formulating, related to the history of the Mandaeans, from members of that ancient yet living religious tradition. A previous generation of scholars got interested in Mandaean studies for the wrong reasons, and then lost interest for equally problematic reasons. I can only hope that the work I and other academics do may help bring about a renewed interest in this highly significant and incredibly fascinating religious tradition. You can find a number of the things that I have written on this topic on my Selected Works page, in my university’s institutional repository.

I had a wonderful evening. Nevertheless, if you attended any of the events I missed, please do share stories about them!

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