Advancing Religion Research | Wittenberg University

Advancing Religion Research

Professor Earns Trio Of Grants And Awards in First Year of Teaching

Springfield, Ohio – The recipient of three impactful grants and awards in the span of less than 12 months, Assistant Professor of Religion Travis Proctor is on a roll – and he plans to make the most of it.

Proctor, who joined Wittenberg’s faculty prior to the 2019-20 school year, was honored with a pair of awards and a prestigious grant in recent months. Taken together, these achievements represent several years of Proctor’s research, including awards honoring his dissertation at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2017 and an article that will be published soon by a national academic journal, in addition to a grant that will support research plans for his next major book project.

“I’m very honored to have received these awards,” Proctor said. “Above all, it makes me feel very fortunate to have been able to learn from excellent mentors, colleagues, and students, including those I’ve gotten to know at Wittenberg this year.

“I think these awards will help showcase the kind of rigorous and impactful research we’re doing in the Witt Religion Department, and will also help me secure some extra time to develop new projects. Staying active with research helps me to keep up with the field, which is essential for providing students the best learning material and experience possible.”
Assistant Professor of Religion Travis Proctor

Proctor received the Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise, administered by the Research Center for International and Interdisciplinary Theology at Heidelberg University. The award recognizes his work on his Ph.D. dissertation titled “Rulers of the Air: Demonic Bodies and the Making of the Ancient Christian Cosmos” (UNC-Chapel Hill, 2017). Proctor said his dissertation “traced how early Christian authors (ca. 50-300 CE) formulated their understandings of the divine and humanity in tandem with their ideas regarding malevolent spiritual entities (e.g., demons, evil spirits), such that ideas concerning demons came to play a major role in shaping early Christian identity and practice.”

Proctor also recently received the A.R. Pete Diamond Award for Integrative Scholarship from the Society of Biblical Literature for an article he wrote titled “A Cartography of Kinship: Domestic Space, Tomb Cult, and the Re-Mapping of Ephesus in the Acts of John,” set to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Early Christian Studies. The award recognizes “junior scholars demonstrating innovative approaches in biblical studies that advance methodological work at the intersection of historical criticism, critical theory, and cultural studies.”

“In this article, I explore how the Acts of John (a second century “apocryphal” account of the miracles of St. John) formulated a kind of imagined religious “map” of the cities of the ancient Mediterranean, with a particular focus on the ancient city of Ephesus,” Proctor said. “I note in particular that the Acts of John centered its activities within the home as well as the tomb, two sites that operated as important Christian meeting spaces in the early centuries of the Common Era.”

His latest achievement is a grant that will support research for a book he is writing, tentatively titled Multispecies and Posthuman Perspectives on the Body of Jesus in Early Christianity (ca. 50-300 CE). The grant will fund a teaching sabbatical for the 2020-21 academic year.

Proctor says his book “seeks to show early Christian understandings of Jesus, including in the Bible as well as other early Christian texts, portrayed Jesus using a variety of nonhuman entities, including as an angel, an animal (e.g., the lamb of God), and even a plant (e.g., “I am the vine and you are the branches”).”

“Such images are significant, I argue, because they show how nonhuman nature and the environment have played an important role in Christian culture from its very beginnings; this is important, in turn, because many Christian communities today are grappling with how to respond to the mounting environmental challenges such as global warming,” Proctor added.

Proctor specializes in religions of the ancient Mediterranean, with a focus on histories of Christian cultures in the ancient world (ca. 50-500 CE). His teaching emphasizes critical, experiential learning that connects historical issues with topics of contemporary significance, including connections between ancient forgeries and modern “fake news,” historical and contemporary notions of gender/sexuality, and the interactions between religious cultures and human treatment of the environment.

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Ryan Maurer
Ryan Maurer
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Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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