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Judith Weisenfeld to deliver Matthew Simpson Lecture

Princeton University professor to give 42nd-annual religion lecture


Judith Weisenfeld, award-winning author and the Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor of Religion at Princeton University, will deliver Simpson College's annual Matthew Simpson Lecture in Religion. The virtual lecture will take place Thursday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. 

Weisenfeld’s lecture, “Spiritual Madness: Race, Psychiatry and African American Religions,” is free and open to the public via the Zoom video-conferencing application. Visit simpson.zoom.us to register.

As the 19th century drew to a close, white American psychiatrists declared that mental illness among African Americans in the South had reached alarming proportions, arguing that “religious excitement” was the key factor. “Spiritual Madness: Race, Psychiatry and African American Religions” explores late 19th- and early 20th-century psychiatric theories about race, religion, and the “normal mind.” It shows how the emerging specialty of psychiatry drew on works from the history of religions to make racialized claims about African Americans’ “traits of character, habit, and behavior.” 

Weisenfeld chairs the Department of Religion at Princeton and also serves as associate faculty in the Department of African American Studies and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies. A specialist in early 20th-century African American religious history, Weisenfeld’s work focuses on religion and constructions of race, African American women’s religious history and religion in film and popular culture. 

An award-winning author, Weisenfeld won the 2017 Albert J. Raboteau Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions for “New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity During the Great Migration.” She also wrote “Hollywood Be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929-1949” and “African American Women and Christian Activism: New York's Black YWCA, 1905-1945.” She is the co-director of “The Crossroads Project: Black Religious Histories, Cultures, and Communities,” which is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

About the Matthew Simpson Lecture
The Matthew Simpson Lecture in Religion was established in 1980 by professors Roger Betsworth and Bruce Haddox, members of the religion and philosophy departments who wanted Simpson students to hear from leading thinkers in religion, biblical studies and social ethics. In 2013, several gifts inaugurated the Matthew Simpson Lecture Endowment Fund to help ensure the ongoing quality of the annual lecture and related events. For more on the lecture and to view past speakers, visit simpson.edu.

About Simpson College
Simpson College is a private, liberal arts college located in Iowa with campuses in Indianola, West Des Moines and online. Founded in 1860, the college has 1,268 undergraduate and graduate students. Simpson offers 74 majors, minors and programs in addition to three graduate programs. Outside of the classroom, Simpson is a member of the NCAA Division III American Rivers Conference, hosts eight Greek houses on campus and sponsors many extracurricular options for student involvement.
Contact Information
Bryan Geelan, marketing communication director
Direct: 515-961-1608
Email: bryan.geelan@simpson.edu