Friday Faculty Focus: Curtis Hutt


August 11th, 2017

Dr. Curtis Hutt poses for a photo. (Photo by Brandon McDermott)

It’s time now for Friday Faculty Focus, with KVNO student reporter Brandon McDermott. This week, Brandon speaks with Dr. Curtis Hutt, associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Brandon McDermott: Thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. Curtis Hutt: Thanks for having me.

McDermott: Talk about your newest book “Jewish Religious and Philosophical Ethics.”

Dr. Hutt: Well with my colleague Dr. Halla Kim from the Philosophy Department here at UNO — I myself am in religious studies — we put together a symposium at UNO a few years ago and brought together some of the experts in the world on Jewish Ethics. We combined some of the papers from that symposium with some papers that we solicited from some major scholars around the world in this field and in fact we happened to get it published by Rutledge — which we’re very, very proud of, it was our first choice and we know it’s going to be read.

The book is a combination of work from scholars in places like New York University, the University of California, the University of Connecticut and there’s also four Israeli scholars who are represented in the book and in fact we have a third editor who is a philosopher from Israel who is working on that side of the ocean to put the volume together. It is coming out very soon and I hope everybody can go and grab a copy.

McDermott: You’re also the chair of the American Academy of Religious Ritual Studies Program Unit. Can you talk about your role there?

Dr. Hutt: The American Academy of Religion is the place were most scholars of religion and when I say scholars of religion I don’t necessarily mean people who are religious who are studying about God — I mean people who are studying religious people, religious societies. It’s the largest group in the world where this is actually performed and done.

We separate ourselves up into a number of different program units. One of my expertise’s is ritual studies and it’s my turn to organize the sessions at the American Academy of Religion in Ritual Studies — it’s actually my great privilege, because we’re allowed to bring people in who are the experts in the field.

McDermott: In recent years, you’ve work closely with Dr Michele Desmarais and Paul Williams through the religious studies programs called “SPHRS.” Talk about that program and its success.

Dr. Hutt: It’s an unbelievably successful program. We started it a little over three years ago when the Community Engagement Center was opened. Religious studies put together this unit called Spirituality Public Health and Religious Studies in order to address issues related to religion and health, religion and health care — also religion and healthy societies.

We’ve done a number of different community engagement projects, we’ve had talks, we’ve done movies and we’ve sponsored all sorts of different events. The places where we’ve been most successful are informing collaboration with the UNMC — that’s religious studies and the UNMC. Also in working on issues related to public health, one of the main initiatives that I’ve been working on is a human rights initiative. In fact, this coming fall the religious studies department is going to be the home of a new community chair in human rights, Dr. Laura Alexander will be joining us and she is in fact an expert in religion and human rights.

These are topics which crossed the line and these are not ivory tower academic pursuits — we’re talking about real people, real people’s health care, the effect upon of religion and spirituality, upon people’s lives — the effect that religion has upon societies — it’s not always a positive effect it’s not always a negative effect, but we really want to address these issues which are live issues as a religious studies department and SPHRS is our vehicle for doing so.

McDermott: Dr. Curtis Hutt, thanks again for coming on.

Dr. Hutt: My pleasure.

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