Wednesday Lunch Talk - Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison

Baraka, Al, Teddy, and Sayyid—four black men from South Philadelphia, two Christian and two Muslim—are serving life sentences at Pennsylvania’s maximum-security Graterford Prison. All of them work in Graterford’s chapel, a place that is at once a sanctuary for religious contemplation and an arena for disputing the workings of God and man. Day in, day out, everything is, in its twisted way, rather ordinary. And then one of them disappears.

Down in the Chapel tells the story of one week at Graterford Prison. We learn how the men at Graterford pass their time, care for themselves, and commune with their makers. We observe a variety of Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, and others, at prayer and in study and song. And we listen in as an interloping scholar of religion tries to make sense of it all.

When people think of religion in maximum-security prisons, they often imagine one of two things: men who fake their devotion to gain special privileges, or men who become religious because they have nothing else to live for. But the truth is more complex, and much richer.  

Joshua Dubler, assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester, and author of the new book, Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), will join us to discuss his research.  He spent more than six years working with prisoners in Grateford Maximum Security Prison outside Philadelphia. His work gives voice to the experiences of prisoners and invites discussions about topics like the graying prison population, the role of religion in rehabilitation and imprisonment, the evolution of Islam in prison, and the politics of mass incarceration.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
12 noon - 1:00 p.m.
Genrich-Rusling Room (Level 2), LeChase Hall

Light lunch served. No reservation necessary.

Tags: Warner Wednesday Talk