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Late area native honored at Emory University

By Staff | Mar 13, 2015


The inaugural lecture supported by the Dr. Nancy Eiesland Endowment for Disability Studies will be presented by Dr. Julia Watts Belser Wednesday, March 25, at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Eiesland was Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion at Candler School of Theology and the Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University before her death at age 44 in 2009. The Endowment was established in her memory to encourage and promote interdisiplinary scholarship in Disability Studies.

Nancy Eiesland was born in Cando, a daughter of Dean and Carol Arnold, and grew up on a farm north of Pleasant Lake. She attended school in Wolford and graduated from Rugby High School. She studied at the University of North Dakota, Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, and Southern Missouri University. She received a Master’s Degree in 1991 and a Ph. D. in 1995, both from Emory University.

Born with a congenital bone defect, she underwent numerous operations, starting as a toddler, and experienced considerable pain as well as disability. While in high school she won a national essay contest on the inaccessibility of rural courthouses in North Dakota.

Dr. Eiesland wrote an influential book, “The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability” in 1994. According to a story in the New York Times following her death, she “articulated a coherent theology of disability”, and the book was called “the most powerful discussion of God to arise from disability studies”.

A noted theologian and sociologist, Dr. Eieseland lectured on disabilities worldwide. She wrote four books and scores of articles and was a United Nations consultant on persons with disabilities for 10 years. She helped develop the UN’s Convention on the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, which was enacted in 2008.

The first lecturer, Dr. Belser, will speak on “Violence, Disability, and the Politics of Healing”. She is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology Department at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She studies rabbinic Jewish culture in late antiquity and is active in the field of Religion and Disability. Her first book, “Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster: Power, Ethics, and Ecology in Jewish Late Antiquity” will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.

– Tribune Staff Report

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