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Department of Social Anthropology

Ori Mautner has been named winner of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion student essay prize competition. 

The American Anthropological Association’s Society for the Study of Religion has named Ori Mautner, one of our current PhD students, winner of this year’s prize for the best student essay. Our warmest congratulations to Ori, who has just recently completed and submitted his dissertation. 

Ori commented, “My research examines the ways in which orthodox Israeli Jews, as well as liberal-progressive Israeli activists for solidarity with Palestinians, employ meditative practices drawn from Buddhism for pursuing objectives that are central for them, respectively, as contemporary Israelis. The essay I submitted to the competition describes how for orthodox Jewish meditators, Buddhist-derived meditative practices that emphasize awareness of bodily sensations act as means for feeling God’s presence. Such people use meditation for repairing themselves ethically and psychologically, and rectifying themselves in this way, they believe, is a prerequisite for utilizing the full potential that lies in one’s more elevated inner capabilities and in Judaism’s resources for arriving at proximity to God. Embodiment, then, rather than impeding experiences of transcendence, for orthodox meditators is precisely how one can cultivate virtue and witness the Creator. An important way in which ethical self-transformation often contributes to religion, I argue, is by mediating the transcendent and making it more tangible and accessible”. 

The SAR prize also includes being paired with a faculty mentor to offer further feedback on the essay.  The mentor will provide feedback aimed at developing the paper further and to help prepare the manuscript for submission to a journal.  Prof. Ayala Fader, of Fordham University in New York, has agreed to be Ori’s mentor.