Sabrina Dent to discuss conflict between identities and national narrative at SNF Paideia event

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Dr. Sabrina Dent (Photo from the Paideia program).

Theologian and activist Sabrina Dent will discuss how the diversity of religions, gender and racial identities conflict with national identity tomorrow at an SNF Paideia event.

The lecture – Reimagine Faith, Gender, Race and Nationalism within Mediated Spaces – is part of the SNF Paideia course by Murali Balaji, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, Media Industries and Nationalism. Balaji will facilitate conversation and attendees will have the opportunity to engage with Dent.

Dent is the president of the Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation, which describes itself as a “Theological Think Tank” that offers educational programs. At the event, she plans to share her experience exploring religious, racial, and social identities while challenging the dominant national narrative.

“I come into this space as a black woman working on interfaith collaboration and religious freedom through a different lens than the national narrative,” Dent said.

As an activist, religious leader and woman of color, Dent understands “what it means to be part of a national identity and a society that doesn’t always see your experience as meaningful or equal,” according to Balaji.

“She comes from a source of empathy,” he said.

Dent said communities offering diverse cultural and ethnic experiences have been continually pushed to the fringes of history, politics and the media.

“Discussions of national identity cannot take place without considering the role that race, gender, faith and religion have played in dehumanizing and minimizing the experiences of all those who share national identity” , said Dent.

The Media Industries and Nationalism course is fundamentally dialogue-based, Balaji said. He added that Dent will help participants better understand how personal identity is shaped and approach their own journeys with humility.

The conference will also explore the role of media industries in cultivating national identities. While we tend to characterize nationalism by its overt and negative influences, Balaji said, nationalism manifests itself in even the “most benign” way.

“In every society, nationalist sentiment is an important precursor to the development of group identity,” he said.

Sydnei Caldwell, a senior at the university, said she looked forward to hearing Dr. Dent’s unique perspective, particularly on the intersection between nationalism and the media in the growing age of technology.

“We live in a world where different groups of people are suppressed, and these events give specific voices a platform to shine,” said College senior Nola Riina, who plans to attend the conference.

Dr Dent said she hopes students leave thinking about their responsibility to include more experiences in the national conversation and to challenge injustices at their institutions. “Talk about the things you’re going through,” she said.

Balaji hopes the conference will help students “reconcile their own social identities”.

“The University of Pennsylvania has not always been seen as a place where students exploring their own religious identity have found a place to find solidarity or solace. [Dr. Dent’s] honesty and sincerity about one’s own struggles can pave the way for him.”

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