Martyn Smith

Martyn Smith photo
Campus Address
Main Hall
Room 407
Religious Studies
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

What I love about religious studies is the way it allows for studying how groups of people find meaning in their lives and impart value to the world around them. My central research question revolves around the relationship of people with places, how groups modify landscapes and build structures to reflect shared beliefs. When I teach Islam, I often focus on the great cities like Cairo or Istanbul that became expressions of this global faith. I teach courses on religion and ecology (how to lose a settler point of view) and religion and technology (critical of tech's placeless vision of the future). I see religious studies as a place to investigate the large-scale stories that communities tell about themselves, and my classes offer an opportunity to excavate and rediscover ancient traditions and to consider alternative stories for our shared human future.

Since receiving tenure I have worked steadily at a project that examines the construction of sacred space around the world. This digital work is contained on my website PlacedThoughts. My work on this site reflects an attempt to tether my thinking to place, and to let larger theories arise from the details of a site. These individual thoughts are then gathered into larger interpretive stories covering sites that include Senegal, Dubai, Cairo, Silicon Valley, or (closer to home) the effigy mounds of Wisconsin.

I am currently director of Lawrence's First Year Studies program. This is a two term course completed by every entering student at Lawrence. It's an ambitious and intellectually challenging course of study that introduces students to the possibilities of a liberal arts college. I contribute regularly to the Global Studies program. I've led numerous student trips to visit mosques and other religious sites in Dearborn, Michigan. I've led student trips to international sites like Morocco and Senegal, and I was the faculty in residence at the Lawrence London Centre in fall 2019. From my own life experience, and from what I've seen in students, I know that experiences abroad can be transformative. 

PhD in Comparative Literature, Emory University in Atlanta, GA
MA in Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA
BA in Theology, Prairie Bible College, Three Hills, Alberta, Canada
Years at Lawrence