Catching Up with Ilana Maymind

by Sarah Dove, originally posted to the Center for the Study of Religion website on 10/26/2020

Dr. Ilana Maymind is currently Lecturer in Religious Studies at Chapman University in the Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Sciences. Her work focuses on East/West comparative religious thought. She made her way to Chapman after completing a PhD in Comparative Studies right here at OSU in 2011. I recently caught up with Dr. Maymind to ask her about her academic journey and talk about her most recent publication.

We started by discussing what initially led Dr. Maymind to the Comparative Studies Department at OSU. She foregrounded the value she places in the kind of critical thinking that doesn’t allow one to simply accept things the way that they appear on the surface, but demands probing deeply below the surface. She found herself right at home in Comparative Studies among scholars demonstrating the kind of approach she wanted to emulate such as Professor Emeritus Dr. Tom Kasulis, and especially the late Professor Emeritus Dr. Lindsey Jones and current CSR director Dr. Hugh Urban. Dr. Maymind credits Jones influence in particular with illuminating methodological approaches to deep study that were pivotal in sparking her ongoing research and pedagogy. She made clear to me during this portion of our interview 

Dr. Ilana Maymind

that she wanted to extend special gratitude to Dr. Jones for his effort, trust, and belief.

Since coming on at Chapman, she has been able to develop many original courses for their curriculum that she first came into contact with at Ohio State, such as Religion and Medicine, Religion and Love, Women and Religion, and New Religions Movements. She also teaches Introduction to Judaism.  She felt supported by Chapman to build on pedagogical frameworks she had been using in Comparative Studies at OSU where she felt encouraged to infuse her courses with material suited to her expertise and research interests.

Our primary topic of conversation, though, was her recent publication: Exile and Otherness: The Ethics of Shinran and Maimonides which was published as a part of Roman & Littlefield’s Studies in Comparative Philosophy and Religion series. Dr. Maymind shared that this book was born, at least in part, from the research she undertook in completion of her PhD, but also took on a life of its own. Primary questions that animated her investigations for this publication included, “What does it mean to be a ‘transplant?’” and, “How do we come to identify ‘home?’” Though she thought wading into a political landscape as a part of this work initially fraught with tensions, she kept returning to it, poking at the threads between the exile, universalism, particularism, and nationalism. Her final conclusions involved asking how accepting “the other” as an equal and willing partner re-inscribes the terms of nationalism to the ultimate exclusion of the exile.

Dr. Maymind also has a few projects on the horizon firmly rooted in her background as a comparativist, while also challenging her to push the boundaries of her methodology. Keep your eyes peeled for more exciting work from Dr. Maymind in the future! If you are interested in obtaining Dr. Maymind’s most recent publication, you can find it from the publisher HERE!