Christopher Michael Luna

SCHOLARSHIP

SCHOLARSHIP

“The principal products of this profession are … of important use to state and municipal governments in making fundamental decisions, and to thousands of institutions—from museums to welfare offices—that use the produce of intellectual labor each day to conduct their work.”

—Dr. David Morgan, Visual Piety, p. xiv.

“The principal products of this profession are … of important use to state and municipal governments in making fundamental decisions, and to thousands of institutions—from museums to welfare offices—that use the produce of intellectual labor each day to conduct their work.”

—Dr. David Morgan, Visual Piety, p. xiv.

The study of the humanities has always been about more than platitudes, the formation of a cultured elite, or the development of critical thinking. As we struggle with the complex and subtle thinking of philosophers, we learn how systems of thought are built, structured, and developed. Understanding how ideas interact with and depend on one another when they’re closely examined, we can build institutional structures that are persuasive and coherent.

When we develop the skills to critically interpret texts, films, and works of art, we understand the techniques by which media moves its audiences to think about their world differently and, ultimately, to change their behavior. Understanding how media works, we can shape media to work effectively.

History is not simply the events that gave shape to the present, but a record of experiments in culture on scales large and small, and the results of those experiments. Understanding how material conditions interfaced with human decisions in the past, we have access to the best evidence of how to intervene with the material conditions of the present to change our world for the better.

In my eleven years of post secondary scholarship I have studied the humanities not for simply for my own edification, but because they are practical, essential disciplines that lay the foundation for human culture, media of all kinds, and politics. They are disciplines which, properly practiced, can be put to use in institution building, communications, and leadership. Throughout my studies, I have divided my time between deep research and analysis, and the application of the fruits of that research to practical work in my communities.

Driven by my conviction that the study of the humanities was key to the development of high-level skills of public service, I have been guided in my scholarship by an interdisciplinary question, approached from the study of fields like the history and philosophy of science, aesthetic philosophy, the history of Christianity and Buddhism, and the development of modernity. Through it all, I endeavored to discover how humans think, work, and express themselves effectively.

How is culture produced, shaped, and spread through material production, and how does that production shape human behavior?

EDUCATION

EDUCATION

In pursuit of this question I’ve studied with amazing scholars at Duke University, Harvard Divinity School, and Hampshire College. Unlike many Doctoral students, I have eschewed hyper-specialization in favor of a combination of breadth and depth that has allowed me both to study widely, and hone my skills as a researcher through intensive work on complex case studies.

At Hampshire College, my studies of the history and philosophy of science merged with my study of literary analysis and the history of Christianity in my thesis “Reason is a Choice,” which compared the intellectual culture of the English poets John Milton and William Blake to trace the history of how humans conceptualized reason in relation to art, science, and politics.

Harvard Divinity School afforded me the opportunity to continue my study of the history and philosophy of science, adding depth to my philosophical inquiry through a study of nineteenth century German philosophy and aesthetics more broadly. My historical study was extended to the history of “esoteric” religion in the United States, and the ways in which religious kinds of thinking appeared in ostensibly secular institutions and cultures. This work culminated in my thesis, “Unfinished,” which analyzed the philosophical and engineering questions underlying artificial intelligence for their religious significance, in their conception of what it means to be an intelligent, thinking self or soul.

Working with Dr. David Morgan at Duke University, I honed my approach to a study of material culture. Under Dr. Morgan’s tutelage I was driven to think clearly about the physical infrastructures that create and spread human culture, and I used these methods to broaden my approach to the culture of Silicon Valley as a case study, researching how a secular, rational, science-based culture could be understood in religious terms. My Doctoral dissertation, in progress, is tentatively titled “Uncanny Valley.”

Hampshire College

Bachelor of Arts

History of Science & Religion
February, 2009

My interdisciplinary undergraduate work laid the foundation for my graduate research. I gained a material culture approach to history studying the evolution of the book, an appreciation for how text shapes culture in my study of early Christianity, and a rigorously critical eye for the theories and methods of scientific study in advanced philosophy courses.

Harvard Divinity

Master of Divinity

Administration & Program Development
May, 2014

During my time at Harvard, I deepened my study of science and religion, focusing on the esoteric religious traditions of Western Europe and the United States. I undertook my initial studies of Buddhist literatures and commentarial traditions, using my fledgling understanding of Buddhism to expand my view of of the institutional and cultural structures that shape human behavior.

Duke University

Doctor of Philosophy

Religion & Modernity
May, 2021 (expected)

Duke gave me the opportunity to take my research to a deeper level. I have been deeply formed by my mentorship with David Morgan, whose work focuses sharply on the productive work of culture in organizing human behavior. I applied these methods to a study of the culture of Silicon Valley as a case study, showing how modern people animate and enchant their world.

CONTRIBUTIONS

CONTRIBUTIONS