The Koch Chair in Catholic Thought and Culture recognizes a scholar whose research and teaching involves placing the Catholic intellectual tradition in dialogue with other academic disciplines. The Koch Chair assists the campus community to deepen their understanding of the rich Catholic intellectual and cultural tradition.
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Jennifer Beste received her Masters of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1997 and her Ph.D. in Religious Ethics from Yale University in 2003. Before accepting the position as Koch Chair in Catholic Thought and Culture at the College of Saint Benedict, Jennifer taught at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio from 2003-2012. Her book God and the Victim, published by Oxford University Press in 2007, examines the challenges that trauma theory poses to Christian conceptions of the self, human freedom, and God's grace.
Jennifer’s forthcoming book, College Hookup Culture and Christian Ethics: The Lives and Longings of Emerging Adults, builds on the reflections of 126 undergraduate students who set out as sober ethnographers to observe and analyze peers at college parties. Corroborated by a growing body of research, these accounts present a serious challenge to the neutral or even benevolent view of hookup culture embraced by some sociologists, “sex-positive” feminists, and popular culture in general. Beste argues, with insights from theologian Johann Metz and additional qualitative research involving 150 students at a different university, that college campuses are presently home to a vast cultural crisis in authenticity, vulnerability, and relationality. Taking seriously the counter-cultural, Christian narrative of what it means to become fully human in Metz’s Poverty of Spirit, Beste and her students dialogue with scholars including Margaret Farley to consider alternative paths to joy, justice, freedom, and happiness. This book’s exploration of social norms on college campuses culminates in a call to action. Especially in light of the prevalence of sexual violence and varieties of traumatization occurring on campuses today, Beste’s vision for creating more socially and sexually just communities could not be more timely and relevant.
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Dr. Beste’s research interests include trauma theory and Christian theology; ethnography and Christian ethics; sexual ethics; feminist ethics; and children, justice, and Catholicism.
Christian Sexual Ethics
Jennifer Beste taught previously at Xavier University in Cincinnati after receiving her Ph.D. in Religious Ethics at Yale University in 2003. Her book God and the Victim, published by Oxford University Press, examines the challenges that trauma theory poses to Christian conceptions of the self, human freedom, and God's grace. She is currently engaged in two book projects. First, drawing on college students' own ethnographic observations and analyses of college parties, Beste is writing on contemporary hookup culture and Christian sexual ethics. Her second new book, based on a two-year ethnographic project observing and interviewing Catholic second graders as they prepared for and received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, will examine how a child-centered ethical methodology challenges Catholic moral theology to re-examine dominant assumptions about children and what it means to treat them justly. Beste is currently a board member for both Society of Christian Ethics and the Society for Children's Spirituality.
Through an annual lecture and other programming, the Koch Chair provides opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to bring the Catholic tradition into fruitful dialogue with the academic disciplines and explore contemporary issues relevant to Catholic faith and the wider culture.
This approach supports a full range of expertise, from science to the arts and humanities. Consistent with CSB's commitment to empower female students to realize their full potential and contribute significantly to society, the Koch Chair highlights historical and contemporary women's contribution to the Catholic intellectual and cultural tradition.