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The UNC Department of Religious Studies is dedicated to the study of religions as historical and cultural phenomena. It examines the history, texts, artifacts, beliefs, values, and rituals of a variety of religious traditions. Inherently interdisciplinary in its approach, religious studies explores religions in light of related fields in the humanities and social sciences such as anthropology, classics, archaeology, sociology, philosophy, and history.

 

Recent News:

 
Fall 2017 Courses
 

Course registration for Fall 2017 will begin the week of April 4. Below are many of the courses we are offering in the fall semester (use the arrows or swipe to cycle through, and click on an image to open the PDF flyer):

Posted in News & Events on March 20, 2017  
Sand Mandala at UNC’s Asia Week 2017
 

Last week, as part of the festivities for UNC’s Asia Week 2017, a Tibetan Monk from the Kadampa Center in Raleigh, Geshe Palden Sangpo, was invited to the FedEx Global Education Center to build a sand mandala over the course of several days. The building of the sand mandala, and its subsequent destruction, are part of an ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition that embodies themes of harmony and the transitoriness of life.

A student in our department, Brodie Heginbotham, who is a double major in Religious Studies and Journalism at UNC, wrote an article describing the event and covering the different dimensions of its significance. To read the article, click here.

Mandala

Building the sand mandala

Mandala-complete

The completed sand mandala

Posted in Events, Undergraduate Accomplishments on March 1, 2017  


McLester Colloquium with Benjamin Zeller
 

On Wednesday of last week, our faculty and graduate students gathered in Graham Memorial Building for our first McLester colloquium of 2017. The speaker was Benjamin Zeller, Associate Professor of Religion at Lake Forest College and a PhD graduate (2007) of our department. In his lecture, titled “Religious Suicide and the Puzzling Case of Heaven’s Gate,” he gave a historical overview and analysis of the religious movement known as Heaven’s Gate, which drew media attention in 1997 after several dozen of its members committed mass suicide at their group residence in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

Zeller

Prof. Benjamin Zeller

Zeller

Question from the audience

At the beginning of the event, Susan McLester Kemmerlin, daughter of Bill McLester (after whom the colloquium is named), presented our department with a beautiful stitching of UNC’s academic seal!

UNC stitching

Susan McLester Kemmerlin with department chair Randall Styers

See you soon at the next McLester colloquium!

Posted in Alumni News, Events, Graduate Student News on February 23, 2017  
Anne Blankenship’s Recent Book
 

GregoryAnne Blankenship (PhD 2012), who is currently an assistant professor in History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at North Dakota State University, recently published a book titled Christianity, Social Justice, and the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II (UNC Press, 2016). The book offers an incisive analysis of the place of Christianity within Japanese American internment camps during World War II. From the UNC Press website:

“Anne M. Blankenship’s study of Christianity in the infamous camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II yields insights both far-reaching and timely. While most Japanese Americans maintained their traditional identities as Buddhists, a sizeable minority identified as Christian, and a number of church leaders sought to minister to them in the camps. Blankenship shows how church leaders were forced to assess the ethics and pragmatism of fighting against or acquiescing to what they clearly perceived, even in the midst of a national crisis, as an unjust social system. These religious activists became acutely aware of the impact of government, as well as church, policies that targeted ordinary Americans of diverse ethnicities.

“Going through the doors of the camp churches and delving deeply into the religious experiences of the incarcerated and the faithful who aided them, Blankenship argues that the incarceration period introduced new social and legal approaches for Christians of all stripes to challenge the constitutionality of government policies on race and civil rights. She also shows how the camp experience nourished the roots of an Asian American liberation theology that sprouted in the sixties and seventies.”

Posted in Alumni News on February 15, 2017  
Boyd Fellowship Deadline–February 20
 

The Boyd Fellowship is an $11,000 fellowship given annually to a major or double-major in the Department of Religious Studies who plans to pursue either graduate or professional education in religion. Current majors, as well as those who graduate the preceding year but did not immediately enter graduate or professional school in religion, are eligible.

The application deadline this year is February 20, 2017, so if you are interested, take note!

For details on how to apply, click here. Specific questions about the fellowship can also be directed to our Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Posted in News & Events on January 26, 2017  
Rabia Gregory’s Recent Book
 

GregoryRabia Gregory (PhD 2007) is an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Missouri. Rabia’s recent book, titled Marrying Jesus in Medieval and Early Modern Northern Europe: Popular Culture and Religious Reform (Ashgate, 2016), examines a fascinating concept within medieval religious culture. From the Routledge website:

“The first full-length study of the notion of marriage to Jesus in late medieval and early modern popular culture, this book treats the transmission and transformation of ideas about this concept as a case study in the formation of religious belief and popular culture. Marrying Jesus in Medieval and Early Modern Northern Europe provides a history of the dispersion of theology about the bride of Christ in the period between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries and explains how this metaphor, initially devised for a religious elite, became integral to the laity’s pursuit of salvation. Unlike recent publications on the bride of Christ, which explore the gendering of sanctity or the poetics of religious eroticism, this is a study of popular religion told through devotional media and other technologies of salvation. Marrying Jesus argues against the heteronormative interpretation that brides of Christ should be female by reconstructing the cultural production of brides of Christ in late medieval Europe. A central assertion of this book is that by the fourteenth century, worldly, sexually active brides of Christ, both male and female, were no longer aberrations. Analyzing understudied vernacular sources from the late medieval period – including sermons, early printed books, spiritual diaries, letters, songs, and hagiographies – Rabia Gregory shows how marrying Jesus was central to late medieval lay piety, and how the ‘chaste’ bride of Christ developed out of sixteenth-century religious disputes.”

Posted in Alumni News on January 11, 2017  
The 9 Biggest Archaeology Findings of 2016: Noah’s Ark Mosaic
 

Donkeys in Noah's Ark

The Noah’s Ark mosaic from the site of Huqoq, discovered this past summer by Prof. Jodi Magness and her team, was just selected by Live Science as one of “The 9 Biggest Archaeology Findings of 2016!”

To view the list, click here.

For more on the Huqoq excavations, including how to participate in the 2017 season, click here.

Posted in Faculty News on December 30, 2016  
Katie Merriman Article in The Funambulist Magazine
 

FunambulistKatie Merriman, a PhD student in our department specializing in Islamic Studies, has recently published an article in The Funambulist: Politics of Space and Bodies, an international magazine that bridges the worlds of design and critical research in the humanities. The November-December 2016 issue is on the topic of “Police,” and Merriman’s article, titled “New York City: Multiracial Struggles and Solidarities in Islamic Harlem,” describes a series of sites in Harlem, New York highlighting the multiracial history of Muslims in the city. The article is based on a free walking tour of the area that Merriman conducts on a regular basis. From the beginning of the article:

“Harlem is home to only a handful of New York City’s nearly 300 mosques, but its history is a testament to the presence of Muslim institutions, leaders, and literature as solace and a form of resistance to white supremacy. Moreover, Muslims are part of a larger tradition that sees Harlem as a sacred site for black brilliance and rejuvenation.”

Along the way, Merriman discusses a wide range of events, figures, and themes, including: the Bengali labor strikes, Malcolm X, a Senegalese Sufi saint, international intellectual networks, multiracial civic initiatives, halal restaurants, police brutality, immigration law, and the growing impact of gentrification on communities and their sacred spaces.

To see the contents of the issue, and to purchase access to the full article (digital and/or print versions), click here.

Masjid Malcolm Shabazz

Masjid Malcolm Shabazz, Harlem, New York

Posted in Graduate Student News on December 15, 2016