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New Book by Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst (PhD 2012)

MorgensteinFuerstIlyse Morgenstein Fuerst (PhD 2012), who is currently Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Vermont, has recently published a book titled Indian Muslim Minorities and the 1857 Rebellion: Religion, Rebels, and Jihad (I. B. Tauris, 2017). The book examines the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and its implications for our understanding of Islam in the region. From the I. B. Tauris website:

“While jihad has been the subject of countless studies in the wake of recent terrorist attacks, scholarship on the topic has so far paid little attention to South Asian Islam and, more specifically, its place in South Asian history. Seeking to fill some gaps in the historiography, Ilyse R. Morgenstein Fuerst examines the effects of the 1857 Rebellion (long taught in Britain as the ‘Indian Mutiny’) on debates about the issue of jihad during the British Raj. Morgenstein Fuerst shows that the Rebellion had lasting, pronounced effects on the understanding by their Indian subjects (whether Muslim, Hindu or Sikh) of imperial rule by distant outsiders. For India’s Muslims their interpretation of the Rebellion as jihad shaped subsequent discourses, definitions and codifications of Islam in the region. Morgenstein Fuerst concludes by demonstrating how these perceptions of jihad, contextualised within the framework of the 19th century Rebellion, continue to influence contemporary rhetoric about Islam and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent.Drawing on extensive primary source analysis, this unique take on Islamic identities in South Asia will be invaluable to scholars working on British colonial history, India and the Raj, as well as to those studying Islam in the region and beyond.”

An interview on the book can be found here.

Congratulations, Ilyse!

Posted in Alumni News on February 19, 2018  
Carl Ernst at the Jaipur Literature Festival

On Jan. 25, Carl Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, spoke on “Sufi Martyrs of Love” at the Jaipur Literature Festival, an event described as the “greatest literary show on Earth.”

Watch the recorded lecture here!





Posted in Faculty News, News & Events on February 16, 2018  
Duke-UNC Graduate Middle East and Islamic Studies Conference

The 15th Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Middle East and Islamic Studies Conference on “Map, Territory,​ and​ Boundary​” was held last week on Feb. 9-10 at Duke University, with participation from graduate students and faculty from both institutions. The conference explored geography and territoriality as not only the subjects of ongoing contestation, but also compelling paradigms to engage with broader interrelated questions pertaining to the modern makeup of the Middle East. Participants discussed the myriad of ways the themes of map, territory, and boundary open up new possibilities of insight in the contexts of the Middle East, Muslim communities, and their connected geographies. Congratulations to the conference organizers and participants on a successful conference!



Posted in Graduate Student News, News & Events on February 10, 2018  
Religious Studies Majors Annual Dinner

The annual dinner for Religious Studies majors was held last night, Monday, Feb. 5, and it was a huge success! Students and faculty had the chance to chat over a delicious dinner organized by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Jessica Boon, and the Undergraduate Studies Committee. The meal was followed by inspiring words from RELI graduates Robbie Jessup ‘08 (Law ’11), and Mark Rothrock ‘10, introduced by Professor Randall Styers. Thank you all for joining us!



Posted in News & Events on February 6, 2018  
Dr. Shahla Talebi at the McLester Colloquium

On Wednesday, January 31, Dr. Shahla Talebi joined us for the first of our McLester Colloquia for the Spring semester. Dr. Talebi is Associate Professor of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University.

In a lecture entitled “Traversing Religiopolitical Metaphors in Contemporary Iran,” Dr. Talebi discussed the significant metaphor of the event of Karbala in the history of Iranian Shi`i tradition. The lecture was thought-provoking and generated questions and responses from the faculty and graduate students present. As usual, the lecture was followed by casual conversation over refreshments.

Looking forward to the next McLester Colloquium!

Posted in Graduate Student News, News & Events on January 31, 2018  

Harshita Kamath Wins Tanner Award for Undergraduate Teaching


Professor Harshita Kamath, who teaches Hinduism and South Asian religions in our department, was one of 25 faculty members honored for university-wide teaching awards during halftime of the UNC men’s basketball game on Jan. 20th vs. Georgia Tech. Prof. Kamath received the Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which “was established to recognize excellence in inspirational teaching of undergraduate students, particularly first- and second-year students.”

For the full list of faculty members receiving awards, click here.

Congratulations, Harshita!

Posted in Faculty News on January 21, 2018  
Carl Ernst: It’s Not Just Academic!

ErnstThe latest book by Carl Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, is a volume of his essays titled It’s Not Just Academic! Essays on Sufism and Islamic Studies (Sage, 2017). From the Sage Publishing website:

“This collection of articles by Carl W. Ernst summarizes over 30 years of research, recovering and illuminating remarkable examples of Islamic culture that have been largely overlooked, if not forgotten. It opens with reflections on teaching Islam, focusing on major themes such as Sufism, the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad, and Arabic literature. The importance of public scholarship and the questionable opposition between Islam and the West are also addressed. The articles that follow explore multiple facets of Sufism, the ethical and spiritual tradition that has flourished in Muslim societies for over a thousand years. The cumulative effect is to move away from static Orientalist depictions of Sufism and Islam through a series of vivid and creative case studies.”

Congratulations, Carl!

Posted in Faculty Publications on January 7, 2018  
New Book by Christopher Frilingos (PhD 2001)

FrilingosChristopher Frilingos (PhD 2001), Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Michigan State University, just published a new book titled Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: Family Trouble in the Infancy Gospels (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). The book explores two examples of early Christian literature known as the “Infancy Gospels,” which offer details on the early lives of Jesus and Mary not contained in the canonical New Testament. From the University of Pennsylvania Press website:

“The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a collection of stories from the mid-second century C.E. describing events in the life of Jesus between the ages of five and twelve. The Proto-gospel of James, also dating from the second century, focuses on Mary and likewise includes episodes from her childhood. These gospels are often cast aside as marginal character sketches, designed to assure the faithful that signs of divine grace cropped up in the early years of both Mary and Jesus. Christopher A. Frilingos contends instead that the accounts are best viewed as meditations on family. Both gospels offer rich portrayals of household relationships at a time when ancient Christians were locked in a fierce debate about family—not only on the question of what a Christian family ought to look like but also on whether Christians should pursue family life at all.”

Congratulations, Chris!

Posted in Alumni News on December 26, 2017  
Final Performance for “Dance & Embodied Knowledge” Course


On Saturday, December 2nd, students in the course RELI/ASIA/COMM 386, “Dance & Embodied Knowledge in the Indian Context,” held their final performance. This course, taught by Prof. Harshita Kamath, combines discussions of Indian aesthetic theory, Hindu religious narratives, and performance theory with instruction in the basic movements of the South Indian classical dance style of Kuchipudi. As part of the course, students spent the semester learning the piece Narayaniyam in the Kuchipudi style, which they performed on Saturday in full costume with dance bells. See below for pictures from the event:









Posted in Undergraduate Accomplishments on December 6, 2017  

Study Abroad: 2018 Huqoq Excavations with Jodi Magness

UNC students

Since 2011, Prof. Jodi Magness has led archaeological excavations at the site of Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee, where she and her team have garnered international attention for their discovery of an ancient synagogue building with stunning mosaic floors. She is returning to Huqoq in summer 2018 and invites students to participate in the excavation through UNC’s Study Abroad program.

This coming season, the excavations will take place May 31–July 2, 2018. The deadline to apply for the program is February 14, 2018. The field school program (CLAR 650) offers students 6 hours of academic credit.

For more information, including instructions for the online application, see the UNC Study Abroad link here. You can also see the excavation website at

Posted in Faculty News, News & Events on December 1, 2017  
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