Todd Ochoa, Associate Professor in Religious Studies, was recently featured in an episode of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities podcast. In this 11-minute interview, Prof. Ochoa discusses his course on “Introduction to Religion and Culture,” his ongoing research in Cuba, and his love of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. Listen to the podcast below:Posted in Faculty News on October 9, 2016. Bookmark the permalink.
On Wednesday, September 21st, our faculty and graduate students gathered in Hyde Hall for the first McLester colloquium of the academic year. The speaker was our own David Lambert, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, who gave a lecture titled “Toward a History of Tendentiousness: Biblical Studies and the ‘Penitential Lens.’” Drawing from his award-winning book, How Repentance Became Biblical: Judaism, Christianity, and the Interpretation of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2016), Professor Lambert argued that attending to the reading strategies we adopt toward ancient texts such as the Hebrew Bible can reveal much about our modern notions of the “self.” As is typical of McLester colloquia, the lecture was followed by a wide-ranging critical discussion as well as plenty of time for informal conversation over refreshments.
Looking forward to the next McLester colloquium!Posted in Events, Faculty News, Graduate Student News on September 26, 2016. Bookmark the permalink.
This year, the Carolina Center for Performing Arts has put together a series of events titled Sacred/Secular: A Sufi Journey. Organized in collaboration with Carl Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, the program seeks to highlight the richness and diversity of the Muslim experience through a combination of performances, workshops, and other community events. From the program website:
“This project evolved from a desire to refute monolithic thinking about the practice of Islam and about Muslim communities and individuals – in other words, to contest the notion that there is any single narrative of Muslim identity or experience, a notion which is reinforced by oversimplified presentations of Muslims in our national discourse.
“We propose that the performances and community events we have curated will reveal the plurality of Muslim identity. Specifically, we explore Sufism as a spiritual and cultural lens into Islam through the work of performers from four Muslim-majority nations outside of the Arab world: Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and Senegal. This project is not exhaustive, but rather illustrative. These performances are but a glimpse into the vast richness of Muslim cultures and artistic expressions, yet we do believe that experiencing even just two examples of that diversity can invalidate monolithic thinking.”
For more information, including a detailed listing of this year’s events, see the program website.Posted in Events, Faculty News on September 22, 2016. Bookmark the permalink.
This past summer was an enriching and productive time for the graduate students in our department. The following is a sample of their activities:
Samah Choudhury (Islamic Studies) spent the summer in an intensive language immersion program with the American Institute for Indian Studies studying Urdu in Lucknow, India. Their language studies were primarily through the lens of Urdu poetry and the history of Partition in South Asia. Attached is a photo (click to enlarge) of Samah and her classmates in front of a Qalandari Sufi shrine in Kakori, just outside of Lucknow.
Patrick D’Silva (Islamic Studies) received a Summer Research Fellowship from UNC’s Graduate School for his project, “Translating Muslim Yoga: Translating Two Indian Manuscripts on the Science of the Breath.” Working from manuscripts, Patrick edited and translated two Persian texts on ‘ilm-i dam, “the science of the breath.” Analyzing these manuscripts – their text, reception, and classification by Indian Muslims and British colonial administrators – is central to his dissertation.
Alejandro Escalante (Religion in the Americas) presented his paper at the international Marcella Althaus-Reid Conference at the University of Winchester. Panelists from Latin America, Europe, and the United States presented papers covering a wide range of topics from politics and gender to economics and sexuality. Alejandro’s paper argued that Althaus-Reid’s materialist theology can be best leveraged when complemented with erotic and queer phenomenologies, especially in the Mexico-U.S. borderlands. Conference proceedings will be published in the journal Feminist Theology.
Micah Hughes (Islamic Studies) spent six weeks in Istanbul, Turkey on a Pre-Dissertation Travel Award from the Center for Global Initiatives to do preliminary dissertation research. Spending most of his time in various libraries, such as the Beyazıt Devlet Kütüphanesi, he collected research materials such as journals and periodicals to be used in crafting his prospectus and dissertation.
Haley Petersen (Religions of Asia) spent the summer in Kyoto, Japan, where she studied Japanese and visited many historical sites, including several of the oldest Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in the country. In addition, she attended Gion Matsuri, one of the largest festivals in Japan, and a week in the Japanese Alps, where she lived in a very small town, which has been preserved just as it was 300 years ago.
Tine Rassalle (Ancient Mediterranean Religions) spent two months at the Oriental Institute in Chicago where she worked on the registration and digitization of material from Megiddo, Israel. Many of the objects in the OI’s collection, ranging from figurines to human bones, had been put in in the depot over 50 years ago and have since then never been looked at. During her time there, Tine analyzed the materials, put them in a digital database and made them available to the public through their website. She also digitized several Syriac manuscripts from the 13th century and helped with the planning of the rehousing of the permanent museum collection into new showcases.
In a recent article in National Geographic titled “Explore This Mysterious Mosaic – It May Portray Alexander the Great,” Professor Jodi Magness is interviewed regarding one of the most fascinating synagogue mosaics to have come to light from her archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee. The mosaic in question, discovered in 2014, is interpreted by Professor Magness as a portrayal of the legendary meeting between Alexander the Great and the Jerusalem high priest.
The article not only explores the different interpretations that have been offered to explain this enigmatic scene, but it also contains an interactive visual tool that leads the reader through each part of the mosaic close-up. To read the NatGeo article, click here.
For a video clip (4:38) of Professor Magness discussing this mosaic and the NatGeo article on Fox News, click here.Posted in Faculty News on September 14, 2016. Bookmark the permalink.
As the semester begins, we would like to extend a warm welcome to two new members of our faculty:
Harshita Kamath joins us as Assistant Professor in Hinduism and South Asian Religions. Dr. Kamath holds a Ph.D. in West and South Asian Religions from Emory University, and her research focuses on the textual and performance traditions of Telugu-speaking South India. Her forthcoming book, Constructing Artifice: An Ethnography of Impersonation in South India, analyzes gender impersonation in the Telugu dance style of Kuchipudi. She has co-translated the sixteenth-century classical Telugu text Parijatapaharanamu (Theft of a Tree) with Velcheru Narayana Rao, which will be published as part of the Murty Classical Library of India by Harvard University Press.
Hugo Mendez joins us as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Mendez received his Ph.D. in 2013 from the Interdisciplinary Linguistics Program at the University of Georgia, and he comes to us from Yale University, where he served as Lecturer and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music for the past two years. He specializes in the reception of the Bible within Christian communities in late antiquity.
Welcome, Harshita and Hugo!
It was recently announced that Professor David Lambert received the 2016 AAR Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Textual Studies) for his book, How Repentance Became Biblical: Judaism, Christianity, and the Interpretation of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2016). From the American Academy of Religion website:
“In order to give recognition to new scholarly publications that make significant contributions to the study of religion, the American Academy of Religion offers Awards for Excellence. These awards honor works of distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity, and importance; books that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood, and interpreted.”
Congratulations, David!Posted in Faculty News, Faculty Publications on August 29, 2016. Bookmark the permalink.
We are pleased to announce that, as of July 1, 2016, three members of our faculty have been promoted to new ranks in the department:
Jessica Boon has been promoted to Associate Professor. Dr. Boon specializes in the study of medieval and Renaissance Catholicism, particularly mysticism in Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries. She teaches a range of courses in the area of Christianity and Culture, including recent courses on “Mysticism” (RELI 165), “Mary in the Christian Tradition” (RELI 362), “Body and Suffering in Christian Mysticism” (RELI 665), and “Spanish Religions: Medieval Convivencia and Colonial Encounter” (RELI 668).
David Lambert is now Associate Professor in the department. Dr. Lambert teaches courses on Hebrew Bible, including the popular RELI 103, “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Literature,” as well as other upper-level courses that combine critical approaches to the biblical text with attention to the history of biblical interpretation. His new book, How Repentance Became Biblical, was published earlier this year.
Zlatko Pleše has now been promoted to Professor. Dr. Pleše is a specialist in early Christianity, Greco-Roman religion, and religions of late antiquity. He has published widely in these areas and offers courses in our department on ancient philosophy, Gnosticism, the history of early Christianity, and Coptic language and literature.
Congratulations to Jes, David, and Zlatko!
Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism in our department, has led archaeological excavations at the site of Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee since 2011, revealing an ancient synagogue from the 5th century containing a set of beautifully preserved and highly distinctive mosaic floors. This summer, the excavations at the site uncovered more stunning mosaics, including biblical scenes depicting Noah’s ark and the exodus from Egypt. For links to the press coverage, click here.
Posted in Faculty News on July 6, 2016. Bookmark the permalink.
Lauren Sutton, a Senior Religious Studies major at UNC, shares her thoughtful and eloquent reflections on the tragic murders of three students in Chapel Hill as well as the value of her Religious Studies education as she grapples with their meaning.