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For our Summer 2024 courses, click HERE!


Recent Religious Studies graduate receives prestigious Claremont Prize!

On behalf of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life (Columbia University) the UNC Religious Studies program is excited to announce our very own Isaiah Ellis as the winner of the 2024 Claremont Prize for the Study of Religion for his work, Apostles of Asphalt: Race, Empire, and the Religious Politics of Infrastructure in the American South. The book will be published by Columbia University Press in IRCPL’s Religion, Culture, and Public Life series. Please be on the lookout for that upcoming book release!

Apostles of Asphalt: Race, Empire, and the Religious Politics of Infrastructure in the American South
– Isaiah Ellis

We usually imagine infrastructure as offering solutions to problems of mobility and political unification, but grand statements about the positive socio-economic change accompanying infrastructure development grate against renewed criticism of its role in empire-building, structural inequality, and segregation by design. Apostles of Asphalt explores infrastructure’s fraught but central role in the drama of American history by investigating the ideas at the root of the modern highway system. In the decades leading up to the first Federal highway bills of the 1920s, participants in a reform-minded movement for good roads laid the groundwork for a modernized, federally funded highway system. This “Good Roads Movement” was most impactful in the American South, where its advocates drew upon the language of moral reform and longer legacies of U.S. empire building to argue that white southerners had a moral burden to civilize American land by building public infrastructure. Southern road builders were uniquely successful in arguing for public infrastructure because they articulated their efforts as missionary, redemptive, and civilizing, not only on behalf of the nation but also to redeem and reinvigorate their Confederate past. Those rhetorical moves impacted the lives and work of government officials, engineers, and corporate agents, as well as the Black convict laborers and Indigenous pathfinders whose labor made modern roads possible. What the terms “missionary, redemptive, and civilizing” meant was not always straightforward or coherent, but it was their useful ambiguity, as well as their specific cultural resonance in the Jim Crow South, that proved to be roadbuilders’ most effective tool in advancing a national roadbuilding agenda. At its core, Apostles of Asphalt is about infrastructure’s contested rise as an emblem of the public good in the United States, and how American Christianity’s historical entanglement with race and empire continues to haunt American political and public life.

Isaiah Ellis is an incoming Assistant Professor of Urban Religions in the Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas. He has recently served as an Arts & Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto, and in the coming year he will be a Robert M. Kingdon Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He received his Ph.D. in Religion and Culture from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Posted in News & Events on July 11, 2024  
Book Launch, Panel Discussion for Professor Jodi Magness

We invite you to join us in the W. F. Albright Institute courtyard or on Zoom for a panel discussion of Professor Jodi Magness‘s latest book, Jerusalem Through the Ages: From Its Beginnings to the Crusades (OUP), jointly hosted by Tel Aviv University, The Koret Center, and the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. The discussion will be chaired by Prof. Vered Noam (TAU), will feature a panel including Prof. Yuval Gadot (TAU), Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, and Dr. Gideon Avni (IAA). The discussion will conclude with a response by Prof. Jodi Magness, followed by a reception.

Jerusalem Through the Ages: For followers of the three Abrahamic faiths, Jerusalem is the place where the presence of the God of Israel dwells. Jerusalem Through the Ages explores how this belief came to be associated with the city by introducing readers to its complex and layered history, including the most recent archaeological discoveries. Each chapter focuses on a key moment of transition from Jerusalem’s beginnings to the Middle Ages, providing a vivid narrative of the city’s many transformations as it changed hands and populations. The book also includes a walking guide for visitors who wish to experience the city’s many archaeological marvels firsthand.

Jodi Magness is Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her work on Jerusalem Through the Ages was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship at Tel Aviv University and a Seymour Gitin Fellowship at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.

Posted in News & Events on May 19, 2024  
Feeling Cross-species Kinship in Edo-Period Morality Books: Excessive Affect and the Ethic of Refraining from Killing and Releasing Life

On Monday, May 20, Religious Studies Professor Barbara Ambrose will give a talk entitled “Feeling Cross-species Kinship in Edo-Period Morality Books: Excessive Affect and the Ethic of Refraining from Killing and Releasing Life” from 5:30~7:00 pm in the Nanto Room of Reiners Library at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan.

The talk is free and open to the public. Below is a brief introduction to the topic:

Influenced by Ming and Qing morality books, particularly the works of the Buddhist cleric Yunqi Zhuhong (1535–1615), devotional ritual releases of captive animals on the verge of death surged in popularity in the Edo period. Zhuhong’s seminal Jiesha fangsheng wen (Tract on refraining from killing and releasing life) was published in Japan as a Sino-Japanese edition in 1661 and inspired the composition of about three dozen Japanese Buddhist texts over the next two-and-a-half centuries. Most Japanese tracts on refraining from killing and releasing life were authored by Buddhist clerics, but some texts were composed by wealthy merchants, village heads, and lay intellectuals.

To read more CLICK HERE!

Posted in News & Events on May 19, 2024  
Blueprints for Innovation

Religious Studies professor Lauren Leve has recently been featured in an article entitled “Blueprints for Innovation,” written by Emmy Trivette. Professor Leve, along with Jim Mahaney, are partnering with Nepalese locals to bring religious heritage sites to life through interviews and digital tools.

Computer scientist Jim Mahaney and religious studies scholar Lauren Leve are collaborating on Leve’s research in Nepal, where she’s spent the last 30 years documenting Buddhist holy sites. (photo by Megan Mendenhall | illustration by Corina Prassos)

In 2015, a 7.8 earthquake shook Nepal, and the city of Kathmandu rippled. Buildings swayed, temples toppled — and Lauren Leve was just 90 miles from the epicenter. The disaster destroyed more than 600,000 buildings and killed thousands. The earthquake’s tremble could be felt over 300 miles away in western Bhutan. To survive and witness this event was to survive and witness tragedy.

“Many buildings were damaged irrevocably, and you couldn’t live in them anymore,” Leve shares. “And the temples were destroyed. It was devastating.”

A religious studies professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, Leve has spent 30 years traveling back and forth to Nepal for her research. The 2015 earthquake highlighted the importance of preserving cultural heritage — and motivated Leve to pursue a project to do exactly that.

Now, she is collaborating with Carolina computer scientist Jim Mahaney and Kathmandu locals to document the Swayambjunath, or “Swayambhu,” temple — a monument with deep cultural significance for the region. Today, the team has conducted more than 30 interviews with temple priests, Buddhist monks, devoted visitors, and other people with traditional connections to the site…

Check out the rest of the article HERE!

Posted in News & Events on April 30, 2024  
Reli Club & Mesoamerican Religious Practices

The RELI Club (RELIC) had a great event on the 22nd, hosting a roundtable with Dr. Eduardo de J. Douglas from Art History, student Brenda Palacios Rodriguez (Akatek Maya), and our own Dr. Abelardo de la Cruz (Nahua) about Mesoamerican knowledge, cosmology, language, and religion. The event was moderated by Isaac Watkins, the President of the RELI Club. The conversation ranged from the creation of the idea of “Mesoamerica” to Mayan and Nahua ideas about the stars to the way religion exists within – and not apart – from language, food, and homemaking. A wide range of students asked great questions and enjoyed good pizza as they learned from all three. This was a stellar end to the semester for the club and a promising sign of great events to come from this group of first year majors!

Posted in News & Events on April 26, 2024  
Summer Classes 2024 Now Open for Enrollment!

We’re excited to announce that our Maymester, Summer 1, and Summer 2 courses for 2024 are now open for enrollment. Most of these courses will be taught in a remote, asynchronous approach (though, not all).


Reli 140 Intro to American Religion FC-Past & FC-Knowing
Reli 162 Catholicism Today FC-Past
Reli 220 Religion & Medicine FC-Global & FC-Values
Reli 246 Supernatural Encounters FC-Power & FC-Knowing

Summer 1

Reli 104 New Testament FC-Past & FC-Knowing
Reli 106 Early Judaism FC-Past & FC-Knowing
Reli 121 Intro to Religion & Culture FC-Values & FC-Knowing
Reli 180 Islamic Civilizations FC-Past & FC-Knowing
Reli 208 Birth of Christianity FC-Aesth & FC-Past
Reli 209 Varieties of Early Christianity FC-Aesth & FC-Past
Reli 236 Religious Things FC-Create

Summer 2

Reli 103 Intro to Hebrew Bible FC-Past & FC-Knowing
Reli 122 Philosophical Approaches to Religion FC-Values & FC-Knowing
Reli 141 African-American Religion FC-Power
Reli 161 History of Christian Traditions FC-Past
Reli 201 Biblical Interpretation FC-Aesth & FC-Knowing
Reli 207 Jesus in the Early Gospels FC-Past
Reli 283 Buddhist Tradition: India, Nepal, Tibet FC-Values & FC-Knowing


Posted in News & Events on April 21, 2024  
Professor Jodi Magness’ research makes the cover of National Geographic!

Congratulations to Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism Jodi Magness whose research on Huqoq is featured on National Geographic’s cover page! Stay tuned for more information.












Posted in News & Events on April 16, 2024  
Exploring Ancient Texts and Modern Challenges at the UNC-King’s College Interdisciplinary Conference

Over Spring Break, a group of faculty and graduate students from the Department of Religious Studies traveled to London to participate in a joint interdisciplinary conference with King’s College on the theme of “Ancient Religion and Modern Debates.” 

This conference, which was made possible through support from the IAH King’s College Fund, the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, and the Department of Religious Studies, explored ways in which ancient texts might offer resources for reconsidering some of the most pressing and profound questions we confront today—from climate change, to artificial intelligence, to our conceptions of the human. Many thanks go out to our KCL colleagues, especially Dr. James Corke-Webster of KCL Classics, for being such wonderful hosts and dialogue partners throughout the conference. 




Posted in News & Events on April 12, 2024  
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