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Recent Discoveries at the 2019 Huqoq Excavations

The 2019 season of the archeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee, led by Professor Jodi Magness, recently ended at the end of June. This season’s work uncovered new parts of the mosaic floor from the ancient Huqoq synagogue at the site. Among the new mosaics are the depictions of the four beasts described in the book of Daniel and the first depiction of the episode of Elim, the place where the Israelites camped after leaving Egypt and wandering through the wilderness without water.

For more details on the recent findings and the work Magness has done in the past, read here, here and here.

For reports from previous seasons of excavations at Huqoq, see here 7/6/2016), here (7/9/2017) and here (7/17/2018). You can also visit the excavation’s webpage at

A detail from the Elim mosaic. (Jim Haberman, Courtesy: UNC-Chapel Hill)

Posted in News & Events on July 12, 2019  
Andrea Cooper is Recipient of First Book Subvention Prize

Professor Andrea Cooper has received a First Book Subvention Prize from the Association for Jewish Studies. According to the committee, her manuscript “will have a tremendous impact on the field of Jewish studies.” Her book, Reading Beyond the Fratriarchy in Modern Jewish Thought, is under contract with Indiana University Press in the series New Jewish Philosophy and Thought.


Congratulations, Andrea!


Posted in Faculty News on July 10, 2019  
Brendan Thornton to Speak at WPU Interdisciplinary Conference

Professor Brendan Thornton will be the keynote speaker for a conference at William Peace University in October on “Exploring the Macabre, Malevolent, and Mysterious…” Conference organizers invite proposals for paper presentations, demonstrations, and interactive workshops that explore the macabre, malevolent, and mysterious. The deadline for submission is August 1st.

For more information on the conference and how to submit proposals, visit

Posted in Faculty News on July 5, 2019  
Dr. Waleed Ziad Joins the Department as Assistant Professor

The Department of Religious Studies would like to extend its warmest welcome to Dr. Waleed Ziad, who joins the faculty as Assistant Professor in Islamic Studies. Dr. Ziad holds a Ph.D. in History (with Distinction) from Yale University, and his research focuses on the religious landscape of the modern Persianate world. His doctoral dissertation at Yale won the Theron Rockwell Field Prize, a university-wide award given for an exceptional “poetic, literary, or religious work” of scholarship. Prior to coming to Carolina, Dr. Ziad served as Assistant Professor in Comparative Liberal Studies at Habib University, the first full-fledged liberal arts university in Pakistan, from 2017-2019. In addition to numerous publications in academic venues, Dr. Ziad’s writing has also appeared in journalistic outlets such as The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Hill.

Posted in Faculty News on July 1, 2019  
Faculty Promotions: Brandon Bayne and Brendan Thornton

We are pleased to announce that, as of July 1, 2019, two members of our faculty have been promoted to new ranks in the department:

Brandon Bayne has been promoted to Associate Professor. Dr. Bayne specializes in the study religion in the Americas and Medieval and Early Modern Christianity, particularly European and indigenous encounters in the contact zones of the Americas. He teaches a range of courses in the area of religion in the Americas, including recent courses on “Catholicism in America” (RELI 142), “The Reformations” (RELI 454), “Readings in American Religion to 1865” (RELI 744), and “Religion and Cultural Contact in America” (RELI 842).

ThorntonBrendan Thornton is now Associate Professor in the department. Dr. Thornton specializes in the intersections of religion, culture, and identity in the Caribbean, concentrating on the ethnographic study of Pentecostal Christianity and the intersecting themes of gender, cultural change, and religious authority in the Caribbean and Latin America. He teaches a variety of course in the areas of Christianity and the supernatural, including “Supernatural Encounters: Zombies, Vampires, Demons and the Occult in the Americas” (RELI 246), “Anthropology of Christianity” (RELI 352), “Spirit Possession” (RELI 427), and “Christianity and Cultural Change” (RELI 721).

Congratulations to Brandon and Brendan!

Posted in Faculty News on July 1, 2019  
Department of Religious Studies to Host the 2019 Annual NCRSA Conference

The Department of Religious Studies is excited to host the 2019 annual conference of the North Carolina Religious Studies Association (NCRSA) on October 5.

The NCRSA is looking for proposals or abstracts of papers, completed papers, or topics for panel discussion on any area in the academic study of religion and of philosophy as it pertains to religion. The Association will honor the best undergraduate and graduate student essays with a stipend of $100 each, to be awarded at the conference. Submissions are due by June 30.

To learn more about submitting an essay, visit the NCRSA website.

Posted in News & Events on June 24, 2019  
Jessica Boon: The End of the World in Medieval Thought and Spirituality

ErnstAssociate Professor, Jessica Boon, along with Eric Knibbs and Erica Gelser, have co-edited a collection of essays titled The End of the World in Medieval Thought and Spirituality (Springer, 2019) in honor of the retirement of E. Ann Matter, now Professor Emerita at the University of Pennsylvania. From the Springer website:

“This essay collection studies the Apocalypse and the end of the world, as these themes occupied the minds of biblical scholars, theologians, and ordinary people in Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and Early Modernity. It opens with an innovative series of studies on “Gendering the Apocalypse,” devoted to the texts and contexts of the apocalyptic through the lens of gender. A second section of essays studies the more traditional problem of “Apocalyptic Theory and Exegesis,” with a focus on authors such as Augustine of Hippo and Joachim of Fiore. A final series of essays extends the thematic scope to “The Eschaton in Political, Liturgical, and Literary Contexts.” In these essays, scholars of history, theology, and literature create a dialogue that considers how fear of the end of the world, among the most pervasive emotions in human experience, underlies a great part of Western cultural production.”

Congratulations, Jessica!

Posted in Faculty Publications, News & Events on June 10, 2019  
National Gallery Public Symposium with Barbara Ambros

On June 7th, professor and department chair Barbara Ambros will give a talk at the public symposium, “The Role and Representation of Animals in Japanese Art and Culture,” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Gallery’s exhibit titled “The Life of Animals in Japanese Art.” The exhibition catalog also contains one of her articles. From the National Gallery website:

“The Life of Animals in Japanese Art takes an expansive look at the representation of animals in a variety of art forms, including painted screens, hanging scrolls, woodblock prints, netsuke, ceramic plates, kimono, and samurai helmets. The selection portrays all types of creatures—from foxes and frogs, snakes and sparrows to mythical animals such as dragons, phoenixes, and kappa river sprites. To explore the many roles animals have played in Japanese culture, objects are divided into thematic sections: Ancient Japan;The Japanese Zodiac; Religion: Buddhism, Zen, Shinto; Myth and Folklore; The World of the Samurai; Exotic Creatures and the Study of Nature; The Natural World: Creatures on Land, in the Air, and in Rivers and Seas; and The World of Leisure. This historic exhibition is co-organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Japan Foundation, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), with special cooperation from the Tokyo National Museum.”

Images from the exhibition (courtesy of the National Gallery):

Kaigyokusai Masatsugu – Wild Boar, Edo – Meiji periods, mid-to-late 19th century (photo © Museum Associates/LACMA)

Kusama Yayoi – Sho-chan, Heisei period, 2013 (Private collection © Yayoi Kusama, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai)

Unknown Artist – Charger with Carp Ascending Waterfall, Edo period, 19th century (Segawa Takeo)

Unknown Artist – Pair of Sacred Monkeys, Heian period, 11th century (photo (C) Museum Associates / LACMA)

Kaih Y ken – The Passing of Shaka, Edo period, 1713 (Sh j ke’in, Kyoto)

Posted in Faculty News on June 4, 2019  

Ruel W. Tyson, Jr. (1930-2019)

Ruel W. Tyson, Jr. (Photo: Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Ruel W. Tyson, Jr., Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, as well as the founder of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, on Thursday, May 30, 2019. He was 88.

It is difficult to overstate the profound influence that Prof. Tyson had on our department and on the study of the arts and humanities at UNC. He joined the Carolina faculty in 1967 and was a beloved teacher and visionary leader for the next four decades. We also remember him as an exceedingly generous and supportive colleague.

We will have more in the coming days, but for now, see the news story on the IAH website.

Update (June 6): The IAH has also created a special page as a tribute to Prof. Tyson here.

Posted in Faculty News, News & Events on June 3, 2019  
Candace Buckner’s article in JAAR

bucknerCandace Buckner, a PhD candidate in Ancient Mediterranean Religions who specializes in the study of early Christianity, has just published an article in the June 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR). The article, titled “Made in an Imperfect Image: Race, Ethnicity, Disability, and Infirmity in the Life of Aphou,” examines constructions of race, ethnicity, and disability in a fifth-century Coptic text in order to explore key ideological features in the discourse of certain late antique Christian communities.

From the JAAR website:

The Journal of the American Academy of Religion is generally considered to be the top academic journal in the field of religious studies. This international quarterly journal publishes top scholarly articles that cover the full range of world religious traditions together with provocative studies of the methodologies by which these traditions are explored.

The article can be (pre)viewed here.

Join us in congratulating Candace on this achievement!

Posted in Graduate Student News on May 30, 2019  
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