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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  
Summer 2024 Class Posters

Check out a few posters for our upcoming Maymester and Summer School courses for 2024. For a full list, click HERE.


Posted in News & Events on March 22, 2024  
Digging Through Time: UNC Undergrad’s Adventure in Archaeology

Check out this fantastic report published on the ASOR website, by Hania Kantzer, a UNC undergrad who participated with Professor Jodi Magness on the Huqoq excavations last summer and received an ASOR fellowship (as well as support from the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies).

Hania Kantzer is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying chemistry and Asian studies. This past summer, she was a grateful recipient of the Stevan B. Dana Fieldwork Scholarship through ASOR, and was able to work as a student researcher on the Huqoq Excavation Project.

Here is a snippet of the article:

If you had asked me a year ago if I’d be up for working eight hours a day, six days a week, in the summer heat, starting at around 5 am every morning, I probably wouldn’t have been as enthusiastic as I am now. However, almost as soon as I began, I realized what an honor, what an unforgettable experience, and what an education it was!

Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village nestled about three miles to the west of Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala) in the Galilee region of Israel, has been the site of ongoing excavations since 2011. Dr. Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, leading the excavation, has unearthed a remarkable Late Roman synagogue dating back to the early fifth century C.E. This synagogue is adorned with mosaics which not only depict a range of biblical scenes but also mark the very first instance of a non-biblical narrative ever discovered in an ancient synagogue. When I was working for the Center for Jewish Studies on campus at my school, I presented to many classrooms (once, even to Professor Magness’ class) about this excavation as a possible research opportunity. Whether I persuaded others very well, I don’t know, but I definitely convinced myself! I ended up applying to join her team for Summer 2023.

Professor Jodi Magness with current and former UNC students at the Huqoq excavations (Photo credit: Jim Haberman).

Click here to continue reading this wonderful article!

Posted in News & Events on March 17, 2024  
Dr. Abelardo de la Cruz Joins the Department as Assistant Professor

The Department of Religious Studies is delighted to welcome Dr. Abelardo de la Cruz to the faculty as Assistant Professor and Nahua scholar in Religion in the Americas. de la CruzDr. de la Cruz holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology focused on Religious Studies and is an expert in religion in Mexican Indigenous communities. His doctoral dissertation, “Motiochihuanih: Catechists and Prayer Specialists as Religious Leaders Brokering ‘el costumbre’  Nahua, in Chicontepec, Veracruz,” examines religion as it is practiced in the township of Chicontepec, which is in the Huasteca Veracruzana, in Mexico. Using oral histories that date to 1980 and qualitative ethnographic research in the present, the study focuses on four motiochihuanih. Motiochihuanih are religious leaders trained as catechists by the Catholic Church who later became prayer specialists (rezanderos). Dr. de la Cruz analyzes their personal histories, Catholic training, relationships with their clients and communities, nonconformity with Catholicism, and participation in traditional Nahua religion. He is currently working on an Oxford University Press book chapter that explores the life-cycle rituals that are a component of the Nahua religion of today. This semester (Spring 2024), Dr. de la Cruz is teaching RELI 132, “Religion and Global Justice.”

Please join us in welcoming Abelardo to the department!

Posted in News & Events on January 22, 2024  
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