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2018 RELI Summer Classes

Summer 2018 registration has begun! Online course offerings include RELI 283/ASIA 300: The Buddhist Tradition: India, Nepal, Tibet, taught by Professor Leve, and RELI 162: Catholicism Today: An Introduction to the Contemporary Catholic Church, taught by Professor Marienberg. Details below:


Posted in News & Events on March 21, 2018  
UNC Student Stories: Josue Menjivar ’19

Josue Menjivar is a part-time student who balances his role as a full-time language translator in the UNC Hospital system with his studies. Last summer, he participated in the Study Abroad 2017 Huqoq excavation with Jodi Magness, Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism. Since 2011, Professor 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.

Josue discusses his experience in this unique UNC Study Abroad program and how it helps him in his full-time job:

Posted in News & Events on March 19, 2018  
Lauren Leve at International Women’s Day Program

Last Sunday, March 11, Lauren Leve, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Graduate Studies, was the keynote speaker at the International Women’s Day 2018 program for the North Carolina Nepali Community, organized by the Non-Resident Nepali Association National Coordination Council North Carolina Chapter and the Nepal Center of North Carolina. Prof. Leve spoke on “Gender-based Violence and Awareness in the Cultural Interface.” 


Posted in Faculty News, News & Events on March 16, 2018  
Bart Ehrman on “Faith in Our Lives: Why We Follow” and “The Triumph of Christianity”

On March 10, PlayMakers Repertory Company hosted a symposium, “Faith in Our Lives: Why We Follow,” with UNC’s Bart D. Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, and Robert M. Franklin, Jr., James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Prof. Ehrman and Prof. Franklin discussed how faith and belief serve us both personally and collectively, as well as what may be at risk when doctrine plays too little or too large a role in our lives. The symposium was moderated by Adam Versényi, Chair of UNC’s Department of Dramatic Art and Dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company.

Prof. Ehrman also appeared recently on WUNC’s The State of Things episode “The Sunday School Teacher Turned Skeptic,” hosted by Frank Stasio. Among other topics, Prof. Ehrman discussed his recently published book “The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World,” which tells the story of how Christianity grew from the religion of a few peasants in the Roman Empire to become the most powerful cultural force in the West.

Congratulations, Bart!


Posted in Faculty Publications, Faculty Pubs & Profiles, Faculty Spotlight on March 14, 2018  
Update from Sam Kessler (PhD 2016)


Samuel Kessler, who received his PhD from our department in 2016, currently serves as Postdoctoral Fellow in Judaic Studies in the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech. Sam recently shared with us the wonderful news that he will assume the post of Assistant Professor of Religion and (inaugural) Bonnier Family Chair in Jewish Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College starting in Fall 2018!

For more on Sam’s academic work and interests, see his profile on the Virginia Tech website or on his personal website.

Congratulations, Sam!

Posted in Alumni News on March 12, 2018  
Joseph Terrell of MIPSO: UNC RELI Major ’13

In a new interview, Joseph Terrell of Chapel Hill band Mipso discusses the influence of UNC’s Religious Studies classes on his music. On his experience as a UNC Religious Studies major, he says, “It completely formed who I am, and it was an excellent education to be a songwriter.” Watch the interview with Terrell by UNC doctoral student Becca Henriksen here:

Chapel Hill’s indie Americana quartet Mipso release their fifth album, Edges Run, on April 6th, 2018 via a newly inked record deal with AntiFragile Music. Influenced by the contradiction of its progressive home and the surrounding rural southern landscapes, Mipso has been hailed as “hewing surprisingly close to gospel and folk while still sounding modern and secular” (Acoustic Guitar) and was recently recognized by Rolling Stone as an “ Artist You Need to Know.” The band brings a distinctly unique sound – full of wistful beauty, hopeful undercurrents, and panoramic soundscapes.

Venturing ever-further from its string-band pedigree to discover a broader Americana where classic folk-rock and modern alt-country sounds mingle easily with Appalachian tradition, Mipso’s music is lush and forward moving, with lyrics that sear and salve in turn.

Look for Mipso on tour this spring in support of their new release, Edges Run.

Posted in Alumni News on March 7, 2018  
New Book by Timur Yuskaev

YuskaevTimur Yuskaev, a PhD graduate of our department who currently serves as Associate Professor of Contemporary Islam at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, has recently published a book titled Speaking Qur’an: An American Scripture (University of South Carolina Press, 2017), which examines the interpretation of the Qur’an among American Muslims. From the University of South Carolina Press website:

“In Speaking Qur’an: An American Scripture, Timur R. Yuskaev examines how Muslim Americans have been participating in their country’s cultural, social, religious, and political life. Essential to this process, he shows, is how the Qur’an has become an ever more deeply American text that speaks to central issues in the lives of American Muslims through the spoken-word interpretations of Muslim preachers, scholars, and activists….

Set within the rapidly transforming contexts of the last half century, and central to the volume, are the issues of cultural translation and embodiment of sacred texts that Yuskaev explores by focusing on the Qur’an as a spoken scripture. The process of the Qur’an becoming an American sacred text, he argues, is ongoing. It comes to life when the Qur’an is spoken and embodied by its American faithful.”

Congratulations, Timur!

Posted in Alumni News on February 26, 2018  
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.” The festival brings together the world’s most renowned literary talents across a number of fields and subject areas for intellectual discussion, thoughtful debate and more.

Read the profile of Prof. Ernst’s work connecting Carolina to the Middle East by UNC Global, and 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  
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