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New Book by Brannon Ingram (PhD 2011)

Brannon Ingram, a 2011 PhD graduate of our department, has recently published his first book, Revival from Below: The Deoband Movement and Global Islam:

“The Deoband movement—a revivalist movement within Sunni Islam that quickly spread from colonial India to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and even the United Kingdom and South Africa—has been poorly understood and sometimes feared. Despite being one of the most influential Muslim revivalist movements of the last two centuries, Deoband’s connections to the Taliban have dominated the attention it has received from scholars and policy-makers alike. Revival from Below offers an important corrective, reorienting our understanding of Deoband around its global reach, which has profoundly shaped the movement’s history. In particular, the author tracks the origins of Deoband’s controversial critique of Sufism, how this critique travelled through Deobandi networks to South Africa, as well as the movement’s efforts to keep traditionally educated Islamic scholars (`ulama) at the center of Muslim public life. The result is a nuanced account of this global religious network that argues we cannot fully understand Deoband without understanding the complex modalities through which it spread beyond South Asia.”

Brannon is currently an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Northwestern University.

Congratulations, Brannon!

Posted in Alumni News on January 5, 2020  
Religion, Politics and Culture in Israel (Spring 2020 Course)

Our department is offering a brand new course next semester, taught by Professor Yaakov Ariel. It is called Religion, Politics and Culture in Israel (RELI 343) and represents a great addition to our selection of courses. There is still room in the course, so don’t miss your chance to take it and add it to your Spring 2020 schedules!

“The course offers a panoramic view and analytical understanding of Israel’s culture, politics and religious life and groups, as well as a window into the political, religious, and ethnic realities of the Middle East at large. The course will offer an opportunity to study the religious communities operating in the country and their relationship with the Israeli state, as well as the place of religion in the international relations and global policies of Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East.”


Posted in News & Events on December 10, 2019  
New Book by Mary Ellen O’Donnell (PhD Alumna)

Mary Ellen O’Donnell, a PhD graduate of our department, has recently published a book titled Ingrained Habits: Growing Up Catholic in Mid-Twentieth-Century America:

“Born Catholic. Raised Catholic. Americans across generations have used these phrases to describe their formative days, but the experience of growing up Catholic in the United States has changed over the last several decades. While the creed and the sacraments remain the same, the context for learning the faith has transformed. As a result of demographic shifts and theological developments, children face a different set of circumstances today from what they encountered during the mid-twentieth-century. Through a close study of autobiographical and fictional texts that depict the experience, Ingrained Habits explores the intimate details of everyday life for children growing up Catholic during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. These literary portrayals present upbringings characterized by an all-encompassing encounter with religion. The adult authors of such writings run the gamut from vowed priests to unwavering atheists and their depictions range from glowing nostalgia to deep-seated resentment; however, they curiously describe similar experiences from their childhood days in the Church.

“Mary Ellen O’Donnell uses examples from her own family’s experiences to frame this story of change within an American Catholic life. Her analysis of the literature about pre-Vatican II Catholicism points to a perceived insular environment infused with religious authority in multiple contexts. The book includes a chapter about each of the three distinct, but linked, settings considered in the study―the institutional parish/school, the family home and the ethnic neighborhood. These places offered discrete introductions to and lessons about the faith, but they combined to constitute an enveloping Catholic world. As the larger institution of the Church was changing across the decades of the mid-twentieth-century, a generation of Catholics was being formed through particular details within daily routines. Ingrained Habits, through the literature it surveys, brings us to the classrooms and confessionals, kitchens and bedrooms, sidewalks and stoops where it happened.”

Congratulations, Mary Ellen!

Posted in Alumni News on December 6, 2019  
RELI Class Visits to the Wilson Special Collections Library

In the last few weeks, Religious Studies students had opportunities to visit the Wilson Special Collections Library to view a variety of objects and works in connection with current courses.

Professor Joseph Lam led a group of graduate students in Akkadian on a visit to view the cuneiform tablets and other related objects in their Special Collections. Cuneiform was the writing system of ancient Mesopotamia, involving the use of a stylus to make triangular wedges on clay. These are the oldest objects in Wilson Library (the oldest of which are dated to before 2000 BCE). They were hosted by Dr. Emily Kader, the Rare Books Research Librarian at Wilson Library.

Wilson Library

Emily Kader giving an introduction to handling cuneiform tablets.


A cuneiform tablet envelope from ancient Mesopotamia.

Professor Brandon Bayne’s RELI 448 class, ‘Religion in Early America’, also had the opportunity to work with a variety of original sources and rare books in Wilson Library. Guided by Sarah Carrier, a librarian with the North Carolina Collection, the students examined a diverse set of Moravian, Quaker, Baptist, Presbyterian, Muslim, and Jewish documents produced in NC before the Civil War.

Wilson Library

Prof. Bayne’s class working with Wilson Library’s rare books.

Posted in News & Events on November 26, 2019  

McLester Colloquium with Dr. Carl Ernst
For the department’s McLester Seminar last week, we were pleased to hear from our very own Carl Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor in Religious Studies, who presented on the topic of “Anglo-Persian Texts and The Colonial Understanding of Religion.” In characteristic fashion, Dr. Ernst examined a pair of often-neglected texts from the early British-Indian colonial encounter in order to uncover the concepts and taxonomies of religion they reflect. We were grateful for the opportunity to hear from Dr. Ernst on this fascinating subject, and the talk was followed by a wonderful time of conversation over refreshments.
Posted in Faculty News, Graduate Student News on November 4, 2019  
Spring 2020 Courses

Here are the courses we are offering for the Spring 2020 semester! (Click on each slide for a PDF version of the poster.)

For the entire Spring course schedule with meeting times and room assignments, see here. Also check ConnectCarolina for the most up-to-date scheduling information.

Posted in News & Events on October 24, 2019  
Job Posting: Assistant Professor and Kenan Rifai Fellow in Islamic Studies

The Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position as Assistant Professor and Kenan Rifai Fellow in Islamic Studies. Research interests should include a focus on Sufism and/or Islamic spiritual traditions, but the area of specialization is open and could include gender and sexuality, critical race theory, social history, ethnography of religion, Islamic philosophy and science, foundational Islamic texts, or other specializations. We seek to complement the existing regional expertise of our current faculty, and we seek applicants who will help engender a climate that values diversity in all its forms. Candidates should demonstrate broad training in their field of expertise, the relevant linguistic competencies, a commitment to interdisciplinary work, and engagement with significant theoretical issues in the study of religion. The successful candidate will be expected to teach a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses (including introductory and upper-level courses in Islamic studies) and to contribute to the Islamic studies concentration in the Department. The successful candidate is expected to have a Ph.D. in hand by the time the appointment begins on July 1, 2020.

The application deadline is December 2, 2019. For more information, including details on how to apply, see

Posted in News & Events on September 27, 2019  
McLester Colloquium with Dr. Jon Bialecki
Dr. Jon Bialecki

Dr. Jon Bialecki


The event poster

On Wednesday, September 25, we were pleased to hear from Dr. Jon Bialecki, an Honorary Fellow of The University of Edinburgh, for our first McLester Colloquium of the academic year. He lectured on “‘All Mormons are Transhumanists’: hybridity, double captures, double slits, and arrays”. We are grateful for the opportunity to host Dr. Bialecki for this event and for the discussion that his presentation generated!

Posted in Events, Graduate Student News on September 26, 2019  
Feminisms Here and Now: Difficult Attachments (Conference)

Undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows are invited to submit abstracts to the fourth meeting of Feminisms Here and Now, an interdisciplinary conference organized by PhD students in the Departments of Communication and Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and co-sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies.

This year’s theme – “Difficult Attachments” – draws from discussions around our three prior themes, “An Interdisciplinary Conversation,” “Alongside | Across | Against,” and “Continuities and Contradictions,” by taking up the complexities of connection, wherever they may lie. Our previous meeting produced a lively conversation around the difficult attachment many of us have to the myth of scarcity, and the limited vision such an attachment can produce. This year’s theme seeks to build upon that insight and broaden its implications by exploring the notions of both difficulty and attachment through various feminist lenses, here and now.”

For the official call for papers, click here. The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2019, and participants will be notified of acceptance by October 15, 2019.

Registration is free and required in order to attend. For more information, visit the conference website.

Posted in News & Events on September 17, 2019  
Juliane Hammer: Peaceful Families

Book Cover of Peaceful Families by Juliane HammerThe latest book by Juliane Hammer, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, takes an in-depth look at how American Muslims address domestic violence within their communities. From the Princeton University Press website:

“Looking at connections among ethical practices, gender norms, and religious interpretation, Hammer demonstrates how Muslim advocates mobilize a rich religious tradition in community efforts against domestic violence, and identify religion and culture as resources or roadblocks to prevent harm and to restore family peace.”

“Drawing on her interviews with Muslim advocates, service providers, and religious leaders, Hammer paints a vivid picture of the challenges such advocacy work encounters. The insecurities of American Muslim communities facing intolerance and Islamophobia lead to additional challenges in acknowledging and confronting problems of spousal abuse, and Hammer reveals how Muslim anti–domestic violence workers combine the methods of the mainstream secular anti–domestic violence movement with Muslim perspectives and interpretations.”

Posted in Faculty Publications on September 5, 2019  
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