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Alumni News

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New Book by Travis W. Proctor (PhD 2017)

Travis W. Proctor, a 2017 PhD graduate of our department, has recently published his first book, Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture:

Drawing insights from gender studies and the environmental humanities, Demonic Bodies analyzes how ancient Christians constructed the Christian body through its relations to demonic adversaries. Case studies on New Testament texts, early Christian church fathers, and “Gnostic” writings trace how early followers of Jesus construed the demonic body in diverse and sometimes contradictory ways, as both embodied and bodiless, “fattened” and ethereal, heavenly and earthbound. Across this diversity of portrayals, however, demons consistently functioned as personifications of “deviant” bodily practices such as “magical” rituals, immoral sexual acts, gluttony, and “pagan” religious practices. This demonization served an exclusionary function where by Christian writers marginalized fringe Christian groups by linking their ritual activities to demonic modes of (dis)embodiment. Demonic Bodies demonstrates, therefore, that the formation of early Christian cultures was part of the shaping of broader Christian “ecosystems,” which in turn informed Christian experiences of their own embodiment and community.

About the Author:

Travis W. Proctor is Assistant Professor of Religion at Wittenberg University. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Ancient Mediterranean Religions from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research has appeared in the Journal of Early Christian Studies, Harvard Theological Review, Studies in Late Antiquity, and Journal of Ecclesiastical History, as well as public venues including Religion Dispatches, The Bart Ehrman Blog, and the “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” podcast.

Posted in Alumni News, News & Events on May 18, 2022  
Kathryn Lofton (PhD 2005) named Dean of the Humanities at Yale University

Dr. Kathryn Lofton (PhD 2005), a leading scholar of religion in contemporary culture and a graduate of our PhD program in American religions, has recently been appointed Dean of the Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale University for an additional four years through June 2024, after serving as Acting Dean for the 2019-20 academic year. She has taught at Yale since 2009 and currently holds the position of Professor of Religious Studies, American Studies, History, and Divinity.

Dr. Lofton served as the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony keynote speaker here at Carolina in 2018. A video of her address can be viewed here.

We congratulate Katie on this tremendous honor, and look forward to the important work she will do in this new role in advancing the study of the humanities at Yale and beyond.

Posted in Alumni News on February 19, 2020  
Travis Proctor (PhD 2017) Wins Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award

Travis Proctor (PhD 2017) has won the 2020 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise for his dissertation ‘Rulers of the Air: Demonic Bodies and the Making of the Ancient Christian Cosmos’. The Lautenschlaeger Award is awarded to ten scholars each year for an outstanding doctoral dissertation or first book in the fields of religious and theological studies, and comes with a monetary prize. As he describes the award-winning work:

“My dissertation project addressed a significant yet under-explored aspect of Christian spirituality: the impact of nonhuman malevolent entities (i.e., demons, evil spirits) on the ritual performance and embodiment of Christian piety. First, I demonstrated how early Christian authors (ca. 50-300 CE) formulated their conceptions of the divine and humanity in tandem with their constructions of their malevolent adversaries. Second, I examined how these conceptions informed Christian ritual practice (e.g., exorcism, baptism, ritual contemplation). In this way, my project traced the ways in which early Christian theologies and demonologies materialized through specific ritual repertoires, and thus had a significant impact on Christian theology and spirituality.”

Travis is currently an Assistant Professor of Religion at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. Congratulations, Travis!

Posted in Alumni News on January 15, 2020  
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  
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  
Zara: A show by Andrew Aghapour (PhD 2017)

Andrew Aghapour, a graduate of our department (PhD 2017) with a creative background in comedy, improv, and storytelling in addition to his academic work, has developed a one person show called Zara that he will be performing at a series of events in Chapel Hill this spring. From the show’s website:

Zara is a one person show about race, religion, and identity in the American South. Andrew Aghapour was raised by immigrant parents in a multi-racial and multi-religious household. Zara is a comedic account of an anxious, asthmatic Muslim kid’s search for meaning and the chance encounters that impacted him, including a friendship with the man who mugged him and a love affair with marijuana. Drawing on personal stories, philosophy, and the history of monotheism, Zara is a story about how identity is inherited and remade in 21st-century America.

For a detailed schedule of the events at UNC, including both performances and workshops, see here.


Posted in Alumni News, Events on March 5, 2019  
Anne Blankenship (PhD 2012) as a 2019 Young Scholar in American Religion

BlankenshipAnne Blankenship, Assistant Professor of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at North Dakota State University and a graduate of UNC’s PhD program in Religious Studies, has been selected as part of the 2019 cohort of the Young Scholars in American Religion.

This program, which is based at the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture at Indiana University and is supported by the Lilly Endowment, “assists… early career scholars in the improvement of their teaching and research and in the development of professional communities.” It also “includes a seminar devoted to such other professional issues as constructing a tenure portfolio, publication, grant writing, and department politics.”

We congratulate Anne on this honor, and we trust it will enable her to attain new heights in her teaching and research.

Posted in Alumni News on January 25, 2019  
Isaac Weiner and Amy DeRogatis awarded Luce Foundation Grant for American Religious Sounds Project

Amy DeRogatis (PhD UNC 1998), Professor of Religious Studies at Michigan State University, and Isaac Weiner (PhD UNC 2009), Associate Professor of Comparative Studies and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at The Ohio State University, have been awarded a three year, $750,000 grant issued by The Henry Luce Foundation’s Theology Program for the American Religious Sounds Project.

The ARSP is a multiyear, collaborative initiative co-directored by Weiner and DeRogatis. The project aims to study religious diversity by documenting and interpreting the auditory cultures of the various religions in the United States. The project has grown since its first developments aided by a 2015 grant awarded by Humanities Without Walls. This new grant will allow geographic expansion, long-term preservation and accessibility, interpretive scholarship, and community engagement.

Congratulations, Amy and Isaac!

Posted in Alumni News, News & Events on October 1, 2018  
Sacred Writes, Directed by Megan Goodwin, receives Henry Luce Foundation Grant
Sacred-Writes Megan Goodwin (PhD UNC 2014), Visiting Lecturer of Philosophy and Religion at Northeastern University, has been named Director of Sacred Writes at Northeastern University, a project committed to amplifying the voices of experts who often go unheard in public discourse.

Sacred Writes is a four-year project funded by the LUCE foundation’s Theology Program, geared toward the advancement of public scholarship on religion and theology. Sacred Writes is one of seven programs to receive 2018 grants through the Theology Program.

Congratulations, Megan!


Posted in Alumni News, News & Events on August 24, 2018  
New Book by Calvin Lane (UNC 2002)

Calvin Lane (UNC 2002) has published Spirituality and Reform: Christianity in the West, ca1000-1800 (Lexington / Fortress).

From the Lexington/ Fortress Press Website:

“In colorful detail, Calvin Lane explores the dynamic intersection between reform movements and everyday Christian practice from ca. 1000 to ca. 1800. Lowering the artificial boundaries between “the Middle Ages,” “the Reformation,” and “the Enlightenment,” Lane brings to life a series of reform programs each of which developed new sensibilities about what it meant to live the Christian life. Along this tour, Lane discusses music, art, pilgrimage, relics, architecture, heresy, martyrdom, patterns of personal prayer, changes in marriage and family life, connections between church bodies and governing authorities, and certainly worship. The thread that he finds running from the Benedictine revival in the eleventh century to the pietistic movements of the eighteenth is a passionate desire to return to a primitive era of Christianity, a time of imagined apostolic authenticity, even purity. In accessible language, he introduces readers to Cistercians and Calvinists, Franciscans and Jesuits, Lutherans and Jansenists, Moravians and Methodists to name but a few of the many reform movements studied in this book. Although Lane highlights their diversity, he argues that each movement rooted its characteristic practice – their spirituality – in an imaginative recovery of the apostolic life.”

Dr. Lane is currently an adjunct professor in history at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio as well as an affiliate professor at an Episcopal seminary in Wisconsin, Nashotah House.

Congratulations, Calvin!

Posted in Alumni News on August 12, 2018  
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