Dr. Youssef Carter Joins the Department as Assistant Professor

The Department of Religious Studies is delighted to welcome Dr. Youssef Carter to the faculty as Assistant Professor and Kenan Rifai Fellow in Islamic Studies. Dr. Carter holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California-Berkeley and is an expert in Sufism and Islam in West Africa and the United States. His book in progress, “The Vast Oceans: Remembering God and Self on the Mustafawi Sufi Path,” examines the discourses and practices of a transatlantic Sufi spiritual network through detailed ethnographic work. Dr. Carter was previously awarded a College Postdoctoral Fellowship from Harvard University, where he also received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. This coming Fall semester, Dr. Carter will be teaching the course RELI 580, “African-American Islam.”

Please join us in welcoming Youssef to the department!

RELI Undergraduate Awards for 2020

Our department is pleased to announce the following undergraduate awards for 2020:

Alexandra Barnes has been chosen as the recipient of the Bernard Boyd Memorial Prize in Religious Studies, which is a $500 award given annually for academic achievement by a senior religious studies major or double major. Alexandra is a double major in Religious Studies and History (with a concentration in US history) who intends to complete a gap-year internship after graduation with the chaplains at the hospice house in her hometown. She is also considering pursuing further education in religious studies at a divinity school.

Quinn Eury and Olivia Giroux are co-recipients of the Halperin-Schütz Undergraduate Essay Award. This essay competition recognizes outstanding undergraduate scholarship in the study of religion, as evidenced by a paper written in a Religious Studies or Jewish Studies class, or by a part of a senior honors thesis. It also comes with a monetary prize.

Quinn Eury (essay title: “Transgressive Gendered Behavior and the Stability of Ma’at”) is a senior Archaeology and Anthropology double major whose main interests include zooarchaeology, conflict archaeology, and houseplants. Olivia Giroux (essay title: “A Broken System: Redefining Mental Healthcare for Muslim Women in America”) is a junior and a double major in Biology and Religious Studies; her areas of interest range from ancient religions to the intersection of science and religion in the modern world.

While we are disappointed that we will not be able to hold our usual awards ceremony this year, we are keeping open the possibility of recognizing these students at a future event. We extend them our warmest congratulations!

Dr. Charles H. Long (1926-2020)

Last month, we mourned the passing of a former faculty member in our department, Dr. Charles H. Long, who taught at Carolina from 1974 to 1987 as the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor in Religious Studies. In addition to UNC, Dr. Long also taught at the University of Chicago, Syracuse University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies. He served as the president of the American Academy of Religion in 1973.

An obituary, posted on the American Academy of Religion website, can be viewed here.

We post here a link to a lecture that Dr. Long gave in 2013 on “America and the Academic Study of Religion: Hermeneutics and Method,” which provides a glimpse of his work and approach (the lecture begins at 5:35 of the video):

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.

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 https://unc.peopleadmin.com/postings/169864.

New Fall Courses

The following Fall 2019 courses were added or confirmed over the summer, and remain open for registration. Feel free to contact the instructor (see email contact on the poster) for more information about each course:

RELI 240: Religion, Literature, and the Arts in America (Isaiah Ellis)
RELI 340: Liberal Tradition in American Religion (Brook Wilensky-Lanford)
RELI 345: Black Atlantic Religions (Alejandro Escalante)
RELI 480: Modern Muslim Literatures (Samah Choudhury)


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.

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.

The IAH has also created a special page as a tribute to Prof. Tyson here.

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!