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

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.

Update (June 6): 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!

Encountering Nepal’s Sacred Sites through 3D Models

In summer 2018, Prof. Lauren Leve won a CFE/Lenovo Instructional Innovation Grant from the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence to develop digital tools for visualizing sacred sites in Nepal, with the assistance of PhD candidate Brad Erickson. The goal was to enable students to explore, as authentically as possible, the wonder and beauty of these sites even if they were not able to visit them in person. Recently, they were featured on the Lenovo Story Hub for this work, which involved a five-day training session on photogrammetry and virtual reality techniques held in Kathmandu, with participants that included a wide variety of Nepali professionals interested in cultural preservation.

For the full story, see here.

To view Brad’s 3D models of the Swayambhunath site in Kathmandu (and of many other objects and sites), click here.


Prof. Leve with camera equipment at Swayambhunath


The photogrammetry and VR modeling workshop (with Brad Erickson, top right)

Congratulations, 2019 Graduates!

2019 RELI Grads

Despite an earlier forecast of thunderstorms, the weather held up long enough for us to conduct our departmental ceremony for graduating seniors at the steps of Carolina Hall!

We are so proud of all the graduates of our Religious Studies program, who have impressed us in countless ways both in and outside the classroom. We congratulate you on this joyous day, and it was especially wonderful to be able to share part of it with your family and friends. We wish you every success in your paths ahead!

Immanent Frame Forum on Divine Motherhood by Prof. Juliane Hammer

presentationFollowing on last year’s Immanent Frame forum on divine fatherhood, Prof. Juliane Hammer, along with Prof. Vincent Lloyd of Villanova University, have co-curated a new online forum on divine motherhood that will be published over the coming weeks. From the introduction to the new forum:

What if God is not Father but Mother, or both? What if God is not even a parental figure at all?… Rather than posing a straightforward answer to Mary Daly’s implicit question of what lies beyond God the Father, perhaps the most generative way of engaging with divine motherhood is to ask how it might invite us to fundamentally alter what we mean by motherhood and what we mean by divinity.

For the main page of the forum, see here, where newly published pieces will appear in the weeks ahead.

You can also read the Introduction to the forum and the first contribution, “Must a female God mother?”, by Rebecca Todd Peters.

McLester Colloquium with Dr. Rebecca Anne Goetz

On Wednesday, April 24, our department held its last McLester Colloquium of the academic year. The speaker was Dr. Rebecca Anne Goetz, Associate Professor of History at NYU and a current fellow at the National Humanities Center, who lectured on “‘The Unbridled Greed of the Conquistadors’: Native Enslavement in the Southern Caribbean, 1498-1545.” The meeting capped off a wonderful series of McLester lectures in 2018-19, and we are already looking forward to next year!


Rebecca Anne Goetz


The audience in the Anne Queen Lounge

Departmental Honors Event and Awards Ceremony

On Wednesday, April 17, our department held two events celebrating the achievements of our students and faculty.

The first was an Honors Event that recognized the undergraduate students who completed a Senior Honors Thesis this year as well as those seniors whose academic excellence was sufficient to earn membership into Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honors Society for students in the fields of religious studies and theology. The Honors Thesis writers each gave a description of their research, while the Theta Alpha Kappa inductees received certificates, pins, and cords to mark their achievement.


Students describing their honors theses: Kristen Roehrig, Brodie Heginbotham, and Ashley Cantu


The presentation of certificates, pins, and cords

The second was our annual Awards Ceremony, in which we acknowledged the various achievements of our undergraduates, graduate students, as well as faculty. This year we had a number of honored guests, including former faculty members in our department, who joined to add special meaning to the ceremony. A great time was had by all.


Our department chair, Barbara Ambros, welcoming everyone


Display table with memorabilia


Time of refreshments afterwards