Sex, Gender, and Religion in South Asia (Spring 2018 Course)

Another Spring 2018 course we would like to feature is RELI 482, Sex, Gender, and Religion in South Asia, taught by Professor Harshita Kamath. See the video below for a description of the course:

Two of the theoretical works mentioned in the video can be previewed in the links below:
Gender Trouble, by Judith Butler
The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, by Michel Foucault

For more course introduction videos, see here.

Katie Merriman Featured on NBC Asian America

Katie Merriman, a Ph.D. candidate in Islamic Studies in our department, is the founder of Muslim History Tours NYC, a walking tour of Harlem, New York covering important locations related to Muslim history in the city. (This was previously covered on our website here.)

Katie was just featured in a video on NBC discussing the tour:

The video can also be found here. Wonderful work, Katie!

New Book by Joanne Seiff (M.A., 2001)

SeiffJoanne Seiff (M.A., 2001), a product of our graduate program in Religious Studies, is now a writer based in Winnipeg, Canada, whose opinion pieces appear on the CBC website. Her work on topics in Jewish Studies have also appeared in the Jewish Post & News as well as the Vancouver Jewish Independent. She recently published a book, titled From the Outside In, consisting of a collection of her newspaper columns. A helpful review of the book has recently appeared here. From the review (by Cynthia Ramsay):

“Two things will immediately strike readers of From the Outside In: Jewish Post & News Columns, 2015-2016 by Joanne Seiff – Seiff’s knowledge of Judaism and her empathy. She really knows her Jewish texts, as well as a thing or two about human nature. Yet, she doesn’t criticize from on high. She’s right in there in the muck, so to speak, not just making suggestions for others to carry out, but trying to play a positive role herself in whatever transformations she thinks might engage more Jews in Judaism and in community. Her heart is in the right place, and it shows.”

To read more of Joanne’s writing, see her blog here. For more on the book, click here.

Congratulations, Joanne!

Catholicism Today: Introduction to Contemporary Catholicism (Spring 2018 Course)

We are pleased to unveil a new feature on our website: course introduction videos! These videos are meant to give students a more personal introduction to some of our upcoming courses through the voices of our professors. Watch for these videos on the homepage of our website in the coming weeks, as Spring 2018 registration approaches.

The first course we would like to highlight is RELI 162, Catholicism Today: Introduction to Contemporary Catholicism. Click the video below for a description of the course from Professor Evyatar Marienberg:

For more course introduction videos, see here.

Departmental Statement on Silent Sam

Statement by the UNC Chapel Hill Department of Religious Studies concerning “Silent Sam”
October 4, 2017

It is impossible to study religion without recognizing the importance of cultural, social, and political diversity, the enormous power of material objects, and the profound ways in which the past pervades the present. The Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” exerts the ongoing power of white supremacy on our campus. As religious studies scholars, we are particularly aware that it was erected as an icon of social inequity and that white nationalist groups today have invested its presence on campus with sacred value.

In his 1913 speech dedicating the statue, Julian S. Carr celebrated the “sacrifice” of Confederate soldiers, the purity of “the Anglo Saxon” as a “Christian race,” and God’s providential blessing of the southern states in order to sanctify racial violence, a violence that continues today against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. “Silent Sam” still enjoys the privilege of sacred space on this campus, not only raised high but also guarded by cameras, police, and sometimes barricades. Allowing this statue to remain in McCorkle Place contradicts the university’s policy on non-discrimination, which states that “The University is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment.”

In her August 30th, 2017 email, Chancellor Carol Folt called on the campus community to “promote robust dialogue and debate” in an effort to encourage and protect free speech. In order to demonstrate its sincere commitment to the freedom of expression, the University must end its policies curtailing student activism around the statue and throughout the campus. Their material, embodied, and creative counter-narratives provide a vital service in challenging the legacy and ongoing threat of white supremacy.

The Department of Religious Studies calls for the removal of “Silent Sam” from McCorkle Place and the full protection of the student activists’ freedom of political expression.

Dr. Kent Brintnall at the McLester Colloquium

BrintnallLast Wednesday, September 27, Dr. Kent Brintnall of UNC-Charlotte joined us for the first of our McLester Colloquia for the academic year. At Charlotte, Dr. Brintnall is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies as well as the Director of the Graduate Certificate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. This event was co-sponsored by the Program in Sexuality Studies here at UNC-Chapel Hill.

In a lecture titled “‘Forgetting Freud’: The Drive for Religion,” Brintnall offered a creative exploration of the development of Freud’s thought, drawing implications for contemporary understandings of religion. The lecture was thought-provoking and generated many questions and responses from the faculty and graduate students present. As usual, the lecture was followed by a time of casual conversation over refreshments.

Looking forward to the next McLester Colloquium!

Translating Islam: A Conference in Honor of Carl Ernst (Oct 6-7)

ErnstProfessor Carl Ernst, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor in Religious Studies, has devoted his academic life to translating Islam, linguistically and culturally. From his first book, Words of Ecstasy in Sufism (1985), to his most recent book, co-edited with Fabrizio Speziale, Perso-Indica: An Analytical Survey of Persian Works on Indian Learned Traditions (2017), he has focused on how Islamic concepts have traveled across time and space. This conference, organized around themes in Islamic studies that Ernst’s work has addressed, evokes and expands on the major contributions of this fertile, creative translator of texts, ideas, and traditions within the orb of Islam.

The conference will take place October 6-7, 2017 at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Downtown Chapel Hill/Carrboro (370 E. Main Street, Carrboro, NC 27510).

For more information, including registration and schedule, consult the conference website here.

Nag Hammadi Conference and David Brakke Keynote Lecture (Oct 6)

BrakkeOn October 5-7, UNC-Chapel Hill will host the Annual Meeting of the Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism Network, a group devoted to the study of the Coptic treatises of the Nag Hammadi Codices found in 1945 as well as other Coptic literature. As part of this conference, on Friday, October 6th, Professor David Brakke (Ohio State University) will deliver a keynote address entitled, “The Gnostic Origins of Christian Biblical Interpretation: From Gospel to Commentary.” All are invited to attend this event (Howell Hall 115, 4pm).

David Brakke is an expert on the history and literature of ancient Christianity who has authored or edited twelve books as well as written over 40 peer-reviewed articles and books chapters within the field of late ancient studies. From 2005 to 2015 Dr. Brakke served as editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies. He is now the president of the International Association for Coptic Studies and a member of the Board of Consultants of the Journal of Religion.

For a poster of the keynote event, click here.

Brandi Denison’s New Book

Denison bookBrandi Denison, a PhD graduate of our department (2011) and an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of North Florida, has just published a book titled Ute Land Religion in the American West, 1879–2009 (University of Nebraska Press, 2017). From the University of Nebraska Press website:

Ute Land Religion in the American West, 1879–2009 is a narrative of American religion and how it intersected with land in the American West. Prior to 1881, Utes lived on the largest reservation in North America—twelve million acres of western Colorado. Brandi Denison takes a broad look at the Ute land dispossession and resistance to disenfranchisement by tracing the shifting cultural meaning of dirt, a physical thing, into land, an abstract idea. This shift was made possible through the development and deployment of an idealized American religion based on Enlightenment ideals of individualism, Victorian sensibilities about the female body, and an emerging respect for diversity and commitment to religious pluralism that was wholly dependent on a separation of economics from religion.

“As the narrative unfolds, Denison shows how Utes and their Anglo-American allies worked together to systematize a religion out of existing ceremonial practices, anthropological observations, and Euro-American ideals of nature. A variety of societies then used religious beliefs and practices to give meaning to the land, which in turn shaped inhabitants’ perception of an exclusive American religion. Ultimately, this movement from the tangible to the abstract demonstrates the development of a normative American religion, one that excludes minorities even as they are the source of the idealized expression.”

Congratulations, Brandi!