Religion in the Americas

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Religion in the Americas

General Description

RiA_buttonThe field of Religion in the Americas emphasizes the multiplicity of religious traditions in the Americas and explores the links between religion and other aspects of American culture from the precolonial era to the present. Special features of the program at UNC include its close affiliations with related disciplines in the humanities and social sciences and the freedom it allows in the selection of sources and methods for the study of American religion.



Students must take the following gateway:

  • RELI 740

Approaches to the Study of Religion in the Americas Explores methods, theories, and genealogies that shape the study of religion in the Americas. The course introduces students to key historiographical contexts and theoretical debates that will help them situate the field within the discipline of Religious Studies.

Students must also take one of the following:

  • RELI 744 Religion in Colonial Americas

A study of religion in the Americas from pre-contact indigenous communities to 19th century wars of independence. The course examines cases of migration, encounter, rebellion, and institutionalization across the continent and introduces theoretical debates about colonialism, hybridity, revival, and revolution.

  • RELI 745 Religion in Postcolonial Americas

A study of religion in the Americas through the lens of post-colonialism understood as a concept, a method, and a historical period. This course introduces students to theoretical debates about power, culture, history, and representation to better understand the present and future of the field.



Each student is required to be competent in two modern research languages. These languages are commonly French and German, through other research languages can be substituted with the approval of the faculty in the field and the student’s advisor if appropriate for the student’s specific area of research.


Doctoral Examinations

Following completion of coursework, students will take four written exams. These examinations focus on religion in the United States (or, in some instances, the United States and other parts of the Americas), as follows:

  1. Field: Outlines the state of the field, providing some historical genealogy and engaging relevant approaches to the study of Religion in the Americas.
  2. Location: Examines the specific historical period and/or regional context of study and situates the location of future work.
  3. Method: Develops the particular methods and practices to be used in the dissertation (e.g. historiography, ethnography, literary, visual, cultural studies, or mixed methods).
  4. Theory: Assembles the theoretical conversations that student’s research will address and intellectual tools necessary for critical investigation.

Upon completion of the written exams, the student will take an oral examination based primarily on issues raised in the written exams.


Special Resources

Opportunities for the study of American religion here and at other institutions in central North Carolina are particularly strong.

Scholars in other Departments or programs at UNC such as Afro-American Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, English, Folklore, History, Latin American Studies, Political Science, and Sociology, regularly offer courses and participate in graduate examinations in the field.

There is a large and well-developed program in American religious history at nearby Duke University. Students at both institutions routinely enroll in each other’s graduate courses and participate in a series of jointly sponsored colloquia each semester. Read more about the collaboration between the two universities in the study of American religion.

The Southern Historical Collection, the North Carolina Historical Collection, and the folklore and ethnomusicology collections at UNC attract researchers from all parts of the nation. Specialized resources such as the Wesleyan collection at Duke, the Primitive Baptist collection at Elon College, the Friends collection at Guilford College, and the Southern Baptist collections at Wake Forest and at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, are easily accessible.



Core Faculty

Associated Faculty

Affiliated Faculty


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