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McLester Colloquium with Dr. Jon Bialecki

Dr. Jon Bialecki

Dr. Jon Bialecki


The event poster

On Wednesday, September 25, we were pleased to hear from Dr. Jon Bialecki, an Honorary Fellow of The University of Edinburgh, for our first McLester Colloquium of the academic year. He lectured on “‘All Mormons are Transhumanists’: hybridity, double captures, double slits, and arrays”. We are grateful for the opportunity to host Dr. Bialecki for this event and for the discussion that his presentation generated!

Posted in Events, Graduate Student News on September 26, 2019  
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!

Posted in Graduate Student News on May 30, 2019  
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)

Posted in Faculty News, Graduate Student News on May 21, 2019  

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

Posted in Events, Graduate Student News on May 6, 2019  

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

Posted in Events, Faculty News, Graduate Student News, Undergraduate Accomplishments on April 30, 2019  

McLester Colloquium with Dr. Jeffrey Stout

On Wednesday, February 20, we were pleased to welcome Dr. Jeffrey Stout, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Princeton University, for a meeting of our McLester Colloquium. His lecture was titled “Goodness beyond Melodrama: Compassionate Awareness in Ozu’s Tokyo Story,” and explored a film by Ozu Yasuji that is regularly ranked among the greatest films of all time. In addition to being co-sponsored by the Institute for Arts and Humanities, the Carolina Asia Center, and the Departments of Asian Studies and English & Comparative Literature, this talk also served as the second lecture in the American Academy of Religion’s 2019 American Lectures in the History of Religion, in which Dr. Stout explores–through a series of five lectures in North Carolina Triangle/Triad Region–the theme of “The Cinematic Sacred.” We are grateful for the opportunity to host Dr. Stout for this event and for the discussion that his presentation generated!


The event poster


The audience in Hyde Hall

Posted in Events, Graduate Student News on February 25, 2019  

McLester Colloquium with Dr. Elizabeth Pérez

On Wednesday, January 30, our department was pleased to welcome Dr. Elizabeth Pérez as the speaker for our first McLester Colloquium of the Spring semester. Dr. Pérez, who is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, is a specialist in Afro-Diasporic and Latin American religions. Her first book, titled Religion in the Kitchen: Cooking, Talking, and the Making of Black Atlantic Traditions (New York University Press, 2016), which was based on years of ethnographic research within a Lucumí community on the South Side of Chicago, examined practices surrounding the preparation of food for the gods and spirits within these traditions, arguing that they deserve analysis as religious rituals in their own right. This book was widely acclaimed, having won both the 2017 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion and the 2018 Women’s Spirituality Book Award, as well as being a finalist for the 2017 Albert J. Raboteau Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions.

Her presentation at the McLester seminar was based on the research from this first book, and was richly illustrated with slides drawn from her ethnographic work. The lecture generated a lively and intellectually stimulating conversation afterwards. We look forward to the next McLester Colloquium!


Posted in Events, Graduate Student News on February 7, 2019  
Samah Choudhury to Attend 2019 American Examples Workshop

Samah Choudhury has been chosen as an American Examples scholar. Her dissertation delves into humor and Islam in America, specifically at how American Muslim comedians utilize humor as a mode of self-constructing and then articulating “Islam” for an American public. She is invited to attend a workshop that will culminate in a volume of papers to be submitted for publication in the NAASR Working Papers series published by Equinox.

“AE seeks scholars that see the Americas as an important site for analyzing and theorizing about religion. The study of religion in America, or American religious history, has most often sought to discover what is uniquely “American” about American religion.” -Read more about American Examples.

Congratulations, Samah!

Posted in Graduate Student News, News & Events on November 12, 2018  
Dr. Joel Baden on Bible Nation: the United States of Hobby Lobby
On Wednesday, October 24th, Dr. Joel Baden of Yale Divinity School joined us for our second McLester Seminar. He spoke about his latest book, Bible Nation: the United States of Hobby Lobby, co-authored with Dr. Candida Moss, Professor at the University of Birmingham. His talk focused on the rise of the millionaires behind Hobby Lobby, their unparalleled acquisition of biblical antiquities for their Museum of the Bible, and the role and responsibility of academics in approaching this as a subject of study. As usual, the lecture was followed by casual conversation over refreshments.

Looking forward to the next McLester Colloquium!


Posted in Events, Graduate Student News, News & Events on October 31, 2018  
Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer: From Muslim Cool to Umi’s Archive

Professor Su’ad Abdul Khabeer joined us for the the first of our McLester Colloquia for the Fall semester. Dr. Abdul Khabeer is Associate Professor of American Culture and Arab and Muslim American Studies at the University of Michigan and received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Princeton University. She is a scholar-artist-activist who uses anthropology and performance to explore the intersections of race and popular culture.

Dr. Abdul Khabeer’s  talk included both prose and performance. She explored what the Black Muslim experience – belief, cultural practice, and intellectual thought – offers theoretically, methodologically and for political praxis within and outside the academy. The talk, directed towards graduate students, focused on the evolution of her research from Muslim Cool to, and illustrated how personal family history can inform the approach to the history of Islam in America.

The lecture was thought-provoking and generated 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!



Posted in Events, Graduate Student News, News & Events on September 25, 2018  
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