Ph.D. Job Candidates
Laura Dingeldein, Ph.D. Candidate
Laura is a sixth year Ph.D. candidate studying the history of ancient Mediterranean Christianity from its beginnings in the first century C.E. through its imperial acceptance in the fourth century. She received a B.A. in Religious Studies and Graphic Design from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2006) and a M.A. in Religion from Duke University (2008).
In Laura’s dissertation, “Gaining Virtue, Gaining Christ: Paul and Moral Development in Early Christianity,” she examines the process of moral development that Paul, a first-century Jew and author of several New Testament letters, envisions non-Jewish Christ followers undergoing. Though many scholars over the past generation have claimed that Paul conceives of Christ followers participating in a thoroughly egalitarian community, Laura demonstrates that Paul conceives of a community wherein some Christ followers are more advanced in virtue and wisdom than others. Moreover, against those scholars who think Paul, a Jew, incapable of using Greek and Roman philosophical concepts, Laura argues that Paul’s program of moral progress has much in common with the ethical systems of ancient philosophers, particularly the so-called Middle Platonists.
Laura’s main research interests, broadly conceived, are the normalization of Paul’s thought through historical contextualization and the intersection between philosophy and religion in antiquity. Her teaching interests include, but are not limited to: New Testament and early Christian literature, Pauline studies, ancient Mediterranean religions and philosophy, late antique Christianity, gender and women in religion, and theories and methods in the study of religion.
Niki Kasumi Clements, PhD Candidate
Niki is a sixth year Ph.D. candidate in Religion and Critical Thought, bridging contemporary religious ethics and historical-textual work in late antique Christianity. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a concentration in Philosophy (2003) and from Harvard Divinity School with a Masters in Theological Studies (2007). Niki is a Wheaton/Brown Faculty Fellow for 2013-2014 and will teach "Demons, Melancholia, and Madness" at Wheaton College this spring.
Niki's teaching and research interests focus on ethical formation and conceptions of the human person in both Christian thought and modern philosophical discourses. How do Christian traditions historically define the person, and what roles do consciousness, embodiment, and affectivity play in the definitions of personhood? How do religious movements affirm the centrality of bodily practices, textual traditions, the cultivation of emotions and human inter-relationality?
Niki's dissertation, "'Inflamed by Daily Practices': John Cassian and Embodied Ethics," explores these questions through the first comprehensive treatment of the ethical thought of John Cassian (c.365-c.433), a late antique Catholic architect of Latin monasticism and contemporary of Augustine of Hippo. Her research also pursues a transdisciplinary approach with cognitive neuroscience to argue that ethical formation integrates (as opposed to dualizes) the body, emotions, and mind; a framing established in a summer fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She is broadly interested in how contributions from neuroscience, moral psychology, and social-scientific theory can complement philosophical and religious understandings of the human person, and vice versa.
Rebecca Falcasantos, PhD Candidate
Rebecca is a Ph.D. candidate in the Early Christianity program. She graduated from Creighton University in 2002, with a Classical Bachelor of Arts and a double major in Theology and Greek. She earned her Master of Arts in Early Christian Studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2005, and entered her doctoral program at Brown in 2009. During the summer of 2010, she attended the Summer School in Byzantine Greek at Dumbarton Oaks. Rebecca's primary field is Christianity in Late Antiquity and Early Byzantium, and her research broadly focuses on the formulation of Christian identity and contestations over cultural hegemony in the Eastern Empire. She is particularly interested in issues of religious diversity and strategies used in the promulgation of a normative Christian cultural identity, including homiletics, hymnography, architectural programs, ritual life, and material-oriented practice. She is also interested in the role of memory and topography in the creation of Christian landscapes.
Rebecca's dissertation examines public ritual life in Constantinople during the fourth and fifth centuries C.E. and its role in contributing an aura of legitimacy for Christianity in the developing imperial capital. She argues that public engagement with ritual was crucial in shaping Constantinopolitan civic, imperial, and religious identity and that control over the city's cultic frameworks and space was vital for asserting Nicene Christianity as the religion of Constantinople, and, by virtue of its close association with the emperor-in-residence, of the empire as a whole.
Andrew Tobolowsky, Ph.D. Candidate
Andrew Tobolowsky is a fifth year PhD candidate in the Religious Studies department, focusing primarily on Biblical studies with a strong secondary focus in Classics covering, roughly, the Iron and Archaic ages respectively. He has a B.A in Religious Studies from Brown University, an M.Phil in English Literature from Trinity College, Dublin and an M.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University. His work focuses on myth and the construction of various forms of identity from a broadly comparative Mediterranean perspective, and his dissertation is an investigation into myth genealogies and their role in constructing ethnicity and identity in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE. He is additionally interested in ethnicity studies, myth theory, folklore, and methods of narrative transmission in the ancient Mediterranean, as well as Northwest Semitic languages and literature and Eastern Mediterranean archaeology.
Stephen Young, Ph.D. Candidate
Stephen is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University and the recipient of the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fellowship for 2013-14. He studies religion in the ancient Mediterranean, focusing specifically on Judaism in the Hellenistic through early Roman Imperial periods and Christianity in the first through third centuries. He received a B.A. in Ancient History and English Literature from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in 2004, and graduated with a MAR in Biblical Studies and Th.M. in Hebrew Bible from Westminster Theological Seminary in 2008.
Stephen’s dissertation, “Paul the Apostle, the Mythmaker: Innovative Reuse of Recognizable Myths to Explain his Christ-Cult to Gentiles,” pursues his Hellenistic and post-Hellenistic period interests in sacred books and mythmaking religious specialists who, in varying ways, used sacred books. It explores Paul within the landscape of mythmaking religious and philosophical specialists, arguing that we can understand many of Paul’s claims about Christ, Gentiles, the founding of his Christ-cult, sin, and the afterlife in terms of Paul innovatively reusing myths and mythic themes that were familiar to his Greco-Roman audiences, and, furthermore, that Paul drew upon Judean sacred writings in the light of these myths. Paul’s audiences would have recognized him as one among many religious gurus in their world who explained and authorized their cultic options through such reuse of known myths and associated interpretive activity involving sacred books.
Stephen’s areas of teaching competence include New Testament and other First through Third century Christian literature, Hellenistic and early Roman Imperial period Judaism, Hebrew Bible, Greco-Roman Religion and Philosophy, Theories of Religion, and the History and Ideologies of Biblical Interpretation.