Graduate Students

About our Graduate Students 

Sarah Berns
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean 

Sarah is a third-year RAM student, focusing on the religions of ancient Israel and Canaan.  She received a B.A. in Religious Studies from Smith College in 2010 and an MTS in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Harvard Divinity School in 2013, and has excavated at Tel Megiddo.  Her research focuses on situating religious practices and texts in relation to everyday life in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean.  She is particularly interested in households and work sites as centers of religious action and identity.  Her methodological interests include comparative Semitic philology, archaeology, art history, and theories of practice.

 

Anna Bialek
Religion and Critical Thought

Anna BialekAnna Bialek

Anna entered the Religion and Critical Thought program in 2009 after graduating with an A. B. (summa cum laude) in Religion from Princeton University.  She is interested in practices of valuing and perceiving value in relations of love, care, protection, and the recognition of fragility.  Her current work focuses on love and vulnerability in Christian ethics, analytic philsophy, and feminist ethics, examining the construal and misconstrual of value in these discussions and its ethical and political significance.  More broadly, her interests include contemporary religious ethics, modern Western religious thought, feminist ethics, moral psychology, and philosophies of beauty.  Anna is a recipient of the Chancellor Thomas A. Tisch Fellowship for Graduate Studies, the Pembroke Fellowship, and Brown University's Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Her dissertation research is supported by an American Fellowship from the American Association of University Women.  In 2014-15, she will also serve as a fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities at Brown.

Elizabeth Cecil
Asian Religious Traditions 

http://www.eacecil.com/

Elizabeth is a Ph.D. candidate in the South Asian Religions Program.  She received a B.A. with High Distinction in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Hastings College in 2005, and an M.A. in Religious Studies and Sanskrit from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2008.  Elizabeth's dissertation, "Mapping a Contested Landscape: Religion, Politics, and Place in the making of Pashupata Identity," investigates the growth of the earliest Shaiva devotional movement (i.e. the Pashupatas) in the early medieval northwest India.  Through an interdisciplinary approach that unites philological work on Sanskrit manuscripts and inscriptions with the study of material culture, her research explores the use of sanctified spaces to articulate a Shaiva identity grounded in site-specific religious practices.

From August 2011 -May 2013 Elizabeth was a visiting Research Fellow in the Institute of Indian Studies at the Univeristy of Groningen in The Netherlands where she joined an international team of scholars in the editing and analysis of the Skandapurana, a recently recovered Sanskrit text preserved in the 9th century palm-leaf manuscripts.  As part of the Skandapurana research team, she also conducted fieldwork at temple sites throughout north India and assisted with archeological survey in Maharashtra.  Elizabeth is currently completing her dissertation fieldwork in India with the support of Mellon Dissertation Research Fellowships from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).

Elizabeth's teaching and research interests include Indian devotional movements, Sanskrit narrative literature, Indian epigraphy, the material culture and heritage of India, and practices of pilgrimage in South Asia.  She is also competent to teach courses on Theory and Method in Religious Studies and the History of World Religions.  In Spring 2015, Elizabeth will teach a course at Brown that explores the history and use of images in Indian religions. 

Chris DiBona
Religion and Critical Thought 

Larson DiFiori
Asian Religious Traditions

Reyhan Durmaz
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean 

Reyhan is a student of Late Antiquity and Syriac Christianity.  She received an M.A. in Anatolian-Civilizations and Cultural Heritage Management from Koc Univeristy (Istanbul) in 2010, specializing in the ecclesiastical architecture of the Syrian Orthodox Church.  She received a second M.A. in Medieval Studies from Central European University (Budapest) in 2012; in her CEU thesis she analyzed a group of saints' lives from Tur 'Abdin, focusing on their thematic foci and perceptions of sacred space.  In addition to monasticism and hagiography of the Syriac Church, she studies the dialogue between the hagiographical traditions of Christianity and Islam.  She is a dedicated student and friend of the Suryoye in Tur 'Abdin, and a devout lover of Istanbul.  

 

Nicholas Friesner
Religion and Critical Thought 

Nicholas received an A.B. in Philosophy from Brown in 2006, and a M.A.R. in Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology from Yale Divinity School in 2011.  His current work focuses on the efforts of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists to articulate a progressive understanding of religion, and how their thinking can contribute to conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and ethics.  His work also explores how traditions in American religious thought are related to broader narratives of Western religious thought, and how the American tradition can contribute to contemporary discussions on the future of philosophy of religion, environmental ethics, and how to theorize religion.  

Alexis Glenn
Religion and Critical Thought 

Alexis is a second-year RCT student, entering the program after earning a dual B.A. in Religious Studies and Anthropology from the Univeresity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008, and an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 2012.  Her primary interests lie at the intersection of Aristotelian moral philosophy, early modern Anglo-American ethical traditions, and constructions of the self within historical texts.  Her current work focuses on issues of ethical formation, moral anthropology, and the conceptual roles of 'tradition' and 'history' within early modern Western philosophical thought.  Her broad research interests include late medieval and early modern English and colonial American history, Aristotelian virtue, ethics and its commentators, democratic theory, and political theology.  

Samuel Goldstein
Asian Religious Traditions 

Nechama Juni
Religion and Critical Thought 

Robert Kashow
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

Caroline Kory

Religion and Critical Thought 

David Le
Religion and Critical Thought 

David entered the Religion and Critical Thought program in 2010.  He received a BA with honors in Religion from Vassar College in 2007.  In 2008, he conducted a Fulbright research project in Hanoi, Vietnam on state monumentality, civil religion, and national identity in a postcolonial context.  His current work focuses on Hegel, secularism, and determination of the sacred within a contemporary American frame.  His research interests are in philosophy of religion and visual and material culture in the study of religion.

Megan K. McBride
Religion and Critical Thought 

Megan entered the RCT program in 2011.  She received a B.A. in Psychology from Drew University in 2000, an M.A. in Liberal Arts from the Great Books program at St. John's College in 2004, and an M.A. in Government from John Hopkins University in 2010.  She is principally interested in the relationship between religion and contemporary terrorism.  Her work focuses the agency of individuals committing acts of terrorism, and the relationship between religious and political discourses.

Caleb Murray
Religion and Critical Thought

Caleb Murray is a first-year student in Religion and Critical Thought.  He graduated from Wittenberg University with a B.A. in English and received an M.T.S. in Religioun, Literature and Culture from Harvard University before joing the graduate community at Brown.  Caleb is interested in conceptions of the reader/self in Narrative Ethics and the compositional norms of secular and sacred texts; this interest partially manifests as a theological and philosophical investigation of the "theory" of the "literary" and a literary assessmnet of the "theological" and  "philosophical." Caleb's current research lies at the intersection of twentieth century critical theory, continental philosophy, literary theory and Christian theology.

 Michael Payne

Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean 

Daniel Picus
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean

Daniel PicusDaniel PicusBA Macalaster College (Classics, magna cum laude); MSt Oxford (Jewish Studies in the Greco-Roman Period, with distinction)

Daniel is a fourth year in the Department of Religious Studies.  He is broadly interested in religion in Late Antiquity, specializing in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.  Though he focuses particularly in the Rabbinic period between Byzantine Palestine and the Sassanian Empire, his interests extend to Syriac, Greek, and Latin sources.  He is interested in the way religion and the idea of learning, education, or paideia relate to each other in this period, particularly in the embodied practice of reading.  Daniel will be spending the 2014-15 academic year in Rome, as the Resident Instructor at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome.  

Kerry Sonia
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean

Kerry SoniaKerry SoniaKerry is a fifth year in the RAM program, focusing on the religion of ancient Israel in its ancient West Asian context.

She received an A.B. in Religious Studies from Brown (2007) and an M.T.S. in Hebrew Bible from Harvard Divinity School (2009). Her research interests include ancient historiography, comparative Semitic philology, theories of sacrifice, and ancient conceptions of death and afterlife. She is particularly interested in reconstructions of Israelite ancestor cult and its relationship to the Jerusalem Temple. Her current research examines this relationship in light of recent theoretical work on family religion and the dynamics of cultic competition in ancient West Asia and the Mediterranean. 

Jonathan Sozek
Religion and Critical Thought

Jon received a B.A. in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 2003, then went on to complete an M.A. (honours) in religious studies at McGill University in 2006 with a thesis on Richard Rorty's and Charles Taylor's critiques of modern epistemology, focusing on the relation between these critiques and Rorty's and Taylor's very different attitudes toward religion.  After working for several years in secondary education, Jon moved to Belgium to complete a second B.A. (2009) and M.A. (2010) in philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.  His thesis in Leuven examined the recently published correspondence between Hans Blumenberg and Carl Schmitt in light of their differing conceptions of secularization and of the political function of myth in the modern period.  Jon's ongoing research interests include the conceptual histories of 'religion' and 'the secular' and of their relation, modern theories of myth and the politics of mythmaking (as in Sorel, Cassirer, Blumenberg), political theology (as in Schmitt, Mililbank, Kahn) and critical theory (Benjamin, Agamben).   

Adrien Stoloff

Adrien StoloffAdrien Stoloff
Asian Religious Traditions 

Adrien Stoloff is a fourth-year Ph.D. student focusing on early Daoism in the Warring States period and the Early Han Dynasty.  He received a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John's College (Annapolis) and an M.A. from Columbia University in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a specialization in East Asian Religion and Philosopy.  Adrien is interested in Daoist body cultivation practices, particularly meditation practices in early Daoist texts such as the Neiye and the Zhuangzi.  He has studied Mandarin Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University through the Taiwan Ministry of Education's Huayu Enrichment Scholarship and at Sichuan University through the U.S. State Department's Critical Language Scholarship.

Shane Thompson
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean 

Tanner Walker
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean 

Soyoung You
Asian Religious Traditions 

Stephen L. Young
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean 

Stephen YoungStephen YoungStephen's research focuses on Judaism in the Hellenistic through early Roman Imperial periods and Christianity in the first through third centuries. He uses his expertise in these areas to explore his broader interest in the dynamics, social-locations, and re-uses of myth; ideas and rituals relating to the afterlife; discourses and ideologies about deities; as well as claims about and religious practices involving reading/writing and sacred books in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.

In his dissertation, "Paul the Apostle, the Mythmaker: Innovative Reuse of Recognizable Myths to Explain his Christ Cult to Gentiles," Stephen argues that Paul reused known mythic themes and patterns in the Greco-Roman world, and reused materials from his Jewish sacred books in the light of these mythic schemes, to explain the relevance of his Jewish Christ-cult for Gentiles. Paul would thus have been recognizable to his audiences as a religious expert among the many in their world who reused known myths to articulate and authorize the divine benefits they offered.

Stephen also researches Paul and the reception, construction, and contestian over Paul through the 4th century; Cognitive and Psychological approaches to religion, morality, and human diversity; and the Cultural/Intellectual "elites" among American Evangelical and "post-Evangelical" Christians, capitalizing upon their scholarship and discourses as a rich and varied data set for studying modern religion.