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.

Elizabeth Cecil

Asian Religious Traditions 

http://www.eacecil.com/

Elizabeth is a Ph.D. candidate in the South Asian Religions program.  Her 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. Pashupatas) in early medieval northwest India.  Through an interdisciplinary approach that unites philological work on Sanskrit texts and inscriptions with the study of material culture, her reseach explores the ways in which sanctified spaces were used to materialize an early Shaiva identity. 

Related to her focus on early Shaivism, Elizabeth has worked closely with the international team of scholars engaged in the critical editing and analysis of the Skandapurana, a foundational text for the study of Shaiva religiousity.  She has also conducted extensive fieldwork and research in original sources in South and Southeast Asia with the support of Mellon Dissertation Research Fellowships from the Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).  She is currently completing her dissertation at the Institute of Area Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands with the support of the Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

Elizabeth is qualified to teach courses on South Asian religions, the history of pre-colonial South Asia, the material and visual cultures of South Asia, and practices of pilgrimage.  She hass experience teaching courses on Sanskrit language and literary history and she is competent to teach courses on Theory and Methods in Religious Studies and the History of World Religions.

Chris DiBona


Religion and Critical Thought 

Chris is a first-year student in Religion and Critical Thought.  He earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Trinity College (2010) and an M.A. in Philosophy from Boston College.  Chris is interested in exploring the religious and ethical implications of varying conceptions of subjectivity, selfhood, and reason in Western philosophical and religious traditions, as well as the possibilities for normative thinking about religion and ethics within an anti-foundationalist and post-metaphysical framework.  To investigate these topics, he draws on a variety of figures from continental philosophy and Christian theology.  His most recent work explores how Hegel's conception of Christian love provides a unique phenomenological platform from which to rethink traditional philosophical and theological boundaries between sacred and secular, infinite and finite, transcendent and immanent, self and other.  Chris also has research interests in ancient Greek philosophy and aesthetics.  

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 Philsophical Theology from Yale Divinity School in 2011.  He works in the areas of religious ethics, philosophy of religion, and modern religious thought, with special attention to contemporary issues in religion and ecology and religion in America.  His dissertation examines the efforts of Ralph Waldo Emerson to articulate a progressive understanding of religion, and how Emerson's philosophical reflection on religion can contribute to contemporary conversations about the interconnections between philosophy, theology, and ethics.  This version of Emerson critiques the way his legacy has been portrayed by most interpreters and calls into question the traditional portrayals of him as a proto-secularist and/or spiritualist, instead placing him in the larger traditions of western philosophical and christian theological ethics.  Nicholas is also working on questions concerning social critique and secularism, as well as traditions of environmental thought in America.  He is a fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities this year.

 

Alexis Glenn
Religion and Critical Thought 

Alexis is a third-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

Rob is interested in the intersection of social-anthroplogy and the historical study of the Ancient Mediterranean region (primarily ancient Israel and Judah, secondarily ancient Assyria/Babylon/Persia and Egypt) during the first millenium BCE.  Rob uses anthropology to bring new questions to bear upon historical study, and uses historical data to contribute to anthropological scholarship dealing with the culture of the present day.  Topics especially of interest to Rob include the study of violence, migration and immigration, race and ethinicity, millennium movements, prophets, prophetic literature, and apocalyptic literature.  

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 and in 2008 conducted a Fulbright research project in Hanoi, Vietnam on state monumentality and national identity.  His current work turns to the "new Hegel" to explore how contemporary, secular nation-states concretize and determine "sacrality" through the spatial practice of memorialization.  His interests include religious ethics, the ethics of post-struturalism, nationalism, postcolonialism, and visual and material culture.  David was a Visiting Researcher at the Freie Universitat Berlin in the summer of 2015 and will continue conducting research in Berlin as a Brown University Global Mobility Research Fellow in the fall of 2015.

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  "literary" and a literary assessment 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 is a fifth year in the RAM program, focusing broadly on religion in late antiquity.  He received a BA (magna cum laude) from Macalaster College in Classics (2010), and an M.St. with distinction from the University of Oxford in Jewish Studies in the Greco-Roman Period (2011).  His primary focus is with the rabbis of Palestine and Babylonia, but his interests extend to the late ancient world more broadly, and include sources in Latin, Greek, and Syriac more specifically.  Daniel is currently writing a dissertation on late ancient reading practices among Jews and Christians.  During the 2014-2015 school year, he was the Resident Instructor at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, teaching both an advanced Greek seminar on later Greek literature, and classes on Roman and Greek religion.  He was also the on-site director for Brown's Pre-College Summer in Rome program in July of 2015.

Kerry Sonia
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean

Kerry is a sixth 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, the history of biblical interpretation, and the role of women in cultic practice. She is particularly interested in reconstructions of Israelite ancestor cult and its relationship to the Jerusalem Temple. Her dissertation examines this relationship in light of recent work on famiy religion and the dynamics of cultic competition in ancient West Asian 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


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 

Shane is a first-year RAM student focusing on Israelite Religion within the larger context of the Ancient Near East.  His research interests include ritual, ritual theory, archaeology, and linguistics within Late Bronze and Iron Age Syria-Palestine.  He is particularly interested in how sources reflect the political and social hierarchies of the period.  A graduate of Wake Foret University, Shane holds several graduate degrees, including an MTS from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and an MA in Bible and the Ancient Near East (NEJS) from Brandeis University.  He has also been a staff member on archaeological digs at Khirbet Summeily and Tel Halif.  

Tanner Walker
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean 

Soyoung You
Asian Religious Traditions

Soyoung  is a second-year ART student, focusing on the religious and intellectual traditions in East Asia during pre-modern era, especially Neo-Confucianism.  She received a M.A. in Asian Philosophy from Korea University in 2011.  She is particularly interested in the notion of sage in Neo-Confucianism and the identity of Neo-Confucians. Her methodological interests include intellectual hisotry, ethics, moral psychology, philosophical anthropology, and comparative philosophy.  She is a native Korean speaker and is fluent in Japanese as well as in Chinese.  

 

Stephen L. Young
Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean 

Stephen is a teacher and scholar of Religious Studies who focuses on Judaism in the Hellenistic through early Roman Imperial periods and Christianity in the first through second centuries.  He uses his expertise in these areas to explore myths and mythmaking, textuality and sacred books, discourses and ideologies about deities, and ideas and rituals related to the afterlife.  And he pursues  these interests in dialogue with critical theories and methods in religious stuies, social theory, gender theories, and cognitive science.

His dissertation focuses on Paul's reuse of culturally available mythic materials in orer to promote his Jewish Christ-cult to potential initiates in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.  In addition to his experitse in Biblical Studies and ancient Mediterranean religion, Stephen also researches modern American religion, with particular attention to the cultural or intellectual "elites" among Evangelical Christians.  His research thus far has resulted in siz peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of Biblical Literature, the Harvard Theological Review, Biblical Interpretation, the Journal for th Study of the New Testament, and the Journal of Early Christian History.  

Stephen's research and teaching interests include New Testament and Early Christianity, Second Temple Judaism, Hebrew Bible, Textual Production and Sacred Books in the Ancient Mediterranean, Myths and Mythmaking in Religious Studies, Greco-Roman Discourses about Deities, the Afterlife in the Ancient Mediterranean, American Evangelicalism, Theory and Methodology in Religious Studies, Gender and Religion, and Religions of the World.