Religious Studies has a new Facebook  page!  Come check us out and learn about the latest events, news and other happenings in the Department, community and beyond.  

We have a new Ph.D. track: Islam, Society and Culture (ISC)

Beginning in January 2018, we are pleased to be accepting applications for our new Ph.D. track in Islam, Society and Culture.  Students in this field will specialize in the texts, traditions, and critical analysis of Islamic Society and culture from the medieval (6th century) to the modern era.  This field is devoted, but not limited, to the study of Islamic beliefs and practices within the cultural and historical context of the Middle East and South and Central Asia.

Students interested in the study of Islam and ethics, or Islam in the US and North America (i.e. from a contemporary perspective) will find intersections with the Department of Religious Studies' track in Religion and Critical Thought; those interested in comparative study between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism will find intersections with the track in Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean; and those interested in South and Central Asia will find intersections with the the Asian Religious Traditions track.  

Graduate students in Islam, Society and Culture will also benefit from the expertise of Brown faculty in several related departments and programs at the University, including Middle East Studies, History, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, and South Asian Studies.

Successful applicants to the doctoral program in ISC ordinarily possess an M.A. or the equivalent in a related field of study.  At least two years of a core language such as Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, etc. is recommended, and exclelent command of English, both spoken and written, is required.  Though prior language training is an important factor taken into consideration in the admissions decision, language requirements can also be met at Brown, including Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Turkish, and Hindi-Urdu.

Core Faculty: Shahzad Bashir, Nancy Khalek

The Department of Religious Studies at Brown University invites applications for a tenure-track position at the assistant professor level with a specialization in New Testament/Early Christianity to begin July 1, 2018.

 To apply visit

Dora Ivanišević is beginning a two-year Cogut Center Post-doctoral fellowship in "the Culture and Ideology of Writing in the Ancient Mediterranean." 

For the term of this fellowship Dora will primarily be associated with Religious Studies, Classics, and the Program in Early Cultures.  Over the term of this fellowship she will teach two courses in Religious Studies.  In January, 2017, she defended her doctoral dissertation entitled Epitaphic Culture and Social History in Late Antique Salona (ca. 250-600 C.E.) at Central European University in Budapest.  She is primarily interested now in investigating what political, economic, and social conditions are conducive to the emergence of epigraphic culture, particularly in a Christian context.Now accepting applications for Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Culture and Ideology of Writing in the Ancient Mediterranean


The Departments of Religious Studies, Classics and History, and the Programs in Judaic Studies and Early Cultures, invite applications for an International Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the area of culture and ideology of writing in the ancient Mediterranean.
For more information and to apply, please visit

Congratulations to our 2016 Graduates!

This year, Religious Studies awarded 4 PhDs, one MA, and 9 undergraduate degrees.

Doctorates of Philosophy:

Anna F. Bialek, "Vulnerability and Its Power: Recognition, Response, and the Problem of Valorization"

Elizabeth A. Cecil, "Mapping the Pasupata Landscape: The Skandapurana, Lakulisa, and the Saiva Imaginary in Early Medieval North India (6th-10th Century CE)

Jonathan  Sozek, "The Politics of Personalism"

Stephen L. Young, "Paul the Mythmaker"

Master of Arts:

Diana M. Dukhanova, "Matrimonial Purity, Destatification and the Pastoral Imperative in the Russian Orthodox Church: Understanding Clerical Interests at the St. Petersburg Religious-Philosophical Society, 1901-1903."

Baccalaureate Degrees:

Darien R. Acero (Honors in Concentration)
Miles N. Bergner
Alysha Ashleen Carrasquillo Quinones
Liam B. Casey (Anticipates Completing by Dec. 2016)
Rachel D. Leiken (Honors in Concentration; Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude)
Hannah M. Liu (Honors in Concentration)
Monica V. Masucci
Lauren L. Morgan
Joshua S. Silver (Honors in Concentration, Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) 

Religious Studies Announces the 2015-2016 Bishop McVickar Prize Winners.  

The Bishop McVickar Prize is awarded annually for the best senior thesis of high quality and acaemic worth from any concentration submitted on any topic related to the study of religion.

 First Place: Rachel Leiken, "'Have you got good religion?': Positioning Religion in a Landscape of Racial Justice Work."

Second Place: Darien Acero,"Nietzsche and Dogen: A Conversation."

Third Place Shard by: Hannah Liu, "Processional Pathways: Public Assertion of Religious Identity in Late Antique Rome," and Joshua Silver, "Blurring Boundaries, Clarifying Connections: World of Warcraft and the Creative Actions of its Users."

Religious Studies undergraduate concentrator wins Royce Fellowship.

Melodi Dincer, Religious Studies and Classics concentrator wins the prestigious Royce Fellowship for her research project that looks to uncover the religious discourse adopted by a New Religious Movement in Sweden. Melodi will be working with Prof. Nicola Denzey-Lewis on her project, and will also serve as Prof. Denzey's TA this summer at Brown's Pre-College Program in Rome.  

PhD student, Robert Kashow, selected to be part of Brown's Open Graduate Education program.

Kashow has been selected to part of Brown's highly competitive program to pursue a Master's Degree in a secondary field while completing the requirements for the PhD.  Robert will be earning his Master's in Anthropology.  See the Grad School article here:

Visiting Associate Professor Nicola Denzey-Lewis wins NEH Fellowship.

Visiting Associate Professor Nicola Denzey-Lewis has been awarded a prestigious NEH fellowship for her project "Against the Cult of Saints: The Early Modern Invention of Late Antique Rome," which investigates the history of development of saint worship in early Christian Rome.

Alumna, Susan Holman wins the Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Susan Holman received her Ph.D. in Early Christianity (the program prior to RAM) from Brown in 1998, under the direction of Prof. Susan A. Harvey. She has just won the Grawemeyer Award in Religion for 2015, for her latest book, Beholden: Religion, Global Health, and Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2015).  Susan is an independent scholar who works in global health and human rights, and has published several important books with OUP, always including a good base from her scholarship on early Christianity. For more information, please visit:

Assistant Professor Stephen Bush wins prestigious award. 

Stephen Bush was in Seattle on Dec. 3 to accept the Gustav O. Arit Award in the Humanities, an honor bestowed by the Council of Graduate Schools.  The award is given "to a young scholar who has written a book that represents an outstanding contribution to scholarship in the humanities."  

Anna Bialek interviewed by Huffington Post.

Recent Ph.D. alumna and current Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Anna Bialek, discusses what exactly the Pope means by "the care of ethics." To check out the full article,

Course Guide CoverCourse Guide CoverCheck out our Fall 2015 Course Guide

Come take a look at what's happening this Fall in RS.  Our course guide tells you all you need to know about shopping this semester.


Job Announcement: Chinese Buddhism

The Department of Religious Studies invites applications for a position in Chinese Buddhism at the rank of assistant or associate professor, to begin July 1, 2016.  The Department is seeking a scholar who possesses expertise in pre-modern Chinese Buddhism and who will contribute energetically to the Department's Asian Religious Traditions graduate area.

Preference will be given to applicants who are broadly trained in Religious Studies and East Asian Studies, and who are prepared to teach a range of undergraduate courses in Buddhism and East Asian Religions, as well as graduate seminars in Chinese Buddhism.  Command of the appropriate research languages, excellent written and spoken English, and experience conducting research in East Asia are essential.  The Ph.D. must be in hand before July 1, 2016.

Candidates should submit a letter of application (addressing qualifications, research, and teaching interests), a curriculum vitae, and one representative writing sample or scholarly publication to the search committee.  In addition, applicants at the rank of assistant professor should submit three confidential letters of reference and graduate transcripts through Interfolio; applicant at the rank of associate professor should send the names of at least five scholars from whom the committee may request letters of reference (these materials should be added under the additional documents section as appropriate).  Priority will be given to applications received by October 16, 2015.  Please send all application materials via Interfolio (  General inquiries should be addressed to Nicole Vadnais, RS Department Manager, by email (  


It's that time of the year to announce all the awards won by members of our Religious Studies community! 

Faculty Awards

Professor Mark Cladis: The John Rowe Workman Award for Teachng Excellence.

Professor Saul Olyan: Elected President of the New England/Eastern Canada Region of the Society of Biblical Literature (2015-2016).

Professor Harold Roth: Global Experential Learning & Teaching Grant (2015).

Assistant Professor Andre Willis: A grant from the John Templeton Foundation through their multi-disciplinary research project, Hope and Optimism: Conceptual and Empirical Investigations.

Graduate Student Awards

Elizabeth Cecil: ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2015-2016) and the Brown-India Initiative Graduate Fellowship (Summer 2015).

Reyhan Durmaz: Summer Fellow, Dumbarton Oaks Research Libraries & Collections (Summer 2015).

Rebecca Falcasantos: The Joukowsky Outstanding Dissertation Award

Nicholas Friesner: Cogut Fellowship (2015-2016).

David Le: Global Mobility Program: Graduate Research Grant (Fall 2015).

Megan McBride: The Joukowsky Summer Research Award (Summer 2015).

Jonathan Sozek: The Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching 

2014-2015 Bishop McVickar Prize Winners 

First Place shared by
Rachel Himes, "Christ and Crisis: Sacral Rhetoric in Late Byzantine Imperial Representation."

Thaya Uthayophas, "Law and Religion in Thailand."

Second Place
Alexander Sogo, "A Study of Roman Amulets and Ancient Healing Practices."

Honorable Mentions:
Adison Marshall, "The Voice of the Pythia: Drugs and Agency at Delphi."
William Underwood, "Atrium Church and the Trouble with Christian Speech in a Secular, Postmodern Society." 

Check out our Fall 2014 Courses

Interested in Religious Studies?  Register for one or more of  our courses and see what the Department's all about.  Check out our new course guide that highlights all the dynamic possibilities we have to offer!

Faculty Awards

Congratulations to Professor Michael Satlow for a three-year grant from the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation in order to further his project, "Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine" (  This comes in addition to funds the Foundation generously provided last year.  The bulk of the grant will be spent on a two-year postdoctoral fellowship for the project. 

New Hires

The Department of Religious Studies is pleased to announce the hires of Daniel Vaca and Andrew Willis as Assistant Professors of Religious Studies here at Brown.  We had previously appreciated their contributions in a visiting capacity. Professor Vaca is a scholar of American religion, and Professor Willis of philosophy of religion and African-American religious thought.

The Department of Religious Studies welcomes Assistant Professor Paul
Nahme into a new joint position in Judaic Studies and Religious
Studies.  Professor Nahme comes to Brown from the faculty at the
University of Kansas, and is a scholar of modern Judaic thought.

Tenure Track Position Now Open

The Department of Religious Studies invites applications for a tenure-track position at the assistant professor level with a specialization in New Testament/Early Christianity to begin on July 1, 2015.  The successful candidate will be able to support graduate training in New Testament; have expertise in early Jewish history and texts; be familiar with theory and methods of religious studies; and contribute broadly to our undergraduate curriculum.  This position is integral to the department's "Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean" graduate track and programming.

Candidates should submit (1) a current CV; (2) a statement of interest; (3) a short writing sample (no more than 25 pages); (4) a list of four courses (title with short paragraph), at different levels, that would complement the department's existing course, supplemented by annotations and/or a brief statement describing the thinking behind it; and (6) three references.  Preference will be given to candidates who have successfully defended their dissertation by the time of application.  Review of applications will begin on September 15, 2014.  Please submit applications on line at  Brown University is an EEO/AA employer.  Brown University is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive academic global community; as an EEO/AA employer, Brown considers applicants for employment without regard to, and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, protected veteran status, disability, or any other legally protected status.  

Awards & Honors

Anna Bialek, Ph.D. candidate has been awarded a Cogut Fellowship for the 2014-15 academic year.

Assistant Professor Stephen Bush has been awarded the Wriston Fellowship for Fall 2014 and has been named the Manning Assitant Professor of Religious Studies.

Assistant Professor Nancy Khalek has been awarded the John Rowe Workman Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Humanities.

Recently graduated senior concentrator, Joshua Schenkkan's thesis, "The Imaged Dead and the Ethics of Rupture: Thinking with Georges Bataille and Judith Butler," has not only won the Departmental McVickar Prize but also the Brown University Distinguished Senior Thesis Award.  

On this two hundred and forty sixth commencement, we are pleased to honor our 15 undergraduate concentrators and 8 Ph.D. graduates:

Baccaluareate Degrees in Religious Studies

  • Vincent Raymond Biagiotti
  • Alysha Ashleen Carrasquillo (expected December 2014)
  • Elizabeth Ann Carroll (honors in concentration; honorable mention McVickar Prize)
  • Julia Perugini Elstrodt (honors in concentration; honorable mention McVickar Prize)
  • Casey Gordon
  • Max Ryan Grey
  • Marissa Blythe Grier
  • Haesung Oliver Jeon
  • Erica Ilene Leon
  • Katelyn Marie MacDougald (magna cum laude)
  • Obasi Malcolm Osborne 
  • Elijah John Petzold (magna cum laude)
  • Joshua McHenry Schenkkan (honors in concentration; magna cum laude; McVickar Prize Winner)
  • Daniel Egan Tatar
  • Michael Loren Zamost

Doctor of Philosophy

  • Niki K. Clements (Phi Beta Kappa)
    "'Inflamed by Daily Practices': John Cassian and Ethical Formation"
  • Laura Dingeldein
    "Gaining Virtue, Gaining Christ: Moral Development in the Letters of Paul."
  • Aaron Glaim
    "Reciprocity, Sacrifice and Salvation in Judean Religion at the Turn of the Era"
  • Brian P. Rainey
    "Non-Peoples and Foolish Nations: Religion, Xenophobia and Ethnic Foreigners in the Herbew Bible and Mesopotamia"
  • Jennifer E. Singletary
    "Non-Anthropomorphic Gods? Manufactured Entities and Divine Qualities and Attributes Characterized As Gods in the Textual Evidence from Ancient Mesopotamia, Syria, North Arabia, Palestine, and Elephantine."
  • Lori Veilleux
    "Religion and Disaster: A Case Study of Boston's Response to the 1832 Cholera Epidemic"
  • Robyn F. Walsh
    "The Beginnings of Christian Literature" 

Job Appointments for Recent Grads

We wish to offer the warmest congratulations to Robyn Faith Walsh, who has recently accepted a tenure-track assistant professorship in New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Miami, beginning Fall 2014. This position will allow Robyn to bridge the Religious Studies and Classics departments, as well as continue her archaeological research in Spain and Rome through Miami's URome program. She is also planning to join Miami's Hellenistic Petra Project in Jordan.

Religious Studies is delighted to share that our graduate student, Niki Clements, will join the faculty at Rice University on July 1 of this year as the Watt J. and Lilly G. Jackson Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. Her tenure-track appointment will specialize in Catholic History and Thought, teaching and researching Christianity in Late Antiquity and modern philosophy of religion and religious ethics

New Courses AY 13-14

Religious Studies is offereing several new courses this semester:

A First Year Seminar with Prof. Nicola Denzey-Lewis, "The Bible and Social Media," Tuesdays, 12-2:30 in the Shirley Miller House, Rm 101).

With Prof. Nancy Khalek, "Islam Today: 

Religion and Culture in the Modern Middle East and Beyond."  The class will be held on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, from 10-10:50am, in Wilson 305.  Note: This fulfills the MES Foundations Requirement and DVPS/LILE/WRIT.  For more information, please contact Prof. Khalek.  


And, "Religious Ethnographies (RELS 1720)," with Prof. Elayne Oliphant, on Mondays, 3-5:20pm in Wilson 106.


The Religious Studies Department is pleased to announce two new courses taught by

New Courses Fall 2013New Courses Fall 2013 Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Vaca:

RELS0087 Religion in America
MWF 10-1o:50; Wilson Hall 109
From Native American traditions and Puritan migrations in the seventeenth century to Barack Obama's "crypto-Islam" and debates over gay rights in the twenty-first century: American history is religious history.  For centuries, religion has shaped how Americans have carried out their everyday lives, interacted with others, understood themselves, and perceived the wider world.  Focusing primarily on religious life in the United States, this course invites students to explore the debates and thematic tensions that have oriented the relationship between religion and society in North America.  Requiring no prerequisites, this introductory course takes up such varied issues as race, ethnicity, science, gender, capitalism, pluralism, sexuality, secularism.  

RELS0845 Religious Freedom in America 
M 3-5:20; Sayles Hall 204
"Religious Freedom," former Secretary Hilary Rodham Clinton remarked in 2009, "provides a cornerstone for every healthy society."  It is, Clinton continued, "a founding principle of our nation."  As Clinton's remarks illustrate, the concept of religious freedom is central to how people perceive te history of the United States and its position in the world today.  But what is religious freedom?  Does it actually exist?  Has it ever?  This seminar invites students to ask and answer these and other questions about the contested concept, engaging such varied issues as race, secularism, law, media, money, pluralism, and foreign policy.  

The Religious Studies Department is pleased to welcome several new members to the community:

Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Vaca -  Daniel is an Americanist,Daniel VacaDaniel Vaca studying the history of religion in North America.  He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University and before coming to Brown held a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University.



Elayne OliphantElayne OliphantPostdoctoral Fellow  in Religion Secularization and the International Elayne Oliphant - Elayne has earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the Unviersity of Chicago in Decemeber 2012.  Her dissertation, Signs of an Unmarked Faith: Visions of Secularism, Catholicism, and Islam in Paris examines the complex and sometimes contradictory forms that secularism takes in contemporary Paris.  Before coming to Brown, Elayne spent a semester at Sweet Briar College as Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology.  

Finally, we are pleased to welcome our three incoming graduate students, Alexis Glenn, Caroline Kory, and Sarah Woodbury.   Alexis earned her MA from University of Colorado, Boulder and her BA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  Caroline comes to us from Grinnell College in Iowa where she earned her BA.  Both Caroline and Alexis will be studying Religion and Critical Thought.  Sarah earned her MTS in Hebrew Bible from Harvard Divinity School, and her BA from Smith College.  Sarah will primarily be studying in the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean program.


Professor Susan A. Harvey has  recently been awarded the Royce FamilySusan A. HarveySusan A. Harvey Professor of Teaching Excellence.  The Royce Family Professorships are awarded  for terms of three years to faculty who exhibit a high level of commitment to teaching and advising students.  Faculty chosen demonstrate pedogogical innovation and excellence, not only to teaching but to scholarship and University service as well.  


Anna Bialek, a current graduate student in the Religion and Critical Thought track, has recently been awarded Brown's prestigious Presidential Award for Teaching.  The award is annual prize given to graduate students to recognize excellence in pedagogical achievement.  

Karen King, a Brown Religious Studies alumna, who earned her PhD in 1983,  has been awarded the Horace Mann Medal for Distinguished Graduate School Alumni.  The award was established in 2003, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Graduate School.  The award is named in honor of Horace Mann, class of 1819, who  created the nation's first state board of education and is widely regarded as the father of American public school education. The Horace Mann Medal is given annually by the Graduate School to an almnus or alumna who has made significant contribution to his or her field.  

Karen is currently Hollis Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, the oldest endowed chair in the United States.  She is the author of several books including The Gospel of Mary Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle (2003);  What is Gnosticism? (2003); and Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and Shaping Christianity (2007).  

Niki Clements, a doctoral student in Religious Studies, has just been Niki ClementsNiki Clementsawarded one of two prestigious Brown/Wheaton Fellowships.  The Brown/Wheaton Faculty Fellowship is a collaborative program that provides an opportunity for an advanced graduate student to not only teach, but get a sense of what faculty life is like at a liberal arts college.  Niki will teach next spring, a course she designed, "Demons, Melancholy and Madness." For more information about this year's winners, please click here.


Megan McBride, graduate student in Religious Studies, recently co-authored an article with Jessica Stern, Fellow at the Hoover Institution and FXB Center for Human Rights, Harvard University, titled "Terrorism after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq."  The article is part of a broader study by the Watson Institute for International Studies, Costs of War, which looks at Iraq 10 years after the invasion.  The Stern/McBride article examinesCosts of WarCosts of War how the United States invasion of Iraq effected terrorism in the region.  The United States had claimed that invading Iraq would prevent the country from becoming a "safe haven for terrorists."  The article argues that the invasion had the opposite effect, and actually increased terrorism in the country (and also region) as the U.S. presence in the country acted as a recruiting tool for jihadi leaders and provided a training opportunity for militant groups.  

New Postdoc

The Religious Studies Department is happy to announce that it has been awarded one of four International Postdoctoral Fellowships for 2013-15 offered through the Cogut Center for the Humanities.  The post-doc will focus on the area of "Religion, Secularization, and the International," and collaborate closely with the Religion and Internationalism Project. Applicants from across the humanities and social sciences are encouraged to apply, provided they have a strong background in the academic study of religion.  The Department is particularly looking for applicants with critical and historical perspectives on the construction of domains such as "the religious," "the secular," and "the political" as well as on the formation of international political regimes.  Applicants must have received a Ph.D. from an institution other than Brown within the last five years (as far back as 2008).  Applications are now being accepted.  To see the full job listing or to apply please visit:  Review of applications will begin on February 15, 2013.   


The Religious Studies Department offers its warmest congratulations to the following:

Alissa MacMillian, who just defended her dissertation in Religion and Critical Thought, has been awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, France.

Recent Ph.D. graduate, Debra Scoggins Ballentine, has been offered and accepted a tenure-track position at Rutgers University.  Debra started her new position as of July 1, 2012.

Our soon to be 2nd year PhD student in Religion and Critical Thought, Megan McBride, has been selected to participate in the Hertog Global Strategy Initiative's seminar on "The History and Future of Religious Violence and Apocalyptic Movements" this summer, at Columbia University

Andrea Allgood Smith, a current Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean graduate student, has been awarded the John Cargill MacMillian Fellowship through the Cogut Center for the 2012-13 academic year.  

We are thrilled to share the following news from our undergraduate concentrators:

Michael Zack Mezera will be an undergraduate fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities for 2012-13.

And both Matthew Peterson and Joshua Schenkkan have been awarded UTRA fellowships to work with Professors Thomas Lewis and Stephen Bush (respectively), this summer!

And from the faculty: 

Prof. Ross Kraemer has been elected as President of the New England Regional Society for Biblical Literature for 2012-13, and will be a faculty fellow at the Cogut Center in Spring 2013.

Prof. Susan A. Harvey has received the 2012 Karen T. Romer Award for Excellence in Advising!