Graduate Students

About our Graduate Students 

Tanvir Ahmed
Islam, Society, and Culture

Tanvir is a Ph.D. student in Islam, Society, and Culture.  He received his B.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University, where he specialized in Islamic political thought.  His current research interests include Shi'ism, Sufism, and millenarianism.  His particular focus is on the histories and biographies of 'seditious' movements and individuals in late medieval Iran and Central Asia.

 

 

Muntazir Ali
Islam, Society, and Culture 

Muntazir is a second year PhD student focusing on 'Islam' in the late-medieval and early-modern India, with special attention to philosophy of religion, religious ethics, and philosophy of history, and the various ways in which Muslims grappled with these 'topics' and made 'sense' of their relations to broader dimensions of the society.  His primary focus is with religious/historical texts in Persian, Arabic, and Urdu, but his interests extend to Persian and Urdu poetry written in early twentieth century British India, and its visions of Muslim 'community' in India and the world more generally.  He previously studied at Oxford University and the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London.  

 

 

Nicholas Andersen
Religion and Critical Thought

Nick entered the Religion & Critical Thought Ph.D. program in 2016.  He works in the fields of modern religious thought and ethics, with special interests in race, politics, and nineteenth - and twentieth-century US thought.  In particular, his research explores the machinations of global white supremacy through the lens of what W.E.B DuBois calls "the religion of whiteness." 

 

Kelly Banker
Religion & Critical Thought

Sarah Berns
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean 

Sarah is a fifth-year in the RAM program, 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, and her dissertation considers the practices by which ancient actors gave spaces meaning.  She is particularly interested in households and work sites as centers of religious action and identity.  Her methodoogial interests include comparative Semitic philology, archaeology, art history, and theories of practice.

Josiah Bisbee
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

Josiah S. Bisbee is a graduate of Yale University, where he completed an MAR in Second Temple Judaism and is now in his third year at Brown University as a RAM student, concentrating in Ancient Israelite religion.  He has a specific interest in Mesopotamian religions and their influence on the formation and development of Israelite/Judean culture and identity, and the application of anthropological theory to his research.  Other interests include history of interpretation in relation to the continuity and discontinuity between the Hebrew Bible and later Rabbinic literature, echoes of ANE myths in Rabbinic tesxts, so-called "magic," and the early formation and development of Jewish "mysticism" in Late Antique Judaism, as well as later developments in the Medieval Period.

Tara Dhaliwal
Islam, Society and Culture

Tara is a PhD student entering the Islam, Society, and Culture track.  She holds degrees from Harvard (A.M. in Middle Eastern Studies), and New York University (B.A. in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, and Politics).  Her current research interests center around the Salfavid and Mughal empires broadly, with a particular interest in the shared features between them.

Chris DiBona 
Religion and Critical Thought

Chris is a third year Ph.D. student in Religion and Critical Thought.  Previously, he earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Trinity College and a M.A. in Philosophy from Boston College.  Chris's primary research interests are in philosophy of religion, religious ethics, and religion & politics, especially as they pertain to Christian thought. He also has interests in the philosophy of nature, environmental ethics, and philosophical and theological aesthetics.  

 


 

Alexis Glenn
Religion and Critical Thought 

Alexis is a fifth-year Doctoral Candidate in the Religion and Critical Thought track, entering the program after earning a dual B.A. in Religious Studies and Anthropology from the University 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 Humean studies, 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 and moral anthropology in the work of David Hume, and the conceptual roles of 'tradition' and 'history' within early modern Western philosophical thought.  Her broad research interests include late medieval and early modern British and colonial American history, virtue ethics and its commentators, democratic theory, and political theology. 

Samuel Goldstein
Asian Religious Traditions 

Sam is a PhD candidate in Asian Religious Traditions. His work tends to focus on the Warring States period in China (approx. 450-200 BCE), and he primarily works on early Chinese Daoist texts such as the Laozi and Zhuangzi  as well as excavated manuscripts from this period. He is writing his dissertation on an excavated manuscript titled Yin Gaozong wen yu San Shou, "The High Chief of Yin Questions the Three Venerables", which can be dated to approximately 350 BCE. This text contains a unique perspective on the relationship between the ruler, the spirit realm, and the human realm, outside of the traditional textual and philosophical categories of "Daoism" or Confucianism." His dissertation will utilize religious studies, historical, text-critical, philosophical, and linguistic methodologies to fix this text in historical and cultural context. Sam has a BA in Chinese from Grinnell College and an MA in Chinese Studies from the University of Michigan. He is currently a visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.


Tali Hershkovitz
Asian Religious Traditions

Tali is a first year PhD student in ART.  She previously earned her BA from Beijing Languge and Culture University, with a degree in Chinese language.  She also earned an MA from Beijing Language and Culture University in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language.  She has an additional MA in East Asian Studies from Washington University in St. Louis.  She is broadly interested in women's religiousity in pre-modern China.  She has written about Daoist immortal Sun Bu'er.  Tali is currently pursuing a project to compare the construction of female religiosity across Chinese Buddhism and Daoism.

 

Nechama Juni
Religion and Critical Thought 

Chumie is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in Religion and Critical Thought.  She received her BA (summa cum laude) from Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, with a double major in Philosophy and Biology.  She earned her MA in Jewish Philosophy from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. 

Her dissertation, entitled “Halakhic Woman: Gender, Practice, and Obligation in American Orthodox Judaism” studies the gender and religious formation of Orthodox women. She argues that through a nexus of conflicting gender norms and a complex relationship to religious obligation, ‘halakhic’ woman – that is, the woman who is shaped by Orthodox religious law – is formed in both feminine and masculine ways into a queer religious subject. This finding offers new insights into the fields of religious studies, Judaic studies, and women’s studies. The queer subjectivity of Halakhic Woman complicates a reigning scholarly picture of conservative religious women as relentlessly feminine. The ways that gender norms and religious obligations reinforce and complicate each other in Halakhic Woman’s subject position holds promise for a new theory of religious practice. Finally, the complex religious agency – neither compelled nor voluntary but somewhere in between – offers a resource for a feminist critique and rethinking of current philosophies of Jewish law, most notably Soloveitchik’s Halakhic Man. She was a recipient of the Mellon Graduate Fellowship in Collaborative Humanities (2017-2018) and her research has been supported by awards from Brown University and other institutions, including the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History.

Jaron (Caroline) Kanegson
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

Jaron (Caroline) Kanegson is a first year PhD student in Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean (RAM) focusing on late antique Judaism, with a secondary concentration in Israelite religion.  Jaron comes to Brown after completing an MA at the Borns Jewish Studies program at Indiana University-Bloomington, with additional academic background in Women's/Gender Studies, English and Clinical Psychology.  She is especially interested in ancient Jewish texts, folklore, the body, fertility, gender, magic, and the supernatural. 

Robert Kashow
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

Rob holds a MA in Religion from Yale University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Religious Studies and a MA in Anthropology at Brown University. Broadly he is interested in the intersection of religion, politics, and violence, with specific foci on the history, culture, and heritage of ancient Israel and its environs during the 1st Millennium BCE. He also conducts research on the reception of Israel's heritage among modern day North American evangelical Christians, attending to issues related to Cultural Heritage and the relationship between ancient religious texts (especially the Bible) and modern politics. His dissertation is entitled "The Violent Imagination: Agency and Representation in Ancient Judaism and the Bible,” in which he focuses on textual representations of violence in the books of Zechariah, Daniel, and Revelation. His thesis for the Anthropology degree is entitled "Evangelical Heritage in the Making: The Museum of the Bible in Anthropological Perspective."

Caroline Kory

Religion and Critical Thought 

Caroline's scholarship focuses on contemporary environmental ethics, American religions, and politics.  She has a dual Bachelor's degree in Religious Studies and Political Science from Grinnell College.  Beyond academe, Caroline has worked as a community organizer, environmental advocate, and lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and Virginia.  Caroline's current work is interdisciplinary, centering on questions of human-environment/spatial interactions, ethically formative religious and quotidian practices, new materialism(s), and relational ethics.  She seeks to highlight the complex web of relations within which humans in the Anthropocene exist, and to offer tools for both lamenting the harms we have wrought on all earthlings (including ourselves), as well as for learning to cope with, and adapt to, our current ecological realities. 

Patrick Magoffin
Asian Religious Traditions

Patrick is a third year PhD student in the ART program. He previously earned his BA from George Mason University, with a degree in World History. He also earned a MA with a degree in Pre-Modern Chinese History from Xiamen University in Xiamen, PRC, and specialized in Tang-era Chan and Tiantai Buddhism. Currently, Patrick's broader interests include Chinese Buddhist intellectual and social histories, with a focus on Huayan and Tiantai texts, rituals, and monastic institutions in the Song periods.

 Carolina Mendoza
Islam, Culture and Society

Lise Miltner
Religion and Critical Thought

Caleb Murray
Religion and Critical Thought

Caleb’s research lies at the intersection of religious and philosophical ethics, theory of religion, and environmental humanities. He has particular interests in queer theory, film, and literature. Most recently, his research has appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Literature and Theology. His dissertation—Feeling a Failing Climate: Tragedy, Affect, and Religious Storytelling in Film and Literature—argues that common affects in climate literature problematically predetermine environmental ethics and suggests that the creative use of religious storytelling in popular media challenges common and limiting narratives of hope and despair. Caleb is a graduate of Wittenberg University (BA) and Harvard Divinity School (MTS). His research has been supported by numerous fellowships and awards from organizations including The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Joukowsky Institute, and The International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture.

 

 

Michael Payne
Islam, Society and Culture/Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean 

Michael entered the program in 2014.  He received his A.B. and his A.M. from the University of Chicago.  He is interested in the intellectual and social histories of medieval Iraq and Iran. Michael’s dissertation—entitled “Heretics, Half-Breeds, and Irrational Beasts: al-Jahiz and the Racial Politics of Empire in Ninth-Century Iraq”—is about the relationship between race, language, and theology. In this project, he gathers disparate threads together: texts about cosmology, animals, and poetry; authors who were Mu’tazili theologians, East Syrian courtiers, and Arabic philologists; and theoretical approaches informed by the critical studies of race, gender, and animals. This dissertation is focused on how constructions of Arabness, masculinity, and rationality affected conceptions of Muslim piety and facilitated the conflation of heresy with non-Arabness.

 


Sherry Pan
Asian Religious Traditions

Born and raised in Nanjing, China, Sherry began the Ph.D. program in ART in the fall of 2016 after graduating cum laude from St. Lawrence University, receiving her degree with honors in Philosophy.  Her research centers on Late Ming intellectual and religious syncretism, specifically the debates concerning "the joint practice of Pure Land and Chan," "the three teachings are one," as well as Buddhist interpretations of Daoist philosophical texts during the 16th and 17th centuries. 

Michael Putnam
Religion and Critical Thought

Michael A. Putnam is a doctoral student in Religion and Critical Thought.  His interests lie at the intersection of theory of religion, religious ethics, political theory, and the environmental humanities.  His primary research explores the religious dimensions of environmental politics in the United States.  Starting from the observation that American environmentalism has often been inflected with a certain religiosity, he examines how various paradigms for conceiving religion have accompanied environmental writing and activism.  His other areas of interest include the religious ethics of American Romanticism, the relationship between religion and science, and critical theories of securalism.  Before coming to Brown, Michael studied at Whitman College (BA) and Harvard Divinity School (MTS).  He has received a Mellon Graduate Fellowship in Collaborative Humanities from the Cogut Institute for the 2019-2020 academic year.

 

Lauren Smith
Religion and Critical Thought 

Noah Tetenbaum
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean 

Noah is interested in the dynamics of Jewish communities of the Islamic world in the several centuries following the Islamic conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries CE. 

Shane Thompson
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean 

Shane is a fifth year RAM student at Brown University focusing on Israelite Religion within the larger context of Ancient West Asia and Egypt.  His research interests include ritual, ritual theory, "frontier studies," 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, drawing heavily upon comparative materials.  A graduate of Wake Forest University, Shane holds and MTS from Candler School of Theology, Emory University and an MA in Bible and the Ancient Near East (NEJS) from Brandeis University.  He has been a staff member on archaeological digs at Khirbet Summeily and Tel Halif.  Shane is currently working on his dissertation on "cultural imperialism" in the Late Bronze and Iron Age Levant, as well as projects on burial in Ancient West Asia and conceptions of Ma'at in the Egyptian controlled Levant.  He is a co-organizer of the conference "At the Margins: Interconnections of Power and Identity in the Ancient Near East" to be held October 3-4, 2019 at Brown University.  Shane is also working on a digital humanities and photogrammetry project with the cuneiform tablet collection of the John Hay Library with his Assyriology colleague, Sara Mohr.  He works as a proofreader for the digitization project, Brown Judaic Studies Open Book Program, and will also be working on the Digital Preservation of the Akkadian Tablets from the Syrian Kingdom of Ugarit project (DPATSKU) for ORACC.

CJ (Cyril) Uy
Islam, Society and Culture

CJ Uy holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Yale University and an MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge.  He is interested in mystics and philosophers in the medieval Islamic world, hoping to explore the ways in which these thinkers grapple with multifarious, often conflicting modes of knowledge and expression in the pursuit of power and ineffable truth.

CJ is currently finishing up a project to produce an Arabic critical edition and English translation of the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ's Epistle 49: "The Actions of Spiritual Beings, the Jinn, the Close Angels, and the Recalcitrant Demons" for the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Tanner Walker
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

Donnell A. Williamson, Jr.
Religion and Critical Thought

Donnell's scholarship focuses on both modern religious thought and historical philosophy.  His primary research interests include philosophy of religion, religion and politics, and African-American religious traditions with an emphasis on the intellectual histories of Søren Kierkegaard and Frederick Douglass.  Donnell's research examines the realities of death and despair in relation to Christianity's various, often disparate, ethical dispositions.  He holds a B.A. in Sociology from Morehouse College and a MDiv from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.  In his spare time he enjoys reading, playing tennis and listening to music.

 Christopher Yang
Asian Religious Traditions

Chris is a first year PhD student in ART.  He received a BA from Stanford University in Religious Studies and Philosophy and an AM from Harvard's Committee on Regional Studies - East Asia.  He is interested in early Chinese thought up to the Southern Dynasties, with a particular focus on the texts and thinkers of the Warring States period.  His broader interests are in comparative religious ethics, moral psychology, and ritual theory. 

Soyoung You
Asian Religious Traditions

Soyoung is a fourth-year ART student, focusing on the religous and intellectual traditions in East Asia during the 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 the sage in Neo-Confucianism and the identity of Neo-Confucians.  Her methodological interests include intellectual history, ethics, moral psychology, philosophical antrhopology, and comparative philosophy.  She is a native Korean speaker and is fluent in Japanese as well as in Chinese