Department of Religious Studies

Areas of Concentration

Religions in History

This area of concentration allows students to study religious traditions in specific historical and cultural contexts. The goal is to examine the historical articulation of religious phenomena in a specific geographical area and in relation to other relevant religious traditions. Students will develop the research methods necessary for their projects: these may include historical, philological, comparative, material, and literary analyses. They also will develop the theoretical and thematic approaches needed to articulate research questions and to explore the role of religion in particular societies and cultures. Each student will develop expertise in a second religious tradition: either religions in conversation within a specific geographical and chronological context or ones that inform a comparative project. 

Ancient Mediterranean Religions

This concentration area deals with the character and interactions of the ancient religious traditions of the Mediterranean, including Ancient Israel and its neighbors, Greco-Roman culture, ancient Judaism, and early Christianity. Students will develop primary expertise in one of the areas of specialization listed below; they will also do significant work in two of the others. There will be a strong emphasis on mastery of the requisite languages and on a range of appropriate methodologies. In addition, all students will receive training in archaeological analysis so that they can deal with the literature and the material culture of these traditions. The chronological span is from the Ancient Near Eastern to the Hellenistic period and from the Hellenistic-Roman to the Late Antique period.

Religion in the Americas

This concentration trains students in the religious histories of the Americas in order to prepare them for professional careers in Religious Studies. The curriculum is designed to serve a variety of student intellectual interests and research methodologies. Students are expected to pursue an interdisciplinary research program within one of the geographical fields of Latin America and the Caribbean or North America, develop teaching competency in the other geographical field, and work within two additional historical and/or theoretical fields, one of which may be outside of Religious Studies. 

Religion in Society

This area of concentration allows students to explore the dynamics of religion, culture, and society with a focus on theoretical and social scientific approaches. Students will develop research topics that begin with thematic, analytical, or theoretical questions and will then apply their questions to particular religious frameworks, specific geographical areas, or the movement of ideas, people, practices, and things within and across regions. We especially welcome questions that explore interactions between religious practices, social organizations, and cultural structures. Students will develop the research methods necessary for their projects; for many, these will include ethnographic research methods including ethno-historical approaches, but for others, these may include historical, material, and literary analyses.