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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Graduate Program in Religious Studies

The Department of Religious Studies will accept applications from October 2010 for students wishing to commence graduate studies in Fall 2011. The program will not accept applications for a terminal M.A. degree.

The following information is intended to provide a brief overview of the proposed program.  More information regarding application requirements will be available in September 2010.

The graduate program in Religious Studies at The University of Texas at Austin will be the only program of its kind at a public university in the state of Texas.  The program will allow students to draw upon the vast geographical, historical, and linguistic resources available in the department and at the University.  Its distinctive curriculum seeks to balance two critical foci:

  1. The in-depth study of religion and religious/cultural interactions in a particular region and period.
  2. Thematic and theoretical approaches to the study of religion that encourage common conversations across the discipline of Religious Studies.
To this end, students in the program will structure their studies around the three core components listed below.

Area of Concentration

Students will select a specialization in one of the following geographically- and historically-defined concentrations (or an explicitly transnational concentration across two of these areas), as listed below.

  • Religion in Asia
  • Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean
  • Religion in Europe & the Middle East
  • Religion in the Americas
  • Transregional & Comparative Studies in Religion

In each of these concentrations, students will take a set of required courses and advanced seminars in order to develop the research and interpretative skills necessary for original scholarship and to learn the contextual knowledge necessary for understanding religion within a particular geographical and chronological framework.  Students will develop an academically informed understanding of the development and interactions between religions in specific cultural contexts.

Thematic Field

Students will define a thematic field that requires engagement with theoretical works and case studies on a topic that crosses geographical and temporal boundaries.  Students will do this both through organized courses and through independent reading; Ph.D. students will be examined on this field.  This requirement asks students to become theoretically agile about a specific topic, to explore this topic across religious traditions, and to engage scholars from different subfields in a common area of conversation.

Examples of such themes, which reflect current interests of the Department and College faculty, include:

  • The Body (e.g., Gender, Sexuality, Health/Purity, Food, Asceticism)
  • Ritual and Performance
  • Space and Place (e.g., Diasporas, Material Culture, Death/Burial)
  • Visual Culture
  • Text, Translation, and Transmission

Required Core Courses

All students will enroll in a core of required courses that will ask them to integrate their own areas of concentration with the broader discipline of Religious Studies.  These courses will introduce students to theories and methods in the study of religion, explore pedagogical issues, and prepare students for their professional obligations.  These core courses are:

Theory and Method in the Study of Religion.  This course introduces graduate students to the history of the discipline, discusses classical interpretative works in the field, and examines current theoretical and methodological developments.

Graduate Colloquium in Religious Studies.  This on-going colloquium of graduate students and faculty meets twice monthly to discuss works-in-process, read published work of common interest, and interact with visitors from other institutions.  Its purpose is to develop the students' disciplinary identity by enabling them to work both within and across the subfields of Religious Studies.

Doctoral Seminar in Religious Studies.  This advanced seminar will introduce the students to the profession.  It will assist them in framing a dissertation proposal, encourage them to place their own scholarship within a broader disciplinary context by considering contemporary theories in the study of religion, and it will help them understand pedagogical issues in teaching religious studies to undergraduates.  The course will also address other issues related to the profession, including publication and seeking funding.

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