Religion in the Americas
This multi-disciplinary concentration considers the diversity of religion in the Americas. Although students will select a narrower geographical and chronological focus for their specialization, the program prepares graduates to understand religious contacts and exchanges in the region in terms of global flows in the Atlantic World, the Pacific World, and the Western Hemisphere. Students can choose from various methods in the humanities and social sciences, including historical analysis and participant observation, and they can specialize in U.S. religions, Caribbean religions, or Latin American religions. Graduates will be prepared for appointments in Religious Studies, History, American Studies, or Latin American Studies that involve research and teaching in the Major Fields listed below.
- Religion in the United States
- Religion in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Religion in the Americas
- Roman Catholic Studies
- Pentecostal Studies
- Religion and Culture
Applicants should have a strong academic record in one of the disciplines of the Humanities, Arts, or Social Sciences, and some prior study at the undergraduate or graduate level in one of the specializations listed above is preferred. Also preferred is some prior training in at least one of the major research languages, and all students in the concentration will gain competency in Spanish or Portuguese, as well as skill in other languages necessary for research and teaching in the student’s area of specialization.
In addition to the general program requirements, students in Religion in the Americas will complete the following courses:
R S 391L. Approaches to the Study of Latin American Religion
An introduction to the history of scholarship about religion in Latin America and the Caribbean.
R S 391N. Approaches to the Study of U.S. Religion
An introduction to the history of scholarship about religion in the U.S., including recent research on the Atlantic World, the Pacific World, and the Western Hemisphere.
Students will take additional courses, including research seminars, chosen in consultation with their faculty advisor, in preparation for the qualifying exams listed below.
Ph.D. candidates in Religious Studies are required to pass a set of qualifying examinations. The exams will be in four fields and will consist of written essays for each field and an oral defense of the essays. Students will consult closely with area faculty in developing areas of specialization and fulfilling comprehensive examination requirements. The four fields for Religion in the Americas are:
- Major Field: An exam on the study of religion in the Americas, including the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Depending on the student’s specialization this also might include relevant readings on religion in the Atlantic World and/or religion in the Pacific World.
- Supporting Field: An exam on the student’s region of focus—the United States, Canada, Latin America, or the Caribbean.
- Thematic Field: An exam that considers one theme in the study of religion. That theme will be relevant to the student’s primary research and teaching interests and will be selected in consultation with the advisor. Many themes are possible, including material culture, ritual, gender, violence, or missions, and both narrower case studies and broader theoretical or comparative studies might be included on the reading list for this exam.
- Dissertation Field: An exam that focuses on what the student needs to know to write the proposed dissertation. This might include both readings about what is being studied (e.g., Guatemalan Protestantism, Brazilian new religions, or U.S. Catholicism) and how it is being studied (e.g., participant observation, archeology, or archival research).
Students must demonstrate competence in the following languages:
- Spanish or Portuguese.
- At least one other modern research language.
- Any other indigenous languages of the Americas or modern languages of Europe, Africa, or Asia necessary for the student’s dissertation research or subfield specialization.
Faculty advisors will consult with entering students about language preparation.
Robert H. Abzug, Professor; Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Areas: Religion in the U.S. / social reform and religious life in antebellum America / America and the Holocaust / the interpenetration of religion and psychology in modern American culture
Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Professor
Ph.D., Tulane University
Areas: Religion in Latin America / Protestantism and new religious movements / religious and ethnic identity among the Maya/ neo-pentecostalism in Brazil
Jennifer Graber, Associate Professor
Ph.D., Duke University
Areas: Religion and violence / inter-religious encounters in American prisons and on American frontier
Chad Seales, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Areas: Religion in the American South / religion and industry / religion and popular culture / theory and method in the study of religion / religion and migration
Matthew J. Butler, Associate Professor of History
Ph.D., University of Bristol
Areas: Religion in Latin America / Post-revolutionary Mexico / Cristero Rebellion / Church and State / Latin American Catholicism
Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
Areas: Religion in the Atlantic World / Early Modern Atlantic history / Colonial Spanish and British America
David Stuart, Linda and David Schele Professor of Mesoamerican Art and Writing (Art and Art History)
Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
Areas: Religion in Mesoamerica / Ancient Maya religion and culture