University of Pittsburgh

Department of Religious Studies

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We are sorry to have to share the news of the death of our department chair, beloved colleague, dedicated and inspiring teacher, and noted scholar of early Chinese Buddhism, Linda Penkower. Over the last few years, she battled cancer while also working with tireless dedication to the Religious Studies Department, her colleagues, and her students. We send condolences to her friends and family.


Once a month, Spectacles invites religious studies, cultural studies, and film studies enthusiasts to join together and watch a movie with religious themes. Afterwards, religious studies majors will lead an open discussion about the movie. And of course, there will be movie snacks!

March 13, 2018 at 7pm
Room 407 Cathedral of Learning
My Name is Khan, with post-film discussion led by Karam Elahi and Mohammad Sajjad. Directed by Karan Johar, My Name is Khan tells the story of Rizwan Khan, a Muslim Indian man with Asperger's Syndrome who moves to the United States and marries a Hindu Indian woman. Following 9/11, he struggles with prejudice in his travels around the country.

April 8, 2018 at 5pm
Room 407 Cathedral of Learning
Spirited Away, with post-film discussion. In Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli beautifully animates the story of a young Japanese girl who is trapped in a spirit realm. Directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki, this critically acclaimed film explores Shinto themes in a modern meets historical context.


We invite all religious studies, majors, minors, prospective majors and minors. the merely curious, and those craving cookies for an informal lunch with our facutly on the first Friday of each month during the acadmeic year. Bring your lunch and we'll supply dessert and coffee. 2628 CL, noon. Contact Dr. Adam Shear

PITT IN ISRAEL: New 2018 Summer Study Abroad Program!

Dates: June 6, 2018-July 8, 2018
Application Deadline: January 28, 2018
The first half of the program, led by Ben Giordon (Religious Studies), is based in the heart of Jerusalem. Students will learn about the politics of archaeology in the "Holy Land" by touring archaeological sites and museums, and will include excursions to the Dead Sea and Galilee, where students will learn about Jesus and archaeology while spending a few days in Nazareth. In the second half of the program, students will move to the center of Tel Aviv, where students will read modern Israeli and Palestinian literature with Kevin Haworth (Creative Writing Program, Carlow), an accomplished author, while living a short walk from the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout the program there will be occasional beginners-level lessons in Hebrew and Arabic in the evenings and guest lecturers from local experts in the fields of archaeology and literature.


Because many Jews consider Torah scrolls to be sacred and treasured objects, and because of great expense involved commissioning new scrolls, many Torah scrolls have long, fascinating histories. When synagogues dwindle and decline, they do not discard their Torah Scrolls but pass them along to new congregations. When, historically, Jews have been forced to flee their communities because of persecution, they often took Torah scrolls with them as they sought safer shores. Uncovering the histories of individual Torah scrolls, therefore, can tell us a great dealabout Jewish history. In the spring of 2017, the students in Dr. Rachel Kranson’s “Jews and Judaism: Modern” course researched the histories of ten of the Torah Scrolls that can be found in the Pittsburgh area. In the process, they discovered a rich history of Jewish migration, mobility, spirituality, and community-building.


The Meyers Excavations Digital Archives Project

Ben Gordon and his collaborators are developing a website that presents artifacts and archaeological remains through a series of interactive maps of a rich archive of archaeological data from the Galilee region of northern Israel. The data derives from nearly three decades of excavation seasons led by Carol Meyers and Eric Meyers (Duke University).

Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place

Adam Shear, along with his collaborators, launched the pilot database of Footprints, a long-term digital humanities project that focuses on the circulation of Hebraica and Judaica in early modern Europe and the Middle East.


Brock Bahler, Childlike Peace in Merleau-Ponty and Levinas: Intersubjectivity as Dialectical Spiral (Lexington, 2016). PODCAST interview with the author.

Brock Bahler (coeditor), Philosophy of Childhood Today: Exploring the Boundaries (Lexignton, 2016)

Jeanette S. Jouili, Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe (Stanford, 2015). INTERVIEW with the author.

Rachel Kranson, Ambivalent Embrace: Jewish Upward Mobility in Postwar America (UNC Press, 2017).

Rachel Kranson (coeditor), Special Issue of the Journal of Jewish Identities 8.2 (July 2015) on “Jewish Youth in the Global 196.”

Linda Penkower (coeditor), Hindu Rituals at the Margins: Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations (USCP, 2014)

Adam Shear (coeditor), Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David B. Ruderman (HUCP/Pitt Press, 2014)

Clark Chilson, Secrecy's Power: Covert Shin Buddhists in Japan and Contradictions of Concealment, Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture (UHP, 2014).

Paula Kane, Sister Thorn and Catholic Mysticism in Modern America (UNC Press, 2013). PODCAST interview with the author.

PROMOTIONS as of Fall Term 2017

Ben Gordon joins the faculty as assistant professor and Rosenerg-Perlow Fellow of Classical Judaism.

Rebecca Denova is promoted to Senior Lecturer.

Haya Feig is promoted to Lecturer 2.


Jeanette Jouili discusses the so-called "Burkini controversy" that emerged in France in the summer of 2016, in which mayors in some French cities and towns attempted to ban the wearing of modest, full-body swimwear at public beaches. Interviewed by Allyson Delnore (European Studies Center) (9/2016)


Brock Bahler discusses the notion of ritual as a locus of power in terms of structure and agency. His recent book, Childlike Peace in Levinas and Merleau-Ponty. Intersubjectivity as a Dialectical Spiral (Lexington Books, 2016) focuses on neuroscience to grasp the topic power relations at the confluence of religion and other social influences on one’s trajectories. Interviewed by the Religious Studies Project (6/2016)

Keep up-to-date on Religious Studies news, events, scholarship and other opportunities for undergraduates and majors. LIKE US ON FACEBOOK

Why STEM majors should also consider Religious Studies

The Top Five Reasons to Study Religion

"Why I Left the Right: How Studying Religion Made Me a Liberal," by Susie Meister (PhD, Religious Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2014)

Revised 02/28/18 | Copyright 2007 | Site by UMC WebTeam