Areas of Specialization
The department offers graduate training in four areas of specialization:
Religion in America
The Department of Religious Studies concentrates on the cultural history of religious institutions, movements, thought, rituals, and symbols of religion in North America and emphasizes a historical-ethnographic/social scientific approach. Current faculty strengths include popular religion, ethnicity, class and gender, immigrant and minority communities, religion and politics, religion in the arts, religious responses to modernity, the processes of religious transmission to the Americas, and religious interaction and violence.
When applicable, students working on American religions participate in one of the area studies programs of the University Center for International Studies and/or in such programs as Cultural, Film or Gender, Sexulaity & Women’s Studies, which offer limited research and language study opportunities beyond those available in the department.
Students working on religion in America typically also work with affiliated faculty in Anthropology, English, History, History of Art and Architecture, Slavic and other departments dealing with languages and literatures, and adjunct faculty at Carnegie Mellon University.
Religions of Asia
The Department of Religious Studies focuses on the study of East Asian religions in their historical and cultural contexts. Current strengths include medieval and modern Chinese and Japanese Buddhist history and the historical-ethnographic study of Chinese and Japanese popular religion. Students specialize in either China or Japan, while acquiring a general knowledge of all major Asian traditions. Advanced Chinese and/or Japanese are critical to course work and research. Students typically have completed two or more years of formal language study prior to entering the program.
Students concentrating on religions of Asia typically earn a certificate in Asian Studies. The Asian Studies Center also offers generous academic-year and summer funding for research and language study beyond the funding available in the department.
Students working on Asian religions typically also work with affiliated faculty in Anthropology, East Asian Languages and Literatures, History, History of Art and Architecture, and adjunct faculty at Carnegie Mellon University.
The Department of Religious Studies emphasizes the study of Judaism in its historical, cultural, and political contexts in America, Eastern and Western Europe, and the Middle East. Current strengths include early modern, modern, adn contemporary Jewish history and historiography, Diaspora studies, political and intellectual history, gender studies, history of the book and print culture, identity formation, and Christian-Muslim-Jewish interactions. Students working in this specialization are typically expected to have (or quickly acquire) a command of Hebrew and other languages of research at the time of entering the program.
As applicable, students working on Jewish history typically earn a certificate in Cultural, Medieval and Renaissance, European, and/or East European and Russian Studies, which offer research and language opportunities beyond those available in the department. They also participate in the Program in Jewish Studies.
Students working on Jewish history typically also work with affiliated faculty in English, French and Italian, History, History of Art and Architecture, Political Science, Slavic Languages and Literatures, and adjunct faculty at Carnegie Mellon University.
Religious Thought and Language
Religions are rich and varied in their cognitive and linguistic expressions. A specialization in religious thought and language is intended for students who want either to concentrate on varieties specific to western monotheism or to work more broadly on the comparative study of religious thought. Current faculty strengths include metaphor, paradox, myth, narrative, genre, hermeneutics, ideology, exegetical argument, early Christian thought, early modern theology, secular and sacred history, philosophy of religion, and other interpretative approaches to religious texts. Students working in these areas typically work closely with religious texts and must have (or quickly develop) a facility in reading the languages of the peoples they plan to study.
Students working in this specialization also typically work with affiliated faculty in Classics, English, French and Italian, History, History of Art and Architecture, Philosophy, and adjunct faculty at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Carnegie Mellon University.