University of Pittsburgh
three small photographs depicting various religious icons

Department of Religious Studies


Department News

Department Receives Generous Bequest to Supplement the Richard H. Wilmer, Jr. Lectureship in Christian Studies

The estate of Mrs. Sarah King Wilmer, widow of Dr. Richard H. Wilmer, Jr., the founder and first chair of the department, has made a generous bequest to supplement the corpus of the Wilmer Lectureship in Christian Studies endowment. The Lectureship brings to campus leading scholars in Christian studies.

First Annual Wilmer Lecture in Christian Studies Presented by Leigh Eric Schmidt

Leigh E. Schmidt, Edward Mallinckrodt University Professor at the Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis, spoke on "The Invention of American Spirituality" on April 19, 2012. View PODCAST.

Second Annual Wilmer Lecture in Christian Studies Presented by Catherine A. Brekus

Catherine A. Brekus, Associate Professor of Religions in America and the History of Christianity, The Divinity School, and Associate Member, Department of History, University of Chicago, spoke on "Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelicalism in Early America, on April 4. 2013. View PODCAST.

Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences Postdoctoral Fellows in Religious Studies

The department is proud to have hosted two Dietrich School Postdoctoral Associates selected from a highly competitve group of applicants in the humanities and social sciences. In addition to conducting research, postdoctoral associates teach one course per term for the department and contribute to the intellectual life of the University at large. The fellowship is for one year and is renewable for a second.

Kristen Tobey (PhD, Chicago Divinity School, 2010) was part of the inaugural class of Dietrich School Postdoctoral Fellows (Spring Term 2011-Fall Term 2012). Her broad interests lie in religious communities and utopian movements, identity maintenance and boundary work; symbolism and ritual behavior; and religious activism, social protest, and political change. Dr. Tobey's book project is titled "Breaking into the World: The Plowshares and the Performance of Religious Boundaries." The Plowshares is a Roman Catholic pacifist group founded in 1980 by Philip and Daniel Berrigan, and dedicated to antinuclear and antiwar activism. Through trial evidence and interviews, Dr. Tobey examines their protest rituals and courtroom behavior, which led members to prison rather than abandon moral principles. Despite its commitment to peace, today Plowshares faces marginalization from the political right and left. As social and religious history, Dr. Tobey’s project addresses political conflicts of the Reagan administration through to the aging of activism. She is interested in the tensions at and fluidity of the margins, and challenges those who characterize purposeful marginalization in exclusively negative terms.

M. Cooper Harriss (PhD, Chicago Divinity School, 2011) is a member of the Postdoctoral Associate class of 2012-2013, 2013-2014. She research and teaching interests concern the intersections of religious thought and practice with African American cultural production (especially literature, performance, and vernacular music), the concept of race in western and American intellectual history, the religious and theological valences of the concept of irony, and the impact of preachers and preaching upon African American literature (broadly construed). Dr. Harriss' book project, "Race and the Religious Unconscious: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Theology," explores the religious and theological dimensions of twentieth-century African American novelist and critic Ralph Ellison’s concept of race. He is also working on a second manuscript project titled "The Word and its Contradiction: Divining Irony in African-American Religion and Culture."

New Graduate Student Fellowship Established by Alumna
Zinneke Parade, Grand Place, Brussels

Barbara "Lilan" Laishley (PhD, 2004) has established the Fred W. Clothey Fund for the Study of South Asia and Ritual to support student conference participation and research-related travel. The Fund honors Fred W. Clothey who became Professor Emeritus in May 2006. For information on how to contribute to the Fund see Friends or contact Maureen Hendrson at 412.624.5990. For information on applying to the fund, visit Fellowships and Financial Support.

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