Department of Religious Studies

Though courses at The University of Alabama in the study of religion date as far back as 1932, the Department of Religious Studies (located on the second and third floors of historic Manly Hall) was established in 1966 with the hire of PhDs trained in non-confessionally descriptive and cross-culturally comparative studies of religion. The department, which has quadrupled its number of tenured and tenure-track faculty since 2000, offers courses in a wide variety of areas, e.g., from ancient Greece to modern India, and from the text of the Hebrew Bible to Afro-Carribean diaspora literature, specializing also in using digital tool in humanities research. Apart from its MA degree, it supports an undergraduate major and minor, along with a minor in Judaic Studies. It is also the home of the director of UA's cross-disciplinary minor in Asian Studies.

Learn more about REL at our department's blog (where faculty, students, grads, and invited guests regularly post); you can find us on Vimeo and you can visit the department on Facebook as well as find out information there on our undergrad student association, or follow us on Twitter @StudyReligion and Instagram.

Visit Department Website

Programs

Faculty

Chair
  • Russell T. McCutcheon
Graduate Director
  • Steven Ramey
Administrative Secretary
  • LeCretia Crumpton
Professors
  • Steven L. Jacobs
  • Russell T. McCutcheon
  • Steven Ramey
  • K. Merinda Simmons
  • Theodore L. Trost
Associate Professors
  • Michael Altman
  • Daniel Levine
  • Nathan Loewen
Assistant Professors
  • Richard Newton
  • Edith Szanto
  • Vaia Touna
  • Jeri Wieringa
 

Courses

General prerequisites: Graduate standing and permission of both the director of graduate studies and the instructor. Graduate students enrolled in 500-level courses that are also offered at the 400 level are expected to perform extra work of an appropriate nature.

REL
501
Hours
3
Social Theory and Religious Studies

This three credit hour graduate seminar introduces students to terms and ideas from social theory and their relevance to the academic study of religion. Throughout the course, students will apply theories to analyze examples relevant in Religious Studies, both ancient and modern. Each student will also select an important work in their chosen field of study in consultation with their advisor and analyze that work in depth in relation to the various issues discussed in the course.

Prerequisite(s): None, except admission to degree program
REL
502
Hours
3
Public Humanities and Religious Studies

This graduate seminar introduces students to public humanities and digital humanities approaches to the study of religion. Students learn methods and tools for conducting digital research and explore ways to communicate theoretical and religious studies research to public audiences through digital media. Students are introduced to a number of digital tools for research, scholarly communication, and public engagement and will work to apply those tools to their individual research interests and goals.

Prerequisite(s): None, except admission to degree program
REL
503
Hours
1
Methods for the Digital Study of Religion

This graduate seminar introduces students to methods for the digital study of religion with a focus on the interfaces that enable computationally mediated scholarship. Students will tackle two core issues in digital scholarship: the development of computational research questions and the design and creation of digital text. Each student will develop a proof of concept for a computation-driven research question in their chosen field of study and a web page that introduces their project idea. The course is structured around a series of intensive, hands-on and collaborative workshops, the first focused on questions of computation and the second on web development.

REL
504
Hours
3
Special Topics in Religion in Culture

To illustrate the gains of applying social theory to the study of religion, this course will draw upon current examples to study in light of the skills gained in the social theory foundations course. Specific content will be determined by faculty responsible for the course each semester. This course may be repeated for a maximum of 9 hours for differing topics.

Prerequisite(s): None, except admission to degree program
REL
511
Hours
3
History of Religious Studies

This graduate seminar surveys the origins, objects of study, and pivotal thinkers that scholars often highlight when outlining the historical development/current shape of Religious Studies. By course end, each student will narrate the study of religion in light of their own research interests.

REL
512
Hours
3
Debates in Method and Theory

This graduate seminar will acquaint students with contemporary debates and authors, emphasizing the work of a newer generation of scholars, in order to consider more closely the tools that scholars use to study religion, the various contexts in which they carry out their work, and some of their wider implications.

REL
521
Hours
3
Self & Society

This graduate seminar introduces students to terms and ideas related to constructions of the self and society and their relevance to the academic study of religion. Towards the end of the semester, a specific case study will serve as a site where students will apply theories discussed to analyze examples relevant in Religious Studies. Each student will also select an important work or issue in their chosen field of study in consultation with their advisor and analyze that work in depth in relation to the various issues discussed in the course.

REL
522
Hours
3
Power & Persuasion

This graduate seminar introduces students to terms and ideas related to expressions of power and persuasion and their relevance to the academic study of religion. Throughout the course, a specific case study will serve as a site where students will apply theories discussed to analyze examples relevant in Religious Studies. Each student will also select an important work or issue in their chosen field of study in consultation with their advisor and analyze that work in depth in relation to the various issues discussed in the course.

REL
523
Hours
3
Discourse & Practice

This graduate seminar introduces students to terms and ideas related to discourse and practice and their relevance to the academic study of religion. Throughout the course, students will apply theories to analyze examples relevant in Religious Studies, both ancient and modern. Each student will also select an important work in their chosen field of study in consultation with their advisor and analyze that work in depth in relation to the various issues discussed in the course.

REL
524
Hours
3
Past & Present

This graduate seminar introduces students to terms and ideas related to the construction of the past and its relation to the present and their relevance to the academic study of religion. Throughout the course, students will apply theories to analyze examples relevant in Religious Studies, both ancient and modern. Each student will also select an important work in their chosen field of study in consultation with their advisor and analyze that work in depth in relation to the various issues discussed in the course.

REL
525
Hours
3
Identity & Place

This graduate seminar introduces students to terms and ideas related to issues of identification and place and their relevance to the academic study of religion. Throughout the course, a specific case study will serve as a site where students will apply theories discussed to analyze examples relevant in Religious Studies. Each student will also select an important work or issue in their chosen field of study in consultation with their advisor and analyze that work in depth in relation to the various issues discussed in the course.

REL
560
Hours
1-9
Independent Study in Social Theory in Religious Studies

This variable credit hour graduate course provides students with the opportunity to pursue a topic of their choosing in relation to social theory and its relevance to the academic study of religion. Throughout the course, students will meet with the professor to select and discuss readings and writing assignments.

Prerequisite(s): None, except admission to degree program
REL
561
Hours
1-9
Independent Study in Social Theory in Religious Studies

This variable credit hour graduate course provides students with the opportunity to pursue a topic of their choosing in relation to social theory and its relevance to the academic study of religion. Throughout the course, students will meet with the professor to select and discuss readings and writing assignments.

Prerequisite(s): None, except for admission to degree program
REL
565
Hours
1-9
Religion in Culture Applied

This course reflects the Department's aim to help prepare students with a wide variety of research and professional interests for futures beyond their M.A. To that end, the Department has established relationships with a variety of offices on- and off-campus whose workplaces rely on the kinds of skills students learn in the M.A. degree program. When students sign up for this course, they will be assigned to a supervisor working in one of these professional settings. This assignment will consist of participating in at least five hours per week of hands-on training, while also applying the analytical and digital skills gained in their M.A. coursework. Various projects will be determined by the supervisor overseeing the graduate student's work, in conversation with the Graduate Director. By the end of the semester, the student will have not only completed a number of site-specific tasks but also written at least one blog post for the Department's website synthesizing their take-aways from the experience.

REL
580
Hours
3
Academic Writing in the Study of Religion

The purpose of this seminar is to shape a piece of each student's critical writing into publishable form. To this end the class will be run as a workshop, with the students' own writing as the primary material. On days when there is focus on a single student's essay, another class member will be assigned to present that essay to the class, by identifying its thesis, describing its situation in a larger critical field of religious studies, and outlining its argument. At other times students will be asked to bring in pieces of their essays for more intense focus. At the end of the class each student will submit their essay to a refereed journal in the academic study of religion.

REL
590
Hours
3
Capstone Seminar in Social Theory in Religious Studies

In this culmination class experience, normally enrolled in final Spring semester, students will present their ongoing original thesis research for the purposes of soliciting feedback from the instructor and classmates. In light of the feedback, students will respond and revise their work. Having begun the degree with two common foundations courses (one on social theory and one on public humanities digital skills), students in this course will integrate and apply the skills learned throughout the degree.

Prerequisite(s): None, except admission to degree program
REL
599
Hours
1-9
Religious Studies Masters Thesis

This independent research course which partially fulfills required master’s-level thesis hours for students completing a formal thesis project as part of their degree program. The course is conducted under the guidance of the student’s thesis advisor. Material covered will be of an advanced nature aimed at providing master’s students with an understanding of the latest research and current developments within the field. Discussion and advisor guidance will be directed towards readings of research articles and development of research methodology, with the aim of producing an original research contribution that represents a novel development in the field, or a novel perspective on a pre-existing topic in the field. Research projects will result in the production of an article length essay or equivalent digital project (as approved by the thesis advisor), as well as an oral presentation of the research. Students will meet regularly with the thesis advisor throughout the semester during which the course is undertaken.