Message from the Chair

Welcome.

The study of religion is among the oldest pursuits of humanity and a foundation of the modern university.  In the Department of Religion at Emory undergraduate and graduate students get to know some of the teachings and practices of living religions of the world; they also engage a broad diversity of questions, arguments, and methods in order to pursue interdisciplinary research projects and to learn about Religion as an academic discipline.  How is love present or absent from Black people’s lives?  How do fantasy, science-fiction, and religion intersect?  How have religious movements contributed to social change in Latin America?  How is the mind-body connection a paradigm to understand religion?  What does conversion have to do with liminality, shapeshifting, and radical empiricism?  What rituals and symbols have LGBTQ people developed as representative of their movements?  How do women’s self-representation negotiate dominant cultural ideologies and representation in cross-cultural settings?  What is human goodness?  What makes a space sacred?  How do contemplative practices and narrative intersect in Buddhism?  Is a text more important than a human being in order to understand religion?  These and many other questions unfold into a variety of courses and co-curricular events in the Department, providing an environment for students and faculty to step back from particular religions in order to study some of their aspects comparatively, theoretically, and thematically across traditions. 

Both our faculty and students consider the study of religion an especially urgent matter in an era of sociopolitical and economic turmoil, climate change, and world transformations.  The role of religions in global politics and economics has never been more complex, and one of our most important scholarly and pedagogical obligations is to attend to those dynamics.

To that end, our faculty teaches classes on the correspondences of reading and interpreting texts considered religious or sacred, whether they are printed on paper, written on a wall, or articulated by an individual or a congregation.  They note what separates faiths from beliefs.  They seek to understand religious expressions in performance and rituals, in private and/or public life.  They ask how do races, ethnicities, and religion relate to each other, and how are sacred spaces, mobilities, and migrations formed and transformed.  They study what joins or separates religion and nature, and how science and religion relate; they also study, and practice, how meditation works in relation to spirituality and well-being.  They see how religion appears represented in media.  They trace how religions contribute to culture-formation or deformation.

In our classes, and in life, students are encouraged to practice compassion and care in the face of conflict, and to insist on asking questions that may lead, or not, to make sense of life on earth and beyond.  They learn that the conventional assumption that science, technology, modernity, and politics would eventually displace traditional religious world views is proving to be quite relative, as it now seems clear that public and private religious expression is very much a part of contemporary life.  The need for scholarly understanding of religion as a social and intellectual force in the world today is proving to be just as important as the need to conduct research on technology, politics, art, science, and philosophy.  With that foundation they go on to seek careers in Religion, Medicine, Science, Law, Business, and Public Health, among others.

Religion is recognized as an excellent area of studies for students seeking a solid education in today’s world.  Students in other departments find studies of Religion at Emory to be a useful tool for their academic and professional pursuits.  Our faculty members, award-winning researchers of religions from virtually every continent of the world, are here to engage the needs and interests of students of religion no matter their culture, language, or background.  

In this website you will find information about the Department, its affiliations with the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, the Laney Graduate School of Arts and Science, and the Candler School of Theology, as well as other instructional units of Emory University.  Drop by the department, take our courses, or join us at our various events; we look forward to getting to know you and to work with you.

María M. Carrión, Chair, Department of Religion
Professor of Religion and Comparative Literature
Co-Coordinator, Emory Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program