Religion in History
Religion, whether defined as a system of belief, a series of practices, as an institution, as a mode of community, or as source of conflict, is central to human history. This cluster brings together scholars from across many areas of history, including those who specialize in United States, Asian, Middle-eastern, and European history. Members study religion both as a part of particular cultures and as a general theme. We investigate, though our research and our teaching, how religion interacts with such subjects as culture, politics, war, gender, and ethnicity. We specialize in major faith traditions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, but we also work across traditions to investigate the broad subject of religion in history. Areas of particular interest to faculty include literary, cultural, and artistic presentations and representations of religion; the history of religious thought and practice; the formation of new “religious” traditions, such as environmentalism; the relationship between religious and political identities, and the role of religion in imperial and colonial ventures. Faculty research interests include all periods from the late antique through the modern era. A field in Religion in History complements and enriches many other subjects, and all faculty welcome inquiries from current and prospective graduate students.
Undergraduate courses in the current catalogue with a primary emphasis on religion
* indicates cross-listed with RELS.
220 – History of Christianity*
221 – History of Islam*
332 – Renaissance and Reformation in Europe
347 – Rise of Islam*
365 – Religion in the United States to 1865*
366 – Religion in the United States since 1865*
405 – History of the Holocaust
418 – European Intellectual History from the Greeks to the Early Middle Ages*
419 – European Intellectual History from the High Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century*
481 – Recent topics that have focused on religion include Religion in US History and Latino Religion
Undergraduate courses with a significant emphasis on religion
103 – World History
258 – American Indian History
308 – History of American Indians
331 – Medieval Europe
348 – Modern Middle East
351 – Traditional East Asia
352 – Modern East Asia
354 – Imperial China
355 –Modern China
358 – Chinese Cultural History
420 – European Intellectual History to 1800
421 – European Intellectual History since 1800
459 – American Society and Culture to 1900
460 – American Society and Culture since 1900
461 – History of American Women
473 – History of Modern American Women
631 – Graduate Readings in US History to 1877
679 - Topics in Comparative Border Studies - Topic: Religion as a Border in American History
received her Ph. D. from the University of Maryland, College Park, M.A. from
U.C.L.A., and B.A. from Western Reserve University. She specializes in U. S.
Women's History, Biography, and late 19th and 20th Century U. S. History. Her
research interests and publications within those fields include biographies, the
history of women in business (including Jewish women in business), Jewish women
in U. S. history, the effects of woman suffrage, and health issues of women.
She just completed a Foreword for the recently published Pioneer Jewish
Texans by Natalie Ornish. While Alpern's courses in U. S. Women's History
include information on Jewish women, she is interested in developing a
specialized course on Jewish women in U. S. history. She has been a member of
the Religious Studies Program Review Committee through its many iterations over
the years and has recently been accepted into the revitalized Religious Studies
Olga Dror has worked on religious traditions in China and Vietnam, with particular emphasis on popular beliefs: how do they originate, why some of them develop, while others pass into oblivion, do those beliefs pertain only to the religious domain - these are only few examples of the questions she is interested in. Being interested in transnational interactions, she has also explored missionary activities in China and Vietnam, focusing on missionaries' perceptions of the local religious and philosopical currents: Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and popular religions.
Thomas Dunlap’s interest in this field lies in secular religion, the use of material theories as the basis for beliefs about such ultimate questions as the purpose of human life. This work draws on definitions of religion from religious studies dating from the work of William James. He has a book on American environmentalism as a religious commitment, Faith in Nature, and he continues to work on popular interest in nature as an ultimate commitment.
Side Emre researches and teaches the history of Islam, Islamic culture(s) and civilizations, and Islamic mystical traditions in medieval and early modern Near East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. This also includes careers of Sufis, Sufi brotherhoods and orders, their doctrines, rituals, literature, and cultures in a historical context, covering mostly the geographical extent of the Ottoman Empire. (My time-line in teaching is ca. 500-2011 C.E. and for research, it is ca. 1400-1600 C.E.) I don’t necessarily focus on the “timeless and essential qualities” in any given Sufi order or mystical tradition. Therefore my preferred methodological approach is that of an historian of Sufism rather than a scholar of religious studies and Sufism. In particular, I focus on the nexus of politics and religion, with its mystical dimensions, in the medieval and early modern Near East and North Africa. For the course I want to teach on Islam and Islamic mystical traditions, I want to go out of my usual comfort zone--political history-- and focus instead on literature, culture and visual arts (calligraphic and illustrative) related to Islam and Islamic mystical traditions.
Felipe Hinojosa earned his Ph.D. from the University of Houston in 2009 and began teaching at Texas A&M University that same year. His teaching and research interests include Latina/o history, religion, comparative race and ethnicity, gender, and social movements. He is particularly interested in how Latina/o religious identities and cultures have operated within discourses of power and how they have helped shape cultural, political, and faith-informed activism in twentieth century America. In 2010 he was awarded a “First Book Grant for Minority Scholars” from the Louisville Institute and is currently working on his manuscript titled, “Quiet Riots: Faith, Activism, and Identity Among Latina/o Mennonites, 1932-1982.”
Angela Pulley Hudson studies and teaches American Indian ethnohistory, with an emphasis on populations indigenous to the U.S. South. Her research has involved investigations of southeastern Indian belief systems and their relationship to diplomacy, mobility, and geography in the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, she conducts research on the relationship of European-American religious beliefs and American Indian peoples.
John Lenihan is a cultural historian who includes religious thought in his teaching of modern U. S. cultural-intellectual history and has taught a special-topics course on film and Christianity. His research addresses cinematic representations of religion in the ancient world in Hollywood epics that were particularly fashionable and politically nuanced in the 1950s.
Ada Palmer is a cultural and intellectual historian focusing on the long-durée evolution of ideas and mentalities. She specializes in the early modern period, particularly the Italian Renaissance and Humanist reception of classical philosophy, but she also works on ancient, medieval and modern intellectual history. She completed her doctorate at Harvard University in Spring of 2009. She has studied extensively in Italy, and her research interests include Renaissance Neoplatonism and Neostoicism, history of heterodoxy, atheism, skepticism and freethought, history of science and history of the book. She has recently finished a project on the reception of Lucretius in the Renaissance, and is co-author of The Recovery of Classical Philosophy in the Renaissance, a Brief Guide along with her advisor, James Hankins.
Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss studies and teaches the history of the Atlantic World and modern Europe, with a particular interest in how racial, class, gender and national identities intersect in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries. Her first project Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009) explores the relationship between the French Caribbean island of Martinique and continental France from 1802-1848 and included an examination of how government sponsored schools run by male and female religious orders helped buttress white political and social power on the island. Her current project examines connections among French Atlantic port cities in the Age of Empire, and the role of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Saint Louis, Senegal, Cayenne, French Guiana, and Bordeaux, France. She earned her Ph.D. from Duke University in 2003 and has held fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the American Historical Association, and the Collaborative Research Group for the Study of the Global South.
Daniel Schwartz studies religion in the late Roman period, teaches History of Christianity, and includes significant discussions of religion in courses on World History and the Roman Empire. He would also like to propose courses on the History of Byzantium and the Crusades, both of which would include substantial discussion of religious material. His research interests include the development of Christianity as an imperial religion, the process of conversion within that context, the role of ritual performance in the spread of religion, the early Christian reception of classical “pagan” education, and the role of religious violence in Late Antiquity.
Di Wang is a social and cultural historian, who studies the transition and transformation of modern China. In his book Striding out of a Closed World: Social Transformation of the Upper Yangzi Region, 1644-1911, he explores the religious practices in the Upper Yangzi Region, a major hinterland of China during the seventeenth century and the early twentieth century and reveals the procedure Christianity entered this region and the conflicts between native and Western religions. In his book Street Culture in Chengdu: Public Space, Urban Commoners, and Local Politics, 1870-1930, he examines the social functions and political roles of popular religions. Now he is working on his book project “Gowned Brothers: Secret Societies and Local Dominance in Sichuan, 1650-1950.” By studying the secret society’s history, religious practices, and social roots, this project analyzes how the organization extended its power into all kinds of people and how and to what extent it dominated local society. He teaches HIST 351 Traditional East Asia, HIST 354 Imperial China, HIST 355 Modern China, and HIST 358 Chinese Cultural History, which cover extensively religions in China and East Asia.