Faculty Scholarship

In additition to teaching, RELS faculty are renowned researchers!  Here's an overview of their recent scholarly accomplishments:

This summer, an article by Prof. Upson-Saia and co-author Maria Doerfler (Yale University), “Politics and the Pedagogue of Late Antiquity,” will be published in The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching 1.3 (July 2020). The special issue as a whole is grounded in a workshop Prof. Upson-Saia organized that brought together 50 scholars of religion in late antiquity to discuss politics and pedagogy in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. The article, which opens the special issue, sets out the increasing deployment of pre-modern sources for the construction of political ideologies; justifies the teaching of politically-relevant (and sometimes politically-charged) courses in terms of the mandates of higher education and students’ demands; and discusses the increasing urgency of confronting both phenomena in intellectually and pedagogically responsible fashion. Finally, the article provides definitional clarification of politics and the political and enumerates the relevance of Religious Studies and late ancient studies to contemporary political discourse, laying the theoretical foundation for the special issue.

Prof. Upson-Saia continues to serve as Director of ReMeDHe (pronounced “remedy”), an international working group on medicine, health, and healing. And she continues work on her forthcoming book on medicine, health and healing in the ancient Mediterranean with plans to submit the manuscript to the press later this year.

This year, Prof. Holmes-Tagchungdarpa published a book chapter from her ongoing research on Buddhism in eastern Tibet. The chapter, "Encountering the Other in the Study of Chinese Religions: Constructing Borderland Buddhism in Chinese and Euro-American Scholarship of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," explored the history and politics of how Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet has been written about by Chinese and Euro-American intellectuals. The chapter was published in State of the Field and Disciplinary Approaches (DeGruyter, 2019), the first volume of the groundbreaking series edited by Stefania Travagnin, André Laliberté and colleagues, Concepts and Methods for the Study of Chinese Religions, which provides a critical history and overview of the field of Chinese religions.

Prof. Holmes-Tagchungdarpa also continued her research for a new book on Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhist material culture in the age of the anthropocene, presenting a paper on rituals connected to Himalayan books at the Western Conference of the Association of Asian Studies in Mexico City in October 2019. As part of this project, she published a co-authored chapter co-authored with Dr. Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia (an ACLS/ Robert Ho Fellow at UCLA) on the value of tea as it is encountered, consumed and engaged with in Himalayan Buddhist communities in the volume Objects and Frontiers in Modern Asia: Between the Mekong and the Indus (Routledge, 2019), edited by edited by Lipok Dzüvichü and Manjeet Baruah.

In the fall, Prof. Michael Amoruso presented “Absence and Activism: The Death and Afterlives of Francisco José das Chagas” in the Religions in the Latina/o Americas unit of the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA. The paper is based on research for his manuscript-in-progress, Moved by the Dead: Haunting, Devotion, and Cultural Heritage in Urban Brazil, which is under advance contract with UNC Press. An ethnography of the devotion to souls (devoção às almas or culto das almas) in São Paulo, the book locates the practice of praying to the suffering dead within the city’s shifting cultural geography to explore the intersection of religion and race in public struggles over memory and representation. Over five chapters, it explores how the practice sustains the memory of social violence—especially against black Brazilians—and motivates religious, affective, and political movement.