Recent News

March 30, 2017

Read about Professor Vanessa Ochs' research on the evolution of modern rituals in UVA Today.

March 22, 2017

Just funded under the Mellon Humanities Lab Program of the College of Arts and Sciences is a lab on ‘Dissecting Cultural Pluralism: Religion and Society in the Ancient and Medieval Mediterranean,’ to be conducted under the auspices of the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures (IHGC) for the academic years 2017–18 and 2018–19. The fourteen faculty participants include members of the Departments of Art, Classics, History, and Religious Studies; there will be abundant opportunities for participation by graduate students. The Directors of the Lab are John Miller (Classics) and Janet Spittler (Religious Studies). This Lab will involve overlapping collaborations on three themes: religious pluralism; sacred cities; legacies and lessons. Activities will include course development, visiting lectures, conferences, and support for graduate student and faculty research. The Lab will occupy space in Wilson Hall in proximity to the IHGC.

Prof. Maria Massi Dakake (George Mason University) will give a lecture entitled “Is the Qur’an an Open Book? The Qur’anic Signs (ayat) and their Interpretation (ta’wil)”
The Islamic exegetical tradition has generally preferred to locate the proper interpretation of Qur’anic verses in the reports of the early generations of Muslim scholars and authorities, thereby fixing the interpretation in time. As indispensable as these early exegetical reports are for our understanding of the Qur’an, the Qur’an itself provides little warrant for limiting its interpretation to any one group of religious authorities. More importantly, the rich and multivalent words the Qur’an uses to refer to its own verses (ayat, or “signs”) and to the interpretation of these divine signs (ta’wil), suggest that the meaning of its verses/signs is precisely not “fixed”, but rather open to the development, deepening, and unfolding of meaning over time.


Prof. Maria Massi Dakake (George Mason University) will deliver a lecture on Islamic contemplative practice in the context of Sufism, entitled “Encountering the Divine through His Most Beautiful Names.”

The Qur’an asserts that “to God belong the most beautiful names” and that believers should “call Him by them.” Muslims have traditionally identified 99 names or attributes of God mentioned in the Qur’an that reflect God’s transcendence and immanence, His beauty and majesty, His compassion and power. The Qur’anic command to call God by His “beautiful names” has led to the development of these names, and various practices of invoking them, as keys to contemplative practice (dhikr) in Islam, and particularly in the mystical perspective of Sufism. This talk will examine contemplative practices related to the names of God in traditional Islamic thought.

January 31, 2017

Professors Peter Ochs and Jerry White received funding for a Religion, Politics, and Conflict Lab (RPC) that aims to produce cutting-edge research into the nature, causes, and solutions to religion-related, violent conflicts anywhere in the world. Promoting unprecedented, collaborative research among scholars from a diverse range of sciences, from data science, systems engineering, quantum logic, to literature, history, and religion, it seeks to design a procedure and to prepare it for field-testing while at the same time training students in mixed quantitative-qualitative methods that can be directly applied to real-world problems.

January 31, 2017

The Board of Visitors recently awarded funds from UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund to the Department of Religious Studies for a Global Religion Lab (GRL), headed by Professors Martien Halvorson-Taylor and Kurtis Schaeffer.  Hosted by the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion, the GRL will focus on the place of religion in the formation of the person and the political on a global scale.

“Sanskrit Masnavis and Shaiva Sufism: Translating Jami's Yusuf wa Zulaikha in Sultanate Kashmir”

Dr. Luther Obrock (Lecturer in Sanskrit, Department of South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania)

Thursday, March 30th at 4:00pm in Nau Hall #441

(sponsored by the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion (VCSR), the Department of Religious Studies, and the South Asia Center)


December 15, 2016

Professor Vanessa Ochs gave a lecture entitled "Curating Jewishhess in American Domestic Space: Recent Ethnographic Explorations" at Tel Aviv University on December 15, 2016.



December 6, 2016

This past summer Associate Professor of Religious Studies John Nemec was invited as a "Directeur d'études invité" to deliver a series of lectures at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. Professor Nemec, who works primarily on Indian intellectual and cultural history, lectured on the Kashmiri Pratyabhijñā School. Félicitations to Professor Nemec on this honor and achievement. 

December 6, 2016

See UVA Today's feature story on Charles Marsh and the Project on Lived Theology.