Religious Studies

Abhishek Amar, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

B.A., Dyal Singh College; M.A. and M.Phil., Jawaharlal Nehru University; Ph.D., University of London
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Areas of expertise: archaeological history of South Asian religions, especially Buddhist and Hindu traditions; research in themes of inter-religious dynamics, syncretism and religious transformation; colonialism and reconfigurations of sacred centers; and religion and water management in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions

Abhishek S. Amar specializes in the archaeological history of South Asian religions. He received his doctorate in history from SOAS, University of London, and then got a fellowship from Kate Hamburger Kolleg at Ruhr University, Germany. He is now working on a monograph that examines the issues of expansion, sustenance and religious transformation of Buddhism at the site of Buddha’s enlightenment. He directs a digital research project, Sacred Centers in India, which examines material, culture and texts to unravel the histories of the Hindu and Buddhist cities of Gaya and Bodhgaya, respectively.

Steve Humphries-Brooks, Chair, Professor of Religious Studies

A.B. William Jewell College; M.Div. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; M.Phil. Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary; Ph.D. Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary
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Areas of expertise: New Testament studies, literary and social-historical criticism of the Gospels, religion in film, early Christian mysticism, theories and methods for the study of religion

Stephenson Humphries-Brooks received a doctorate in religion from Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary, with a specialization in New Testament studies.  His teaching and research interests include literary and social-historical criticism of the Gospels, religion in film, early Christian mysticism, and theories and methods for the study of religion. His most recent book, Cinematic Savior: Hollywood's Making of the American Christ, examines how the life of Jesus has been portrayed in mainstream films. His current book project, Raging Gods – which is also a class — discusses the contributions of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese to the religious culture in American film.

Quincy Newell, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

B.A., Amherst College; M.A. and Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Areas of expertise: American religious history, interreligious contact, religious experience of racial/ethnic and religious minorities, Native American religious history, African American religious history, Mormonism, gender and religion

Quincy D. Newell, a native Oregonian, earned her bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, and her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2004 she headed back west to teach at the University of Wyoming, where she was on the faculty for 11 years. Newell studies American religious history, focusing on the construction of racial, gender, and religious identities in the nineteenth-century American West. Her first book examined the ways Native Americans around the San Francisco Bay adapted, adopted, and rejected Catholicism during the Spanish colonial period; these days, she spends her time thinking and writing about nineteenth-century African American and Native American Mormons.

Heidi Ravven, Professor of Religious Studies

B.A., Brandeis University; M.A., Brandeis University; Ph.D., Brandeis University
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Areas of expertise: Baruch Spinoza, Moses Maimonides, neuroethics, Jewish studies

Heidi M. Ravven is specialist on the philosophy of the seventeenth century Jewish philosopher, Baruch Spinoza. She was the first philosopher to propose that Spinoza anticipated central discoveries in the neuroscience of the emotions. Ravven has published widely on Spinoza's philosophic thought, on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, on free will and the new brain sciences, and on Jewish ethics.

In 2004 Ravven received an unsolicited $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to write a book rethinking ethics. That book, The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will was published by The New Press in May, 2013. It is an extended and multidisciplinary inquiry into moral agency: why we are moral, why and when we are not, and how to get people to be more moral. A Chinese language edition of the book is being published in fall, 2015 by the People’s Publishing House.

S. Brent Rodriguez-Plate, Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies

B.A., Seattle Pacific University; M.A.T.S., Columbia Seminary; M.Th. University of Glasgow; Ph.D., Emory University
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Areas of expertise: religion and media, religion and popular culture, comparative religions, blasphemy and controversial art, religious life in the U.S.

Professor Plate’s teaching and research explores how human sense perceptions affect ways of being religious, and how the operations of religious traditions impact our sensual encounters. Investigating the material cultures of religious traditions, Plate's work is interdisciplinary, moving between developments in cultural anthropology, art history, film studies, and cognitive science, along with religious studies. Book-length publications include Blasphemy: Art that Offends (2006), Religion and Film (Wallflower Press, 2008), The Religion and Film Reader (2007), and A History of Religion in 5½ Objects (2014). He is co-founder and managing editor of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief, and serves on the  editorial boards of the Journal of the AAR, and others.

Seth Schermerhorn, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

B.A., Colorado State University; M.A., University of Colorado; Ph.D., Arizona State University
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Areas of expertise: anthropology of religion, global Christianities, religion in American, Native American religious traditions, traditional ecological knowledge, pilgrimage, personhood and place

Seth Schermerhorn specializes in the interdisciplinary study of indigenous religious traditions, particularly in the southwestern United States. Although Schermerhorn has worked with several indigenous nations, he works most extensively with the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona. Schermerhorn teaches classes on indigenous religious traditions, Native American religious freedom, indigenous ecologies, pilgrimage and global Christianities.

Richard Seager, the Bates and Benjamin Professor of Classical and Religious Studies

B.A., University of Wisconsin; M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School; M.A., Harvard University; Ph.D., Harvard University
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Areas of expertise: religions of the United States with emphasis on new, marginal or excluded groups and their relationships to the core American values; Buddhism in the U.S. over the last century; Mexican-U.S. border issues and tensions

Richard Seager’s field of study is the religions of the United States. His interests include immigration, religion and the environment, and cultural encounter in the age of globalization. Seager has written most extensively about the movement of Asian religions into this country. His first two books were devoted to the World’s Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893. He then published Buddhism in America, an examination of prominent communities and leading figures in a range of Buddhist traditions setting down roots in the U.S. Seager’s latest book, Encountering the Dharma, offers a rare insider’s look at Soka Gakkai Buddhism.

Jay Williams '54, the Walcott-Bartlett Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus and Lecturer in Religious Studies

A.B., Hamilton College; M.Div., Union Theological Seminary; Ph.D., Columbia University
Areas of expertise: comparative religion.

Jay Williams, a 1954 graduate of Hamilton College, earned his M.Div. degree from Union Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. His specialty is the philosophy of religion, and in that area he has published two books, The? Riddle of ?the Sphinx (1990) and A Reassessment of Absolute Skepticism and Religious Faith (1996). A prolific author, he has explored the thought of both West and East, writing about the ancient Hebrews, Jesus and Jewish history, as well as a previously unknown gospel from China’s Tang dynasty. Professor Williams has served as director of Hamilton’s Asian Studies Program and has taught more than 30 courses ranging from “The History of Western Religious Thought” to “The World of Zen.” He is currently working on a book exploring the life and work of cartoonist Thomas Nast.