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Faculty Updates

Religious Studies Faculty Updates for September, 2022

What are the faculty in our department doing this year? Click below to find out. 

Alex Angelov

Alexander Angelov, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Prof. Alexander Angelov had an eventful 2022. He was invited to give a series of lectures at Harvard University and the Byzantine Studies Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks Research Center in Washington, D.C. He continued to serve as the director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, for which he re-organized the major’s requirements, organized a research Symposium. Currently, he and a group of students are preparing the launching of a peer-reviewed research journal on pre-modern studies. The journal will be the first venue of the kind in the United States. At the Department of Religious Studies, Prof. Angelov introduced a new class on Christianity and Radical Politics, preparing students for academic research and enabling them to communicate with professionals in relevant disciplines. During the current academic year, Prof. Angelov will continue work on his new monograph investigating religious communities in the context of foreign relations between the United States and Russia. Prof. Angelov conducted summer research in France and Bulgaria.


Annie Blazer, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

     Professor Blazer recently contributed a chapter entitled “Using Sports to Tackle the Problem of Defining Religion” to an edited volume on teaching religious studies. The book, Teaching Critical Religious Studies: Pedagogy and Critique in the Classroom, came out with Bloomsbury Press in 2022 and is the culmination of a multi-year collaboration between scholars and teachers of religious studies across the U.S. At the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in November 2022, Blazer and other contributors to the volume will hold a roundtable discussion on teaching methods. Blazer also continues to work on her second book, American Culture through Religion and Sport. She recently completed a chapter on how Muhammad Ali’s draft evasion case reveals the limits to American freedom of religion. Blazer is teaching for W&M’s D.C. Center in fall 2022 and looks forward to getting to know W&M students who will spend their semester in D.C. for internships. She also looks forward to a new adventure: directing a study abroad program in Galway, Ireland in summer 2023. In her spare time, Blazer plays Dungeons and Dragons with her family and hopes to one day DM a campaign.

Patton Bruchett

Patton Burchett, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

    After recently earning tenure, Professor Burchett is on sabbatical (academic leave) for the 2022-23 academic year and is developing a new book project on the complex intersections of “magic,” “science,” and “religion” in colonial India, as seen in nineteenth and early twentieth century depictions (both Western and Indian) of yoga and yogis. He continues to present publicly on aspects of / material related to his 2019 book A Genealogy of Devotion: Bhakti, Tantra, Yoga, and Sufism in North India. Professor Burchett was awarded the 2022 William & Mary Alumni Fellowship Award for “excellence in teaching” and “classroom work [that] has already achieved notoriety among students, colleagues, and staff.” Outside of academic work, Professor Burchett spends most of his time these days cooking, doing yardwork, making IKEA cabinets (for an upcoming kitchen remodel), and parenting his two girls (1st & 3rd grades).


Michael Daise, Judaic Studies Professor of Religious Studies and Department Chair

    This year I continued the privilege of chairing the Department of Religious Studies, while also participating as faculty member in the College’s Program in Judaic Studies. I taught two upper-level seminars: ‘Judaism before the Rabbis’ in fall of 2021; ‘Rabbis and Fathers’ this last spring. And I served on committees for two thought-provoking honors projects: one by Austin Hillebrandt, on christology in the Letters of Paul and Gospel of John; one by Russ Beisswanger, on Reformed and Lutheran engagement with the church fathers.
    In research, the conference volume I have been co-editing with Professor Dorota Hartman, Chair of New Testament at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’, was accepted for publication with UniorPress. In that volume I have three contributions: the Introduction, the Conclusion and a piece assessing a quotation of Isaiah in the Fourth Gospel in light of a work found at Khirbet Qumran titled Words of the Luminaries. Published earlier this year was an article I wrote on biblical quotations which are claimed to have been fulfilled during Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospel of John chapter 19—this, in Fountains of Wisdom: In Conversation with James H. Charlesworth (Bloomsbury). I delivered two papers: one at McGill University, for ‘The McGill-Munich-Grinnell Conference on Forty Years of Pseudepigrapha Research’; the other at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, for the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS). At the last-named conference (SNTS) I also participated in the ‘Constructions of the Histories of Early Christianity’ seminar. And I was asked by the Department of History, Anthropology, Religions, Art and Performing Arts at Sapienza University, Rome, to serve as a scholarly reference for a national research project in Italy, titled ‘Reconstructing Inter-Religious Memoryscapes: Written and Oral Textual Traditions, Cultural Interactions, Fieldwork Experiences’.


Jonathan Homrighausen, Adjunct Lecturer for Judaic Studies and Religious Studies

    I am delighted to be back at W&M this year, teaching Intermediate Biblical Hebrew and pinch-hitting two sections of History and Religion of Ancient Israel for Prof. Tobolowsky while he is on research leave. In my major area, Hebrew Bible, I am writing a monograph, Writing Esther, Then and Now, as my doctoral dissertation at Duke University. This project explores the significance of writing and textuality in the Book of Esther and in its interpretive and material history to the present day. I also write on religion and the arts. My second book on the subject, Planting Letters and Weaving Lines: Calligraphy, the Song of Songs, and The Saint John’s Bible, comes out this October from Liturgical Press. It uses the Song of Songs in The Saint John’s Bible, a contemporary illuminated manuscript, to meditate on the interplay of calligraphic form and sacred text. My ongoing research on religion and the arts has also been published this year in Postscripts, MAVCOR Journal, and The Christian Century. As for this past summer, the highlight was definitely a two-week trip to Denmark: three days for a research workshop at Aarhus University, and the rest of the time to see Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Jelling, the site of the oldest rune-stones in Denmark!


Maggie Kirsh, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

   Professor Kirsh spent this past summer working on a book manuscript, giving lectures, revamping syllabi, riding horses, and gearing up for a busy autumn. In honor of National Jewish Heritage Month, WindsorMeade invited Professor Kirsh to give a talk entitled “On Heartache and Homeland: Jewish Writers and Their Journeys to the United States.” In July, she was a speaker for the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s professional development conference for educators who are looking for new approaches to teaching the Holocaust. Her talk explored identity, religion, and agency in the lives of Jewish children hidden as Catholics in France.
    This September, she’s dusting off her passport and heading to her first in-person conference in over two years: "Families in Transit: Child-bearing, Child-rearing and Inheritance during Displacement” at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She’ll be using this opportunity to share insights from an in-progress book chapter, “Storytelling and Family Building, From Belsen to Ireland.” This chapter charts the work of caretakers who orchestrated relief efforts for child survivors in displaced persons camps and hospitals in the months immediately following the end of World War II. She’s intrigued by what drew caretakers to these places as helpers and healers, what tools the caretakers brought with them, and what assumptions and training underpinned not only their work but the ways in which they listened to, metabolized, and retold their wards’ experiences.


Mark McLaughlin, Senior Lecturer of South Asian Religions

No update available at this time, but reach out via email or learn more about Professor McLaughlin's research and areas of interest here

Randi Rashkover

Randi Rashkover, Sofia and Nathan Gumenick Professor of Religious Studies

    Over the course of the past academic year, Randi Rashkover has been working on her fourth monograph entitled, Judaism, Common Sense and Ideology. This monograph takes up themes and questions posed by her most recent monograph publication, Nature and Norm: Judaism, Christianity and Theopolitical Problem (Academic Studies Press, 2020). Throughout the past year, Dr. Rashkover's publications and keynote lectures have contributed to this new project. Last year her article, "Judaism, Enlightenment and Ideology" appeared in the journal Religions and her edited volume (co-edited with Mark James) Signs of Salvation: A Festschrift for Peter Ochs was published by Cascade Press. Over the course of the year, Professor Rashkover has lectured widely at Yale University, Aberdeen University, the Katholische-Akademie in Berlin and most recently at Hebrew University. Her book Nature and Norm: Judaism, Christianity and the Theopolitical Tradition has received three major reviews in the journal Modern Theology, the Journal of Jewish Ethics and the Journal of Textual Reasoning. She has recently been invited to deliver a lecture on Nature and Norm at Oxford University in the UK. In her role as Director of Judaic Studies, Dr. Rashkover has developed and edited the Judaic Studies Review: An Undergraduate Journal in Jewish Studies. She looks forward to the next issue of the journal which will appear in late September 2022. As well, Dr. Rashkover oversaw an active year of Judaic Studies lectures by noteworthy speakers including, Professor Leora Batnitzky (Princeton University), Professor Martin Kavka (Florida State University) and many others. Dr. Rashkover also helped sponsor a number of student research projects throughout the summer including work by Benjamin Moskalski on Jewish and Catholic Conceptions of Law, JR Erskine on Contemporary Understandings of Spanish Jewry, Tyler Goldberg (Ph.D. Candidate in History) on Holocaust and Memory and Rachel Zaslavsky on Hebrew Bible and Rabbinics. Finally, Dr. Rashkover has continued to enjoy teaching at William & Mary. Her courses on Jewish and Christian Thought After The Holocaust, Modern Jewish and Christian Thought, the Jewish Political Tradition and American Judaism have given her the opportunity to work with many excellent undergraduate students. She is looking forward to an exciting year of research, teaching and dynamic Judaic Studies activities on campus.

Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh, Hans Tiefel Associate Professor of Ethics

    Prof. Sheikh spent the summer of 2022 teaching his Religion and Ethics course in the online format and planning for his sabbatical year leave. He will be in Istanbul Turkey during Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 while working on multiple projects which include a co-authored book about a global reformist religious (Islamic) movement with roots in Colonial South Asia, a chapter on moral selfhood and subjectivity in a book honoring the life and work of eminent religious ethicist, Dr. Richard Miller, a research article on Islamic virtue ethics for a journal housed at the Center of Islamic Law and Ethics in Doha Qatar and other projects. He plans to travel widely during the year and hopes to lay some groundwork for a future study abroad program in Bulgaria and/or Turkey. He is also spending his free time taking ferry rides across the Bosporus and swimming in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas with his son Isa.


Andrew Tobolowsky, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

    Professor Tobolowsky was gratified to be granted tenure earlier this year and is currently on sabbatical. His second book, The Myth of the Twelve Tribes of Israel was published by Cambridge University Press in March, and he has since been enjoying guest appearances on a handful of podcasts and youtube series. During sabbatical, he is working on his third book, Jerusalem and Troy, a discussion of problems in the study of traditions that are broadly shared between biblical scholars and classicists and continuing his lifelong effort to perfect his jumpshot. He is spending plenty of time with his one year old, Judah, and his schnoodle, Pancake, both of whom are advising him on his ongoing projects.

Semiha Topal thumbnail

Semiha Topal, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Professor Topal is currently working on her book proposal called “Between Secularism and Islamism: Women and Piety in Turkey” which combines her doctoral dissertation work in 2012 (Building a Pious Self in Secular Settings: Muslim Women in Modern Turkey) with her ongoing research on Turkish Muslim women’s attempt to escape from Islamism in post-2016 Turkey. She has been conducting interviews with Turkish women who quit the Islamic headscarf in response to the rise of Islamist authoritarianism in Turkey and the right-wing populism in the Western nations they sought refuge. Professor Topal has been teaching the courses Introduction to Islam, Women in Islam, and Islam and Secularism for the last three years. While continuing to teach these same courses, she is particularly excited about the newly offered Religions of the World course this semester, as she is greatly enjoying the enthusiasm of the students to learn about the major religious traditions of the world today with a non-confessional and historical-critical approach. In her spare time, she enjoys having long video chats with her family in Turkey, especially with her 8- and 5-year-old nieces. She also feels delighted at serving Turkish coffee to her students and colleagues coming to visit her in her cozy office right under the historic Wren bell.


Kevin Vose

Kevin VoseWalter G. Mason Associate Professor of Religious Studies

    Prof. Vose completed a book manuscript on the Buddhist “Middle Way” philosophical tradition, which is now under review for publication. The book, titled Splitting the Middle: A Natural History of Madhyamaka Reasoning, utilizes recently discovered 12th century Tibetan manuscripts that allow us access for the first time to the thought of Tibet’s foundational religious figures. Prof. Vose’s translations from these manuscripts and from Sanskrit works of Indian Buddhist masters form the basis for his examination of the emergence of Buddhist philosophy in Tibet. Prof. Vose presented some aspects of his research at the International Association of Tibetan Studies conference in Prague over the summer, where he—and everyone else who hadn’t recently had it—got covid Prof. Vose continues to teach courses on Buddhism and East Asian religions. He will lead a group of William & Mary students to Bhutan in the summer, restarting a study abroad program that he established in 2018. The program examines Himalayan Buddhism and “Gross National Happiness,” Bhutan’s model of sustainable development.