Close menu Resources for... William & Mary
W&M menu close William & Mary

Faculty Updates Spring 2023

What have the Religious Studies faculty been up to? Read on to learn about their recent work and what they're looking forward to in the new year. 


Alex Angelov

Alexander Angelov, David L. Holmes Associate Professor of Reformation Studies and American Religious History

During Fall, 2022, Prof. Alexander Angelov gave lectures and presented research at Yale University, University of Thessaloniki (Greece), and the American Academy of Religion (Denver, CO). He continued to serve as the director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, for which he is currently organizing a Spring research Symposium. With a group of students, Prof. Angelov is launching a peer-reviewed research journal, called Noetica. The first edition will be released in Spring, 2023. It combines interdisciplinary work between the humanities and social sciences, featuring authors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France. At the Department of Religious Studies, Prof. Angelov hosted a joyful Alumni Homecoming. On February 9, 2023, Prof. Angelov has invited a group of company representatives to present opportunities for students’ internships, employment, and a discussion about joining the workforce with a liberal arts degree and major in the Humanities. 


Annie Blazer, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Professor Blazer continues to work on her manuscript American Culture through Religion and Sport, under contract with Bloomsbury Press. Her recent research has investigated college sports, examining how the category of “amateurism” has consistently contributed to financial exploitation of college athletes. With changes to name, image, and likeness laws, college athletes can now financially benefit from their identity as athletes, yet in order to do so, they tend to rely on social media monetization, and Prof. Blazer argues that social media success tends to privilege whiteness and ideals of feminine beauty leading to racial and gendered inequalities. W&M nominated Prof. Blazer for the State Council Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Award in 2022. While she did not receive this award, Prof. Blazer was honored to be one of four faculty that W&M put forward for consideration. In fall 2022, Prof. Blazer taught a new course, Religion in North America, with much success. The course focused on religion and political polarization over the past 100 years in the United States. Prof. Blazer looks forward to directing 2023’s summer study abroad program in Galway, Ireland where she will teach a course on Irish mythology and supervise independent research projects. In her spare time, Prof. Blazer works on embroidery projects while listening to Dungeons & Dragons podcasts.

Patton Bruchett

Patton Burchett, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Professor Burchett is on research leave this 2022-23 academic year and has been developing a new book project on representations and conceptions of “the yogi” at the intersections of religion, science, and magic (the occult) in Victorian-era India, Britain, and America.  He has also begun two exciting new collaborative, interdisciplinary research projects.  In one, he will be studying Nepali cultural and religious beliefs and practices related to the natural environment, teaming with W&M aquatic, conservation, and geospatial scientists to empower local communities in Nepal to best respond to the impacts of climate change and other anthropogenic threats, in particular to their water resources.  In the other, he will be teaming with a group scholars in the psychological sciences to study the distinctive cultural and social factors shaping Western motivations for, experiences/interpretations of, and outcomes from meditation and breath-control practices.  Outside of work, Prof. Burchett spends his time cooking, running, and ferrying his two daughters (1st and 3rd grade) back and forth to their various activities.


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

This past year Professor Daise continued as chair of the department (and was hoodwinked by his colleagues into serving in this capacity for another three years!). He enjoyed the erudition of W&M students in two courses: Rabbis & Fathers in the spring; Christian Origins in the fall. And he participated in two engaging honors theses: one (by Russ Beisswanger), revisiting Protestant posture toward the church fathers; the other (by Austin Hillebrandt), comparing key christological motifs in Pauline and Johannine theologies. His anthology of proceedings, co-edited with Dorota Hartman, was accepted and published by UniorPress, Università di Napoli L’Orientale. Titled Creative Fidelity, Faithful Creativity: The Reception of Jewish Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity, it offers articles on the interpretation of Jewish sacred tradition by fourteen specialists, covering the fields of Second Temple Judaism, Rabbinics, New Testament and Patristics. And besides writing and article and the introduction for that volume, he saw another article come to print, published a book review for the Journal of Theological Studies and delivered two papers at academic conferences: one for the ‘The McGill-Munich-Grinnell Conference on Forty Years of Pseudepigrapha Research’; one for the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.


Akshay Gupta, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Akshay has been working on revising his dissertation, which examines the problem of evil, into a book, tentatively titled A Hindu Perspective on the Problem of Evil: A Caitanya Vaiṣṇava Theodicy. This research puts Hindu thought in dialogue with contemporary discourses pertaining to the problem of evil, which has largely neglected Hindu thought. This semester, he also plans to teach two sections of "Modern Hinduism" and one section of "Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita." He's also looking forward to spending time outdoors in the Spring weather and to refine his cooking skills.


Jonathan Homrighausen, Adjunct instructor for Judaic Studies and Religious Studies

In 2023 I am furiously finishing my dissertation, Writing Esther, Then and Now, for my PhD in Religious Studies at Duke University. My project looks at the theme of writing and memory in the biblical Book of Esther, and how those themes play out in Jewish ritual as well as the physical Esther scrolls used in the ritual reading of Esther. It’s a fun and eclectic project, grounded in Hebrew Bible but letting me read from disciplines all over the shop: material religion, midrash, book history, liturgical studies, Holocaust history, Jewish law, and more. In December I presented portions of my Esther research at the Association for Jewish Studies, which will be revised and published in a special issue of Hebrew Studies this year. This summer another portion of my dissertation will come out in a special issue of Postscripts. This spring I’ll be teaching ‘History and Religion of Ancient Israel’ again, as well as the fourth semester of Biblical Hebrew, in which we’ll be reading Psalms. In my “spare time,” I keep three anxious dogs alive and use my skills as a scholar of religion to deconstruct the mythic concept of “spare time."


Maggie Kirsh, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Professor Kirsh has enjoyed reconnecting with colleagues at in-person conferences for the first time since the pandemic began. In September, she was at Leiden University participating in “Families in Transit: Child-bearing, Child-rearing and Inheritance during Displacement”. Inspired by the diverse speakers and methodologies, she is turning her talk into an article for publication: “Witnessing the Recovery: Storytelling and Family Building, From Belsen to Ireland.” Most recently, she returned from London where she attended and presented at the conference “Beyond Camps and Forced Labour: Current International Research on Survivors of Nazi Persecution”. Her paper analyzed the writings of individuals who cared for Holocaust survivors in hostels, sanatoria, and hospitals. Her work explores the oft-repeated goal of normality: how it was defined, what was required to attain it, and how amateurs and professionals struggled to secure this goal for their youngest wards.


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, Sophia and Nathan Gumenick Associate Professor of Judaic Studies

Randi Rashkover has been busy working on a new book entitled, The Cunning of Reason: Religion and the Battle with Ideology. The book, co-authored with Mark James, tracks the modern political recovery of the philosophical tradition of common sense as seen in the work of Hannah Arendt and others, identifies its oppositional role to what critical theorists since Marx have identified as 'ideology' and examines implications of this relationship for Judaism and Christianity. Dr. Rashkover has also had a very busy year giving lectures in Berlin, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Oxford, Aberdeen and Toronto on Jewish political thought. Recently, Dr. Rashkover has completed a contribution on "Christian Theology's Contemporary Struggle with Supersessionism" for a 4th edition of a volume on Christian theology entitled, The Modern Theologians. Dr. Rashkover is particularly excited about the recent publication of the newest issue of The Judaic Studies Review: An Undergraduate Journal in Topics Across the Field" published by the Judaic Studies program at W&M which includes fine essays by some of our best students. Last, but not least, Dr. Rashkover has thoroughly enjoyed working with the various Teaching Assistants who have helped her in teaching her spring and fall 2022 courses including Russ Beisswanger, Rachel Zaslavsky and Sam Gleason.

Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Professor Sheikh is currently working on a chapter for an edited volume forthcoming from Palgrave Press, edited by Prof. Bharat Ranganathan. In this chapter Prof. Sheikh looks at social and moral criticism through the lens of Muslim ethical views about human nature and human dignity. Prof. Sheikh explores how important Muslim thinkers (al-Ghazali and Said Nursi) understand the theological and ethical grounds for justifying equal human dignity of all humans, believers and non-believers alike, while simultaneously arguing that a believing attitude elevates an individual's humanity. Additionally, Prof. Sheikh is embarking on a long-term project that studies the intersections of more global discourses around modernity, religion and environmental/ecological ethics as they manifest in particular, local contexts (namely Turkiye and Pakistan). Prof. Sheikh also continues to work on Ghamdi as an example of contemporary South Asian religious-ethical critique of political Islam. While on Sabbatical in Turkiye, Prof. Sheikh takes every opportunity to experience the rich multicultural heritage and architectural and culinary delights that Istanbul and Turkiye have to offer.



Andrew Tobolowsky, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

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

Semiha Topal thumbnail

Semiha Topal, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

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


Kevin Vose

Kevin VoseWalter G. Mason Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Regular readers of the Faculty News feature may recall that Prof. Vose completed a book manuscript on the Buddhist “Middle Way” philosophical tradition, which he has been editing in collaboration with his publisher. 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 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.