2017-2018 Graduate Course Catalog 
    Jul 25, 2024  
2017-2018 Graduate Course Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Religion, PhD

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Arts and Sciences


Philip P. Arnold
501 Hall of Languages

Director of Graduate Studies:

Virginia Burrus
501 Hall of Languages


Ahmed E. Abdel-Meguid, Philip P. Arnold, Zachary J. Braiterman, Virginia Burrus, Gareth J. Fisher, Ken Frieden, Ann Grodzins Gold, M. Gail Hamner, Tazim R. Kassam, R. Gustav Niebuhr, William A. Robert, Marcia C. Robinson, Joanne P. Waghorne, Ernest E. Wallwork, James W. Watts

Graduate students in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University forge a unique, creative, and rigorous program of study that emphasize both research and teaching. The study of religion at Syracuse University focuses on the category “religion” as an intellectually provacative and problematic concept rather than simply as a descriptive, institutional, or phenomenological label. The Department takes two premises as a fundamental to it educational program: 1) study of religion must be interdisciplinary, and 2) stuy of religion must investigate the material, textual, historical, and cultural dimensions of religions as well as the theories used to produce and analyze them.
The Department offers three concentrations in the following interrelated areas of the study of religion that align with the distinctive research profile of it’s faculty. Each concentration gives sustained attention to religion, theory, bodies, gender and materiality.
COMMUNITIES AND IDENTITIES explores religion and spirituality in modern societies, both local and global, through the lenses of anthropology of religion and history of religions.
CRITIQUE, IMAGE AND POLITICS explores how religions shape and are shaped in aesthetics, ethics, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and political and culture theory.
TEXTS AND CONTEXTS explores literary and performative expressions of religion, including scriptures, through the lenses of history, philosophy, literary theory, and rhetoric.


Students are admitted to graduate study in the Department of Religion to conduct innovative and interdisciplinary research in one concentration and one traditional or regional religious culture.
Currently the department can support study of the following traditional or regional religious cultures:
  • African American
  • American
  • Buddhist
  • Christian
  • East Asian
  • Hindu
  • Indigenous (the Americas)
  • Jewish
  • Middle Eastern
  • Muslim
  • South Asian

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Students will be able to articulate the history, development, and current state of the field of the academic study of religion

2. Students will be able to situate, explicate, and successfully execute interdisciplinary research within the current field of the academic study of religion

3. Students will be able to demonstrate expertise in a particular traditional or regional religious culture

4. Students will achieve proficiency in two languages other than English that are relevant to their scholarly projects

5. Students will be able to teach effectively as undergraduate religion instructors

6. Students will be able to communicate effectively, orally and in writing, to specialist audiences

7. Students will achieve academic excellence that will enable them, upon graduation, to secure professional placement as a teacher at a college or university, as an administrator at a college or university, as a teacher at a community college or independent high school, or in a position in academic publishing or national academic conferences or centers

Ph.D. in Religion

The student seeking the Ph.D. in religion must hold the M.A. in religion (or its equivalent) and a minimum of 36 course credits, with 12 additional dissertation hours. Of the 36 course credits, 24 must be taken as regular seminars in the Department of Religion. The remaining 12 course credits may be distributed between graduate level courses offered in other departments within the university (or in a university in the area with whom we have reciprocal registration) and/or independent studies arranged with a faculty member in the department or the university with the approval of the advisor. Doctoral students entering from other universities are required to take the sequence 601 and 603 in their first year of study and then pass a proficiency exam in theories of religion at the end of the second semester in the Ph.D. program. (A student having passed the exam while completing an M.A. in the Syracuse Religion Department is exempt from taking the courses and the exam again). The student must demonstrate competence in at least two languages other than English, one before matriculation and the other before the beginning of the third year of the study.

After completing course work, the student is required to pass a set of three comprehensive examinations on:


1. one traditional or regional religious culture from the above list;

2. one of the three concentrations; and

3. a problem of the student’s choosing, in consultation with their advisor.


The completion of a dissertation and its oral defense are required to complete the Ph.D.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Arts and Sciences