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Religions in the Americas

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The Field

This Ph.D. specialization builds upon the strengths of departmental faculty and the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies, one of the largest and best-regarded programs in the country. During the past thirty years, the study of religion in North America has moved beyond a primary focus on once dominant forms of European Christianity that have migrated to the United States to a growing interest in the broad diversity of religious cultures in the Americas. At the same time, scholarship on religion in the Caribbean and Latin America has increased in quantity, diversity, and quality. Our graduate addresses religions throughout the Americas, with a focus on interactions and encounters.


David Hackett is a well-known historian of religion in the United States, whose publications include the widely-used textbook, Religion and American Culture, the award-winning The Rude Hand of Innovation: Religion and Social Order in Albany, New York, 1652-1836, and, most recently, That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture.

Anna Peterson has written extensively on religion and society in Central America, including Martyrdom and the Politics of Religion: Progressive Catholicism in El Salvador’s Civil War, and Seeds of the Kingdom: Utopian Communities in the Americas. Her research focuses on religiously-based social movements in both Latin and North America, with a particular interest in the ways that religious communities interpret and enact environmental values. She co-edited Christianity, Social Change, and Globalization in the Americas and co-authored Latin American Religions: Histories and Documents in Context.

Robin Wright, a scholar of indigenous religions with long experience in Brazil, focuses especially on Amazonian peoples. He is the author of three volumes on the indigenous religious traditions of the Northwest Amazon, and the editor/co-editor of three volumes on Native Christianities of the Americas. He is presently completing a major work on Indigenous Religious Traditions of the Americas. He is Coordinator of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIIP) currently housed in the Religion Department..

Several other religion faculty offer courses that enrich the Americas and/or publish research pertinent to it, and serve on the committees of Americas track students.

Vasudha Narayanan conducts research and teaches on the Hindu diaspora in North America and directs the Center for Hindu Traditions in the Americas (CHiTra).

Mario Poceski, a scholar of Chinese Buddhism, also teaches on Buddhism in America.

Zoharah Simmons teaches courses on African-American religions, Islam in the Americas, and women in religion.

Bron Taylor has written widely on the religious dimensions of environmentalism and environment-related behaviors in America. He teaches courses on “Radical Environmentalism” and “Religion and Nature in North America.”

Faculty and graduate students also work closely with colleagues in Political Science, Anthropology, History, and other programs, to develop research and teaching programs in this interdisciplinary and collaborative field.

Graduate Students

The track stresses ethnographic and/or archival research on the myriad of expressions of religion in the region. Graduate students and recent graduates in Religion in the Americas work on diverse topics, including transnational Mormon missions, charismatic Christian movements, Cuban Protestantism,  yoga in the U.S,  the Jewish diaspora in Latin America,  borderlands religion, Korean Protestantism in the U.S., religion and politics in Chile, and Native American Christianity among others.

Recommended courses (beyond the required Method & Theory I and II and the Interdisciplinary Seminar): REL 6126 Religion in the Americas; REL 6387 Religion in Latin America; REL 6137 Religion in North America. In addition, students are strongly encouraged to take these three additional courses: REL 6137 Indigenous Religions of the Americas; REL 5365 Islam in the Americas; and a course in research methods.

Elective courses: As often as possible, department faculty offer courses such as Buddhism in America, Hinduism in America, Religion and Nature in North America, Globalization and Immigration. Graduate students in the Americas are encouraged to take these courses whenever possible.

Language requirement: Students must demonstrate competence in at least one and in many cases two non-English languages in the Americas (i.e., Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and/or any the other Amerindian languages) selected in consultation with the faculty supervisory committee on the basis of their relevance to the student’s research program.

Qualifying examinations: 1) North American history, culture, and religion; 2) Latin American history, culture, and religion; 3) Religion in the Americas; 4) A fourth exam in another area, defined as a teaching field, such as Indigenous Religions, Islam, Hinduism, Religion and Nature, or Sociology, Anthropology, or Philosophy of Religion, among others. This exam is to be determined in consultation with the student’s advisory committee; 5) oral examination, to be taken upon successful completion of all written qualifying exams. The oral examination will be based on the answers to the written examinations.