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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Ph.D. in Religion

Overview of the Ph.D. in Religion

Graduate students in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University forge unique, creative and rigorous programs of study that emphasize both research and teaching.

The study of religion at Syracuse focuses on the category “religion” as an intellectually provocative and problematic concept rather than simply as a descriptive, institutional, or phenomenological label. The Department takes two premises as fundamental to its educational program:

  1. study of religion must be interdisciplinary, and
  2. study 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 Graduate Program in Religion in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1955. It has offered study toward the Ph.D. as well as the M.A. since 1969. Ph.D. training includes teaching mentorship and experience.

Concentration Areas

The Department offers three concentrations in the following interrelated areas of the study of religion that align with the distinctive research profile of its 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

Students must follow their concentration’s curriculum throughout their course work. They will also be encouraged to take course work in other concentrations and other departments, as appropriate for their research interests and as approved by their advisor. They must also take the two-semester seminar on theories and methods in the study of religion (REL 601-603).

Our faculty all engage in one or more of the graduate research concentrations. For further information, see the faculty lists on each concentration’s page and the individual faculty pages. Graduate students develop a close intellectual relationship with the faculty in their chosen concentration(s), and also collaborate with faculty outside their concentrations for advice on pedagogy, grant proposals and professional development.

Application Deadline for Fall Admission is January 10th

In addition to completing the application, available at the Graduate School, the following are also required: 

  • Transcripts from all previous institutions (official transcripts must be sent to the Department of Religion).
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation
  • Personal Statement of not more than 1000 words, including your choice of concentration and religious culture to study at SU
  • Writing Sample of not more than 20 pages.
  • GRE scores (Syracuse University institution code: 2823)
  • TOEFL scores (for applicants whose first language is not English)

Teaching Assistantships

Most students admitted to the Ph.D. program receive a Teaching Assistantship that includes a full tuition scholarship, an annual stipend and health care benefits. The T.A. is for five years, contingent on the student making adequate progress towards the degree.

In the first three years of Ph.D. study, T.A. duties consist of being an assistant in a faculty member’s class. T.A.s get assigned to classes each semester based on class enrollments and on requests from faculty and students.

After students pass their comprehensive exams, they may teach an undergraduate course of their own design (REL 320) under the supervision of a faculty teaching mentor. In their fifth year in the program, they are asked to teach one lower division catalog course each semester in consultation with their teaching mentor and the faculty who usually teach that course.