Meet our Incoming Class
The DRTS will welcome a diverse group of talented young scholars in the Fall of 2014. Get acquainted with some of the newest members of the Division below.
Benjamin Austin is a first-year doctoral student in the religious thought track. He holds a B.A. in International Relations and Religion from Boston University and an M. Phil. in Intercultural Theology & Interreligious Studies from Trinity College Dublin. As a master’s student he focused on theories of religion and violence, especially the work of René Girard, Walter Benjamin, and Giorgio Agamben. More recently, he has been interested in placing such political-theological critiques of state violence and structural injustice in conversation with perspectives from the field of media theory in order to consider the foundational power relations and theological assumptions represented by life on the internet. Along these lines, Ben is eager to devote future work to drawing out the political, theological, and interpersonal implications of the emerging fields of object-oriented ontology and speculative realism.
Jordan Conley is a Ph.D candidate at the Graduate Division of Religious Studies working in the Texts and Traditions track, specializing in Ancient Christianity (Origins to Late Empire). In 2009, she graduated with a BA in Religion and Classics from the University of Puget Sound, and in 2014, she earned an MTS from Harvard Divinity School with a focus on New Testament and Early Christianity. Her current research interests include ancient and late antique discourses of affliction, practices of incubation, pilgrimage to healing sites, and the social function of monasteries, with attention to the themes of agency, instrumentality, and performance. Moreover, she studies healing practices and narratives as informed by physical structures and material culture and hence is interested in the intersection between texts and archaeology.
Kira Ganga Kieffer
Kira is a PhD candidate in the Religion and Society track, studying under the direction of Prof. Nancy Ammerman. Kira is interested in American religious life, with a particular focus on evangelical Christianity. Her past work has included ethnographic field research in Pentecostal churches in Rhode Island, where she analyzed sermon content and its effects on the lives of church members. Kira utilizes sociological and historical methods, and her future research will examine the role of fundamentalist theology in the daily lives of adherents as well as its influence on American society, culture, and history. Kira graduated Magna Cum Laude with honors from Brown University in 2008, where she studied religion and history.
Johnathan joins the GDRS as a PhD student in the Religious Thought-Philosophy of Religion track. His main research interests are in philosophy of religion, post-Holocaust thought, and modern Jewish thought. Johnathan earned his B.A. in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and completed his M.A. in philosophy at Boston University. As a graduate student in the philosophy department at BU, on top of his coursework in philosophy Johnathan devoted much of his time to pursuing coursework and research in philosophy of religion, Holocaust studies, and modern Jewish thought. Along with pursuing his interests in contemporary moral and political philosophy, Johnathan wrote seminar papers on Spinoza’s critique of religion, Elie Wiesel’s fiction, Holocaust historiography, and on accounts of evil from Kant and Hegel to Levinas, Fackenheim, and in recent publications in philosophy. In doctoral work, Johnathan hopes to continue to pursue his interests in probing the responses (and non-responses) to the Holocaust by philosophers, theologians, writers, and historians.
Scott Possiel is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies studying Ancient Christianity (Origins to Late Empire) under Dr. David Frankfurter specializing in the texts and traditions of the Late Antique Mediterranean. Scott is interested in the diverse interpretation of Christianity present in Late Antiquity, leading him to study apocryphal Christian and Jewish literature, Christian interpretation of the New Testament, Ancient Christian ritual practice, Gnosticism, and magico-religious interactions with the supernatural. Scott’s research focuses on the doctrines and practices of Christian groups from the 2nd to 5th centuries with the aim of placing their origins and expressions in the context of theoretical definitions of religion and religious identity. Scott is a 2014 graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and a 2012 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Before coming to U.S, Bin Song (宋斌）spent a dozen years in Nankai University (Tianjin, China) learning and teaching philosophy, especially western philosophy and philosophy of science. He was a visiting student in the Department of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) (Paris, France) from 2007-8, focusing upon the mechanical philosophy of Réné Descartes, and a Harvard-Yenching Visiting Fellow from 2011-3, with an interest in the religious experience implied in early Confucianism. Afterwards, he studied with Boston Confucians, Dr. Robert Neville and Dr. John Berthrong, and earned his S.T.M from the School of Theology of Boston University in 2014. As a PhD candidate in GDRS of Boston University (Track II: Religious Thought), Bin Song will be open to all the dimensions of religious study, insofar as they would all be relevant to and enhance his expertise on the Confucian-Christian dialogue, comparative theology and philosophy of religion. Bin Song believes that a deep religious commitment ought to facilitate, rather than vitiate, critical thinking towards one’s own tradition and pious learning from other traditions, vice versa. And through an active, profound and decent engagement with “a significant other”, mainly with Christianity in his case, Confucianism could adapt itself to the contemporary world, make its idiosyncratic contribution to humanity, and get to its revival in a promising and pleasing form.
Kate Stockly-Meyerdirk is a PhD student in the Science, Philosophy, and Religion program. She holds a BA from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion and Psychology (separate majors) with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies and an MA from the University of Washington in Comparative Religion. Her research interests are driven by a desire to develop a well-rounded religious anthropology – to understand how and why humans are homo religiosus. With this goal in mind, she investigates the ways in which the cognitive, neurological, and sociological aspects of human nature culminate in dynamic interaction to contribute to religiosity and religious experience. As a case study, Kate has explored many aspects of American religion and is currently co-authoring a book on evangelical megachurches. Kate is also interested exploring the philosophical assumptions of contemporary neuroscience and biology and the theoretical and theological implications of including scientific methods and data in conversations about religion.
Adam Westbrook is a first-year PhD student in the Religion and Society track. Adam received his MA from the University of Denver in Religious Studies (2009) and his BA in Sociology from Ithaca College (2004). While an MA student, Adam’s research focused on religious pluralism, the democratic imperative of religious literacy, as well as the role religion can play in conflict and conflict-mediation. He has spent time studying intergroup conflicts throughout the world, has facilitated and led interreligious dialogue in the United States and Israel/Palestine, and has also worked with an NGO in Northern Ireland that attempts to reconcile Catholic and Protestant communities through joint community development projects. In addition to the aforementioned areas of research, other interests include ethics, pedagogies of religious studies, religious freedom and democracy, and bridging the academy with the broader community. Adam looks very forward to collaborating with the GDRS faculty and other graduate students in the BU community over the next several years while a PhD student.