American Religious Cultures

Course of Study Description

The American Religious Cultures (ARC) Course of Study takes advantage of Emory University’s rich offerings in the study of religious and cultural life in America. It provides resources for graduate study in American religious cultures through sociological, historical, theological, and cultural analyses. Particular areas of strength within the course of study include the history of Christianity in America, black religion, religious diversity, cultural history, religious practices, sociology of American religion, and popular culture.

Students in this course of study examine religious thoughts and practices in particular cultural contexts—that is, as integral dimensions of the production and reproduction of culture rather than as distinct, isolated forms of human action and reflection. This examination will take place in a combination of courses that offer perspectives on historical trends, methodological variation, and religious diversity. New students will be encouraged to take at least two seminars that focus on two different periods in American religious history and two seminars that focus on theory and method in the study of religion. Students also must enroll in courses that expose them to the diversity of American religious cultures and will be expected to take seminars in other courses of study in the GDR as well as in other graduate programs around the university in order to ensure they meet these requirements. Faculty in a variety of institutional settings, including the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts, American Studies, African American Studies, Sociology, and the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, are available each year for course work and consultation.

Students will work closely with their adviser on a specific trajectory for their two years of course work, take their exams in the fall of their third year, and then formally submit their dissertation proposals in the spring semester of their third year. All students also will be expected to attend program-sponsored symposia throughout the academic year.


Preliminary Examinations

Please consult with the chair of this course of study for more information. 

 Special Requirements

  • Two seminars that focus on two different periods in American religious history
  • Two seminars that focus on theory and method in the study of religion
  • Enrollment in seminars offered in other units of the university

Selected Courses

Please consult with the chair of this course of study for more information.

Recent Dissertations and Placement Information:


Marianne Florian, "Adopting and Adapting Compassion Practice: An Analysis of Novice Meditators’ Experiences"

Kelly Gannon, "No Place for Mere Entertainment: Religion and Popular Culture in Atlanta (1865 to 1925)

Lily Oster, "Desire Paths: Practices of Mythic Ecology"

Timothy Rainey, II, "Capitalism in Color: Religion, Companies, and Black Economic Activism in the Age of Paul Cuffe, 1807-1817" - Assistant Professor, St. Olaf College


Charles Barber, "It’s Complicated: Religion and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Black Same-Gender-Loving Men in the South"


Kenneth Paul Smith, "
The Contemporary American Magical Landscape" - Lecture Track, Louisiana State University


Meredith Coleman-Tobias,
American Religious Culture, "Portable Ritual: Sobonfu Somé and the Making of a Dagara Religious Diaspora"  - Assistant Professor of Religion, Mt. Holyoke


Meredith Doster, "I Love to Tell the Story: The Competing Exceptionalism of Appalachian Religion" - Dean, Adult and Graduate Studies, Mars Hill University


Beverly Howell Belser,  "Only the Gods are Real: The Dialogical Theology of Postmodern American Science Fiction" - Small business owner Dulce Vegan Bakery and Cafe

Benjamin Brazil, "Wandering Spirits: Youth Travel and Spiritual Seeking, 1964-1980" - Earlham, Assistant Professor and Director of Ministry Writing Program

Jamil  William Drake, "To Know The Soul of The People: The Field Study of the "Folk Negro" and The Making of Popular Religion in Modern America, 1924-1945" - Assistant Professor Florida State University

David Saunders, "Self and No-Self in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction" - Yale University Medical Residency

Alexis Wells, "Re/membering the Sacred Womb: The Sacred Cultures of Enslaved Women in Georgia, 1750-1861" - Assistant Professor of Religion, Vanderbilt University


Brian Campbell, "Alone in America: Solitude, Nature, and the Sacred from Walden to the World Wide Web" - Central College of Iowa, Director of Sustainability Education

Michael Karlin
, "To Create a Dwelling Place for God: Life Coaching and the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic Movement in Contemporary America" - Assistant Professor, Life University"

James Dennis LoRusso, "The Libertarian Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capital: Post-Industrial Spirituality of the American Workplace" - Post Doc, Princeton University"