REL Advisory Board

Michael J. Altman

Michael J. Altman received his Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures from Emory University. His areas of interest are American religious history, colonialism, theory and method in the study of religion, and Asian religions in American culture. Trained in the field of American religious cultures, he is interested in the ways religion is constructed through difference, conflict, and contact.

Along with his research, Dr. Altman teaches a range of classes in the department from REL 130: Religion, Politics, and Law to REL 450: Religion and Power in Colonial India. His courses are notable for their use of digital projects such as course blogs (for examples, see American Religion in America and Monks and Nones.) He is also the producer and host of the REL Department podcast, Study Religion and manages the various REL Department social media accounts.

Faculty Webpage

Lauren Horn Griffin

Lauren earned her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara (2016), where she served as the Cordano Fellow from 2010-2015. She had previously earned an M.A. in History from UCSB (2012), and an M.T.S, with a concentration on History of Christianity, from Vanderbilt Divinity School (2010). Prior to coming to UA in the Fall of 2020 she was a lecturer, in the Department of Religious Studies, and digital learning designer, in the Office of Digital Learning, at the University of Oklahoma (2016-2020).

Lauren’s research focuses on the ways in which saints and other authoritative figures in Roman Catholic communities constitute collective memory, serving as tools for the construction and negotiation of national, ethnic, and cultural identity. Her current research focuses on Catholic material culture in digital spaces, specifically how Catholic history is constructed on social media.

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Nathan R. B. Loewen

Nathan Loewen, who began in REL as of January 1, 2015, earned his Ph.D. in Modern Philosophy of Religion at McGill University’s Faculty of Religious Studies. Prior to coming to UA he taught at McGill University (2005-2009) and in the Department of Humanities at Vanier College (2009-14), both of which are in Montreal, Canada.

Dr. Loewen has two primary areas of research and publication. One focuses on globalizing discourses within the philosophy of religion, and the other analyzes the emerging confluence between Religious Studies and Development Studies.

A third area of interest for him is critical digital pedagogy–how today’s students might critically analyze the structure and function of digital platforms that are being used in higher education. His work in this area focuses on innovations that enable teachers and classes to reflect upon how they engage not only with each other but also with wider circles of scholars and various publics on both local and global contexts.

It is this last research focus that has led to his role as Faculty Technology Liaison for the College of Arts and Sciences. He manages the College’s website for teaching and professional development, assists A&S faculty in the processes of revising or developing online courses, organizes events (such as OLIS) and participates in technology committees across campus.

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Richard Newton

Richard Newton received his PhD in Critical Comparative Scriptures from Claremont Graduate University.

Dr. Newton’s areas of interest include theory and method in the study of religion, African American history, the New Testament in Western imagination, American cultural politics, and pedagogy in religious studies. His research explores how people create “scriptures” and how those productions operate in the formation of identities and cultural boundaries. In addition to an array of book chapters and online essays, Dr. Newton has published in the Journal of Biblical Literature and Method & Theory in the Study of Religion among other venues. His book, Identifying Roots: Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures (Equinox, 2020), casts Alex Haley’s Roots as a case study in the dynamics of scriptures and identity politics with critical implication for the study of race, religion, and media. And you can learn more about his use of digital media and pedagogy at his site, Sowing the Seed: Fruitful Conversations in Religion, Culture, and Teaching.

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