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The PhD in Women's Studies in Religion

PhD Program Structure

The PhD program is designed to prepare students for positions in Women’s Studies programs in which their cross-disciplinary work is in religion and positions in religion programs.  We expect graduates of the program to be broadly prepared in religious studies and able to interpret women’s issues across different religious traditions.  Through their work in a concentration, they will have the depth to contribute significantly to one of the sub-fields of religious studies.


Students may be admitted into the 48-unit PhD program with either 24 units of religion courses or 24 units of women’s studies courses taken at the master’s level, or some combination of the two equaling 24 units.  Students entering with 24 units in women’s studies will need to take a greater proportion of religion courses in their last 48 units, and conversely students entering with 24 units of religion will need to take a greater proportion of women’s studies courses.

Course Requirements

1. Methods Courses
REL 304 Introduction to Women’s Studies in Religion
This course explores the rapidly expanding field of Women’s Studies in Religion from a multi-cultural and multi-religious perspective.  A comparative approach is used to examine women’s reconceptualizations of the divine in the major religious traditions, issues of hermeneutics, analyses of women’s approach to sexuality, spirituality, ethics and the environment.  The global context of feminism will be highlighted by sessions devoted to women’s religious practices in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
REL 363 Major Interpreters in the Study of Religion

This course will provide an introduction to methodological issues in the study of religion through a reading of classic theories of religion (e.g., Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Freud, and Otto), as well as notable examples of contemporary theory and interpretation, against the backdrop of the history of Christian thought and the rise of the human sciences in the post-Enlightenment West.
Feminist Theory 
Any course dealing with feminist methodological approaches to a discipline will fulfill the feminist theory requirement.  These include Feminist Theory, Feminist Epistemology, Feminism and Post- Colonialism, Feminism and Queer Theory, Feminist Political Theory, etc. 
2. Women’s Studies in Religion Courses
WSR students must take three courses in Women’s Studies in Religion (courses that deal with religion from a feminist perspective), for example, “Feminism and Process Thought,” “Gender, Violence and Religion,” “Matristics: Medieval Woman’s Theology.”
3. Related Courses
WSR students must take three courses in religion, women’s studies, or related disciplines.  Women’s Studies in Religion students may elect to take upper division Women’s Studies courses at the undergraduate colleges (these must be at the 200 level), courses listed by the School of Religion, or any other courses available at the Graduate University. 



In their last 48 units, WSR students are required to take 16 units in an area of concentration.  The area of concentration should prepare a student for particular positions in the field of Religion.  Students are encouraged to consult Openings on the AAR website to familiarize themselves with the way the sub-fields within religion are represented in the job market.  Currently the School of Religion offers enough graduate level courses to support concentrations in such areas as Biblical Studies, Hebrew Bible, New Testament, History of Christianity, History of Christian Thought, Philosophy of Religion, Theology, Ethics, Religion and Society, Theology and Culture, Jewish Studies, Islamic Studies, and Comparative Religions within the Abrahamic Religion.  The student’s advisor will guide a student in choosing courses to establish a broad expertise in the sub-field and lay a foundation for qualifying exams.
Note:  Students will be limited in their choice of a concentration to those for which the School of Religion offers sufficient graduate level courses.


The WSR Program offers four workshops each year:  “On being a Graduate Student,”  “Preparing for Qualifying Examinations,”  “Writing a Dissertation,” On the Profession.”  These are designed to orient students both to the formal processes involved and the practicalities and prevailing wisdom about how to negotiate these stages.  
Core Faculty:
On entering the program, an advisor will be assigned from the core faculty.  A list of core faculty members is available from the SOR Office.  For students entering the 72-unit PhD the first year of course work should provide breadth in the field of Religion.  Upon beginning the last 48 units, a student should declare a concentration within the field of Religion and ask a faculty member in that area of concentration to be their advisor.  This advisor will guide a student in selecting course to build competence in the concentration and work with the student in designing qualifying exams for that concentration.
Advisory Group:
To encourage a sense of community and to foster broader conversations WSR students meet three times a semester for an evening in a faculty home to discuss their progress in coursework.  These meetings include the WSR salon in which a feminist scholar or activist is invited to speak and engage the students in informal discussions.

WSR hosts lectures by feminist scholars and publishes a calendar of WSR events each semester.  All students are encouraged to participate in these and take advantage of the opportunity to meet the leading scholars in the field.

Language Requirements

Students in WSR must pass two language exams demonstrating proficiency in French, German or Spanish scholarship in the fields of women’s studies and/or religion.  Students doing a concentration in historical studies, textual studies, or cultural studies may be required to demonstrate a reading ability in other languages that support their doctoral research.  The importance of additional languages will be determined in consultation with the advisor.  Students prepare for these language exams in a variety of ways, including summer school courses, auditing college courses and private tutors.

Qualifying Examinations

During the last 24 units of coursework, students should begin planning their qualifying exams.  Students are required to take five written qualifying exams: three in the field of their concentration and two on feminist methodologies such as feminist theory, feminist historiography, feminist ethnography, feminist pedagogy, post-colonial and subaltern theory. With the consent of the advisor, a student may also elect to substitute the dissertation proposal for the third exam in the field of concentration.  The faculty members who agree to write these exams become the Qualifying Exam Committee.

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation advisor will work with the student in developing a dissertation proposal and in identifying a suitable dissertation committee.  By the last year of coursework, a student should be able to identify the topic or question that will evolve into a dissertation topic.  The dissertation committee should be composed of the three Claremont faculty members, however an additional outside (fourth) reader may be invited to add another area of expertise not available within the Claremont Colleges.  Faculty may be invited to serve on the committee either before or after the proposal is drafted, as deemed appropriate by the dissertation advisor.

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