See also: Doctoral Program | Master of Arts Program | Fields of Study | SGS Calendar | Graduate Handbook | FAQ


Welcome

Doctoral student Nick Field in front of the Jackman Humanities Building, home to the Department for the Study of Religion. (Photo by Andrew Erlich.)

The Graduate Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto is a unique institution for the pursuit of graduate studies. A multidisciplinary organization, the Department combines the resources of an extensive network of cross-appointed affiliations with faculty colleagues whose primary research and teaching interests address religious phenomena, and who are drawn from a variety of departments and programs in the humanities, social sciences, and law. The Department thus consolidates the vast curricular and faculty resources for the study of religion that are distributed across disciplines throughout the university, making it the largest and most comprehensive graduate program in this field within Canada, and one of the largest and most diverse such programs internationally.

Current faculty membership in the Department includes over 100 professors, ranging from scholars trained in a variety of specializations within religious studies, to sociologists and anthropologists of religion, historians, philosophers, psychologists of religion, and legal scholars. Sustained by such a broad representation of disciplinary and area expertise, the Department is able to facilitate graduate learning and research in a manner that conjoins scholarly depth with scholarly breadth, and encourages the creative possibilities that attend the critical, mutually-informing encounter of diverse theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches.

Since its inception in 1976, the Department has awarded more than 110 doctoral degrees and some 180 master’s degrees. The Department belongs to the Division of Humanities within the School of Graduate Studies, which governs and administers graduate programs in some seventy-five departments, centres, and institutes within the University of Toronto.

The Department is situated in the downtown area of the city of Toronto, within a metropolitan region that includes one of the most culturally and religiously diverse populations in North America. Our faculty and graduate students also teach at the campuses of the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) and the University of Toronto at Scarborough (UTSC). The greater Toronto area offers ready contact with the communities and institutions of a large number of the religious traditions in the world. The University of Toronto, with a population of some 74,000 students and a teaching staff of roughly 2,000 faculty, is the largest and most comprehensive institution of higher education in Canada. In international rankings of academic excellence and research performance, U of T consistently places among the top universities in the world.

We invite all students and faculty interested in the study of religion to visit as well as to participate in our lecture and colloquia events, at the University of Toronto downtown campus. For questions about the DSR, or about the admissions process in particular, please contact us: by telephone: (416) 978-3057; or by email: religion.grad@utoronto.ca, or refer to the Religion Graduate Handbook.

Purpose of the Graduate Department

The purpose of the Graduate Department is essentially twofold: (i) to provide for graduate training and experience in the study of religion, and (ii) to facilitate research and publication in this important field of inquiry. The Department conceives of the study of religion in comprehensive terms, and so encourages a wide and critical conversation among scholars with diverse perspectives and approaches to the investigation of religious phenomena and traditions. The Department seeks to promote the view that the academic study of religion should be interdisciplinary in its theoretical and methodological approaches and integrative in its critical focus on the multi-faceted centrality of religion in the human experience. We believe that such a program of inquiry provides an indispensable intellectual basis for exploring and comprehending the traditions that have shaped the processes of world history, and for tracking the social trends that are currently underway in global as well as local contexts.

The Department considers its distinguishing mark and unique strength to derive from its ability to provide individualized programs of graduate study that are integratively interdisciplinary, and that make use of the rich and diverse curricular, library, and faculty resources that are available here at the University of Toronto for the study of religion. Our programs are characterized by breadth, flexibility, and focus, and they are supported by an advising system that is immediate, intensive, and comprehensive.

The Department’s master’s program aims to serve students with a wide variety of purposes. While many of our master’s graduates continue on to pursue doctoral studies, others have followed different options, such as careers in teaching, public affairs, and publishing. The Department’s doctoral program, like other advanced programs in religious studies, exists primarily to prepare students for academic careers in universities and colleges.

Degrees Offered

The Department offers programs leading to the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in the Study of Religion. The Department also participates in several graduate level collaborative programs: South Asian Studies, Bioethics, Editing Medieval Texts, Book History and Print Culture, Ethnic Immigration and Pluralism Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Jewish Studies, Knowledge, Media & Design, Women’s Health, Sexual Diversity Studies and Environmental Studies, and Diaspora and Transnational Studies.

The Study of Religion

All students of the Department are engaged in the common project of the study of religion, as construed in terms of the Department’s commitment to an integrative and interdisciplinary approach to the subject. The Department has recently developed nine fields of study that indicate clusters of strength in faculty resources—students do not enrol in these fields, and the fields do not determine the structure of a student’s curriculum or committee. All students will likely fit within at least two—if not more—of the nine fields. The fields are listed below. Both programs of graduate study—master’s and doctoral—are constructed individually to fit and support the specific topics of interest identified by each student at the point of admission. This procedure strives to maximize the achievement of breadth and flexibility in interdisciplinary training, and of achieving the requisite focus regarding research specialization.

The Department’s academic task in studying religious phenomena as expressions of the changing and diverse social-historical conditions of human existence is distinct from the study of theology as pursued from within a faith-based commitment to any particular religious tradition. In the University of Toronto, this distinction is upheld institutionally by the separate functioning of the Department for the Study of Religion and the Toronto School of Theology.

Fields of Study

The following nine fields help to organize the many aspects of the study of religion at the Department for the Study of Religion. Both Faculty and students may find themselves in multiple fields—fields are not meant to constrain research topics, but to foster overlapping communities of research interest.

Buddhist Studies
Christianity
Hinduism and South Asian Religions
Islam
Judaism
Religion, Culture, Politics
Religion, Ethics, and Modern Thought
Religion and Medicine
Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity

Research Resources

The University of Toronto library system consists of some thirty libraries containing over nine million volumes, served by a fully online catalogue. It is consistently ranked among the top five research library systems in North America. The University’s collections of books, journals, and other materials for the study of religion are unsurpassed in Canada. These resources are found chiefly in Robarts Research Library, located on St. George Street near the Department; but significant collections—often specialized—can also be found in various institutes and in the libraries of the many colleges that are attached to the University and the Toronto School of Theology. Particularly valuable to students of religion are the libraries of Trinity, St. Michael’s, Victoria and Emmanuel, Wycliffe, Knox, and Regis colleges, along with the South Asian Library, the East Asian Library, and the internationally renowned Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. http://www.library.utoronto.ca

The Department houses a small collection of standard reference works as well as current and back issues of Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses, along with variety of association bulletins and newsletters. The Department also provides computers for student use, including access to the University’s online library catalogue, the Internet, and email. Students of the Department may use the computing facilities provided by Computing in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS), which is located on the 14th floor of Robarts Library. It maintains two computing laboratories which provide access to various computer applications, including word-processing, the Internet, email, and electronic publishing. CHASS also offers tutorials and hands-on computer training sessions. Most of their services are offered free of charge. http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/

Research and Publication

The Department facilitates research and publication primarily through the encouragement it provides for the work of faculty members and students of the Department. The research interests and projects of the faculty members are reflected in the recent publications listed in the Department Faculty Profiles provided on this website. The Department attracts visiting scholars, post-doctoral fellows, and research readers who come to the University to pursue programs of research. These visitors contribute to the intellectual life of the Department by taking part in graduate seminars, colloquia, and other events. The Department also periodically sponsors conferences and special lecture series, often in association with a college or other departments and centres in the University.

Research Clusters

Religion in the Public Sphere Initiative

Symposia: Graduate Student Journal

U of T Buddhist Studies

Centre for Jewish Studies

Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies

Centre for South Asian Studies

Community Life

The Department functions as a community of professors and students engaged in the study of religion, together with the supporting members of the administrative staff. As much as possible, the Department seeks to foster the understanding that professors and students are senior and junior members of the community of scholars working together in common academic pursuits. By statute, the professors and Department officers represent the University of Toronto in the operation of the academic program and in the assessment of the achievements of graduate students in fulfilment of the requirements for the degrees of M.A. and Ph.D.

The Chair of the Undergraduate Department for the Study of Religion also serves as the Chair of the Graduate Department. The Chair is responsible for the overall operation of the Department, and is accountable to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. The Graduate Director of the Department serves as the coordinator for the graduate program and the Associate Chair of the Department directs the undergraduate academic program. The Chair, the Graduate Director, and the Associate Chair meet regularly as the joint executive committee of the Department. The Graduate Administrator assists the Graduate Director and runs the day-to-day academic operations of the Department. The Departmental Officer serves as the primary administrative, business, and human resources officer of the Department.The Departmental Secretary assists both the Chair and the Associate Chair. The By-laws of the Department define the governance structure. A copy is available at the Department.

MA student Ora Nitkin-Kaner in Africa

The following structures include both the Undergraduate and Graduate programmes in their affairs: Advisory Committee on policy, appointments, and other general matters; Committee on Promotions and Appeals; Committee on Academic Development. The Department has the following additional structures: the Department General Assembly; Committee on Curriculum and Graduate Study; Committee on Graduate Admissions and Fellowships; the Department Advisory Committee; and the Advisory Board of the Religion in the Public Sphere Initiative. All Department students are members of the Department General Assembly, and student representatives serve on the Department Advisory Committees, the Committee on Curriculum and Graduate Study, and the RPS Advisory Board.

During 2008-9, the Department moved to its current location on the second and third floors of the Jackman Humanities Building, a newly renovated space at 170 St. George Street that houses other key humanities departments, English and Philosophy, as well as the Jackman Humanities Institute.

Community life in the Department tends to be focused on the second and third floors of the Jackman Humanties Building; the Large and Small Seminar Rooms, where public lectures, public meetings, classes and social events are held, and the Lounge where students have use of basic kitchen facilities. There are rooms with carrels for students, mailboxes and a photocopier also on the third floor. The Department maintains a job placement board as well as a board for announcements of events and a board with student photos and their area of research.

The Department sponsors a colloquium that meets at least monthly to hear papers and hold discussions about the work of professors, visiting scholars, invited lecturers, and graduate students. All members are encouraged to propose papers. Each Ph.D. student must present a paper in the colloquium when at the dissertation writing stage, and this participation will be noted on their transcript. The Department expects graduate students to attend the colloquium as an important part of their scholarly formation.

All new doctoral students are members of RLG 1000Y, a Method and Theory seminar whose membership is restricted to first-year Ph.D. students of the Department. The seminar, which meets weekly throughout the academic year, is focused on fundamental questions of interpretation, explanation, and analysis in the study of religious phenomena. It serves as a primary way for students to engage in discussion about the study of religion in relation to their own academic interests as well as to develop a community of discourse among peers.

All new M.A. students enrol in the M.A. Method and Theory Group seminar (RLG1200H) which functions as a method and theory seminar designed to orient M.A. students to the research process at the graduate level.

All graduate students of the Department are members of the Student Association of the Department, a self-governing organization that provides academic, social, and counselling services. The Student Association provides an essential linking mechanism for students to engage intellectually and socially outside of the more formal arrangements of the graduate program. In recent years, students have sponsored an annual Spring Symposium, published an annual volume of papers, and organized roundtable discussions. The Student Association is also instrumental in assisting Department students in regards to conference activities, providing guidance on the preparation of papers, and in the organizing of sessions for learned society meetings in Canada and the United States. Helpful advice on academic publishing—articles, reviews—is also made available. In addition to its intellectual role, the Student Association serves as an advocacy organization on behalf of student concerns and individual student interests. The Association also organizes social events, pub nights, and sporting events.

The Student Association executive includes the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Social Co-ordinator, Academic Co-ordinator, Graduate Student Union (GSU) Representative, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3902 Representative (Shop Steward), M.A. Representative and Members-at-Large. All students are also members of the Graduate Students Union (GSU) of the University of Toronto.

Professional Opportunities

In addition to fostering a learning environment for academic research, the Department also strives to provide students with opportunities to secure teaching experiences that will enhance their prospects for securing academic positions. The Department tries to meet this need by means of Teaching Assistantships and, in a few cases, Course Instructorships. Department doctoral students are eligible to apply for enrollment in THE5000H, Teaching in Higher Education, a course devoted to helping graduate students acquire teaching know‑how, taught by accomplished teachers in the University. Research or work-study positions are also occasionally available, wherein students will work closely with a professor on a research project. All doctoral students are required to attend SRD4444Y: Professionalisation Seminar over the course of their program. The seminar consists of workshops on pedagogy and preparation for the job market.

The Department assists graduates in finding suitable initial positions, notably by holding workshops and giving advice on the job search, posting advertisements of position openings, maintaining a file of publications which advertise positions in the subjects covered by the Department, and writing letters of recommendation. The University operates a Career Centre in the Koffler Student Centre, which runs workshops, offers career advice, provides an academic dossier service and posts job notices.

Collaborative Programs

DSR graduate students in Israel

The Department participates in a number of collaborative programs at both the M.A. and Ph.D. levels. The purpose of these programs is to facilitate the creation of multi- and interdisciplinary programs of graduate study that creatively cut across the formal boundaries defined for departments and centres. Descriptions of these programs are found in the SGS Calendar. Further information is available at the Department and from the offices of each program.

Students who wish to enter one of these collaborative programs must meet the admission requirements and the program requirements of both the Department and the collaborative program. Students participate in two communities: they have the Department as their home department while at the same time they join in the activities of the collaborative program. Upon successful completion of all requirements, students receive their degree in both Religion and the collaborative subject.

In some cases, courses may be counted both for Religion credit and for collaborative program credit, with permission of the Director of Graduate Studies. Decisions about the fulfilment of the requirements are made by the Graduate Director at the Department and by the Director of each collaborative program.

The Department is currently associated with the following collaborative programs:

Bioethics, Joint Centre for Bioethics

88 College Street • phone: 416-978-0871 • fax 416-978-1911 • carmen.alfred@utoronto.ca • www.jointcentreforbioethics.ca/education/cpb.shtml

Book History and Print Culture

Massey College, 4 Devonshire Place • phone 416- 946-3560 • fax 416-978-1759 • book.history@utoronto.ca • http://bookhistory.ischool.utoronto.ca/

Diaspora and Transnational Studies

Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, Rm 230, Jackman Humanities Building• phone 416-946-8464 • fax 416-978-7045 • cdts@utoronto.ca • www.utoronto.ca/cdts/graduate.html

Editing Medieval Texts

Centre for Medieval Studies, 125 Queen’s Park, 3rd Fl. • phone 416-978-4884 • fax 416-978-8294 • medieval.studies@utoronto.ca • www.chass.utoronto.ca/medieval/programs/collaborative.html

Environmental Studies

Earth Sciences Centre, 33 Willcocks St., Rm 1021 • phone 416-978-3475 • fax 416-978-3884 • pavel.pripa@utoronto.ca • www.environment.utoronto.ca/Graduate/Programs/EnvironmentalStudiesCollaborativeProgram.aspx#reli

Ethnic, Immigration, and Pluralism Studies

Department of Sociology, 725 Spadina Avenue • phone 416-978-4783 • fax 416-978-3963 • ethnic.studies@utoronto.ca • www.utoronto.ca/ethnicstudies

Jewish Studies

Jackman Humanities Building 218, 170 St. George Street • phone 416-978-1624 • jewish.studies@utoronto.ca •http://www.cjs.utoronto.ca/graduate/about-program

Knowledge, Media Design

Robarts Library, 130 St. George Street, First Floor rooms 1153 & 1155, 416-978-KMDI (5634), program@kmdi.utoronto.ca, http://www.kmdi.utoronto.ca/cp-kmd-collaborative-program/

Sexual Diversity Studies

The Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, 15 King’s College Circle Rm. 251 • phone 416-978-6276 • fax 416-971-2027 • sexual.diversity@utoronto.ca • http://www.uc.utoronto.ca/sexualdiversity

South Asian Studies

Centre for South Asian Studies, 1 Devonshire Place, Room 228N • phone 416-946-8832 • fax 416-946-8838 • south.asian@utoronto.ca • http://www.utoronto.ca/csas/

Women and Gender Studies

New College, 40 Willcocks St., Rm. 2036 • phone 416-978-3668 • fax 416-946-5561 • grad.womenstudies@utoronto.ca •http://www.wgsi.utoronto.ca/graduate/collaborative-program

Women’s Health

Women’s College Research Institute, 790 Bay St., 7th Flr. • phone 416-351-3732, Ext. 2331 • fax 416-351-3746 • CPWH@womensresearch.ca • http://www.womensresearch.ca/learning-centre/graduate-programs/collaborative-graduate-program/about-us

Languages and Language Exams

The Department expects the use of languages in addition to English to be a normal part of the culture of scholarship. The language requirements of the Department are in keeping with the overall character of the Study of Religion as a multi-lingual and international discipline. More directly, language skills are indispensable to sound and exacting scholarship in the study of religious phenomena and traditions. The Department’s language requirements are thus based on the following two considerations: (1) the increasing importance of printed scholarly work on religion in languages other than English; and (2) the specialized research need to read and comprehend primary sources not in translations, but in the original languages in which they were composed.

Language Examinations are conducted by the Department under the supervision of the Graduate Administrator, and are usually set by a faculty member of the Department who uses the examination language for the study of religion. Examinations consist of the translation into English of a passage about religion taken from a scholarly publication or a source. To secure evidence of reading knowledge, examiners will select passages of approximately 300-350 words. The time limit is THREE HOURS, and standard dictionaries are allowed. A passing grade is B+. Language examinations are generally administered on the second, third or fourth friday of September, January and April . Doctoral students are required to attempt their language examinations at least once a year until the requirement is fulfilled. Failure to attempt the exams will result in a “less than satisfactory” assessment on the annual supervision report.

Students are responsible for mastering the required languages, whether by formal course study or independently. The Department promotes the enhancement of resources within the University for language study. Many departments (including French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, East Asian, Near and Middle Eastern) offer undergraduate language courses, some designed specifically for graduate students. These are available to Department students for no extra fee. Some departments (Medieval Studies, Near and Middle Eastern, East Asian, and Classics) offer graduate level courses in ancient literary languages. The Toronto School of Theology offers reading courses for graduate students in some languages (e.g. Greek, Latin, French, German) on a regular basis, but for a supplementary fee. Contact TST if interested in this option.

Successfully completed language courses do not exempt a student from a language exam. All cases of exemption must be petitioned with the Director of Graduate Studies, and be supported by recommendations from the student’s Supervisory Committee.

For more information on the language examinations, see the Language Memorandum available Languages memo revised August 2013.

Grades and Appeals

The regulations for grades and appeals are published in the Calendar of the School of Graduate Studies.

Grades: Courses are graded according to this scale: A+, A, A‑, B+, B, B‑, FZ, and INC. Satisfactory performance at the Department requires the completion of every course taken for graduate credit with a grade of at least a B. A grade of FZ (inadequate) cannot be counted for degree credit. A student receiving FZ in a course may petition the Department’s Committee on Appeals for consent to repeat the course or to substitute another in its place. Consent may be granted if the student’s work in other courses is well above the minimum required. A student is not likely to receive such consent more than once.

Incompletes: Courses are expected to be completed within the time limit for grade reports for courses, as stated in the SGS Calendar. In general, completed grades for Fall Half courses are due in January, and for Spring Half courses or Full Year courses in May. For significant medical, personal, or other appropriate reasons, a student may petition for an extension of the time limit of a particular course until the end of the next grading period. Petition forms are available online at www.sgs.utoronto.ca and must be signed by the student and supported in writing by the professor concerned. The petition may be granted or denied by the Graduate Director, or, if need be, by the Committee on Curriculum and Graduate Study. If the course is not completed by the new time limit, the report of INC (Incomplete) is recorded and is permanent.

Audit: Subject to SGS policy, the Department permits auditing of Department courses by both registered graduate students and non‑registered persons. Non‑registered persons pay an auditing fee. The final decision to permit someone to audit a course rests with the course instructor.

Plagiarism and Academic Offences: At the graduate level, a plagiarism offence is treated with utmost severity, as graduate students should know well the standards of scholarship they are to uphold. Students are responsible for reading the SGS Handbook to learn about the SGS policy on plagiarism (and other academic offences).

Right to appeal: As a matter of policy the Department expects that all its members will be treated fairly, and supports all appropriate efforts to ensure that this is achieved. Students may appeal decisions within the Department about any academic matters, including papers, courses, language requirements, thesis proposal, grades, examinations, Advisory or Supervisory Committees, and supervisors. Appeals concerning academic matters in other academic units must be presented to the unit in question. Appeals about non-academic matters are taken to the appropriate officials or bodies within the University. For information about appeals, students should consult, in this order, the SGS Calendar, the Graduate Director, the Chair of the Department for the Study of Religion, the Associate Dean of Humanities of SGS, or the University Ombudsperson.

Academic appeal: As outlined in the SGS Calendar, several steps are possible in pursuing an academic appeal pertaining to the Department. A student considering making an academic appeal is advised to discuss the matter with the Graduate Director. As a first step, the Graduate Director will ask the student to raise the matter of the appeal directly with the person or persons concerned, in an attempt to settle the appeal informally. If necessary, the Graduate Director may seek to resolve the matter by appropriate means, which may include a meeting with the student and the person(s) concerned. As a second step, if necessary, the appeal is made in writing to the Department’s Committee on Appeals, chaired by the Chair of the Department. The Committee may consider the appeal with or without an oral hearing. Where necessary, the opinion of an independent assessor or evaluator will be sought. The Committee makes a recommendation to the Chair, who then decides the matter. As a third step, appeals may be taken to the Associate Dean of Humanities in the School of Graduate Studies for mediation. As possible fourth and fifth steps, the appeal may be taken to the Graduate Academic Appeals Board of SGS, and then to the Academic Appeals Committee of the Governing Council of the University.

SGS Sessional Dates

Student Resources

The School of Graduate Studies

A great deal of information on policies and procedures, student events and graduate student life is available from the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). The website has essential information regarding fees, deadlines, and links to required forms. Each September, SGS publishes “The Essential Grad Guide”, a guide to student services and resources. See www.sgs.utoronto.ca.

Housing

Information about housing for students moving to Toronto can be obtained from the University of Toronto Housing Service, Koffler Student Centre, 214 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1 (416-978-8045). The service maintains lists of off-campus accommodations located in the downtown area, and also acts as the admissions office for the married student apartment residence nearby and graduate student residences. See http://www.housing.utoronto.ca/ Each year the Department has a place available for a new doctoral student in Graduate House, the new Graduate Residence. Applicants who are interested in the space should indicate this in their covering letter. Students may apply independently to the Graduate House as well. Information can be found at ghcommunity.info/gradhouse/

Graduate Students’ Union

The GSU looks after the interests of all students in graduate programs of the university. It provides supplementary health insurance, publishes a Survival Handbook, and operates a pub and gymnasium. See www.gsu.utoronto.ca

Other Resources

The University’s Koffler Student Centre offers a wide range of services to students, including the Family Care Office, counselling and career services, a writing centre for graduate students, LGBTQ resources and Accessibility Services. Students have access to the Athletic Centre and Hart House, a cultural centre of the University. Graduate students are eligible to participate in intramural sports and some varsity teams. Information about these offices can be found through Student Services and Student Affairs, or through the individual office websites.