Holstein Dissertation Fellowship Mentors 2023-2024

Sahin Acikgoz

Sahin Acikgoz is Assistant Professor of Islam, Gender, and Sexuality in the Department for the Study of Religion and a member of the executive committee of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Program. They were a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Study of Religion at the University of California, Riverside from 2020 to 2022. They received their Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and LGBTQ Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where they cofounded the Transnational Gender and Sexuality Studies Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop and were the Mary Fair Croushore Graduate Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities. They were also the recipient of the 2019 Sarah Pettit Doctoral Fellowship in LGBT Studies at Yale University and the Holstein Dissertation Fellowship in Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion at UC Riverside. Their research areas are Queer and Trans Studies in Islam, Slavery, Gender and Sexuality in Islamicate Societies, Trans of Color Critique, Global South, Transnational Feminisms, and Gender Politics in the Middle East.

Mentee: Erum Dahar

Rudy Busto

Rudy Busto’s work begins with Omi and Winant’s position that concepts of race “structure state and civil society” and “shape both identities and institutions in significant ways” (Racial Formation in the United States, vii). Approaching religion in North America through the lens of race allows us to uncover hidden and subjugated histories and actors in American religion. This close attention to racial and ethnic interactions in North America also lets us examine how the study of religion has itself been structured and shaped by assumptions about race/ethnicity and helps explain the theoretical absence of race as a variable for critical analysis of religion. To study religion in this way requires, first, interdisciplinarity, followed by counterdisciplinarity — that is, refusing and working against established disciplinary regimes. Counterdisciplinarity as a mode of reading, research, writing and teaching produces new insight and objects of study hidden by merely borrowing or adapting tools from established disciplines.  More specifically, Professor Busto’s teaching, research and writing focus on Latinx religion; Asian and Pacific American religious traditions; constructions of indigeneity; the transformation of world religious traditions in the United States; religion in the American west and Pacific Rim; evangelical Christianity; and religion in science fiction as a genre for “making strange” issues of alterity and posing questions about the relationship between religion and science. These latter questions have recently moved him into thinking about First Contact and how religious traditions may or may not be relevant to off-world human and post-human futures.

Mentee: Israel Domínguez

Peter Anthony Mena

Peter Anthony Mena is Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and the Director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program at the University of San Diego. His scholarly work focuses on the history of Christianity in Late Antiquity. He uses critical theories (postcolonial, gender and queer theories, and cultural studies) as an approach to study the past with the goals of considering current political, social, cultural moments. Mena’s first monograph, Place and Identity in the Lives of Antony, Paul, and Mary of Egypt: Desert as Borderland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), uses the work of Chicana writer, Gloria Anzaldúa, to consider the descriptions of space and identity in Christian hagiographies and is the winner of the Hispanic Theological Initiative's Annual Book Prize (2020). At the University of San DIego, Mena teaches courses in Catholic Theology, Early Christianities, as well as Latinx Theologies and Chicanx Religious Identities. Mena's current research is focused on gender, performance, and theater in ancient Christian literature.

Mentee: Tracey Sibisi

Elizabeth Pérez

Elizabeth Pérez is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She holds a Ph.D. in History of Religions from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her first book, Religion in the Kitchen: Cooking, Talking, and the Making of Black Atlantic Traditions (NYU Press, 2016) was awarded the 2017 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion and received honorable mention for the 2019 Barbara T. Christian Literary Award. In 2021, Pérez was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Stipend towards the completion of her book manuscript on contemporary trans religious experience, tentatively entitled, Faces of Faith, Kindred Spirits: Black & Latinx Transgender Religious Lives. In 2022, she was honored to accept the LGBTQ-RAN Educational Resource Prize for her UCSB course, “LGBT Religious History: Queering the Spirit,” and published her second book, The Gut: A Black Atlantic Alimentary Tract (Cambridge University Press).

Mentee: Kori Pacyniak