Rachel Carbonara PhD Student in Anthropology and Sociology of Religion

By: The University of Chicago

RACHEL CARBONARA: I am Rachel Carbonara. I am a PhD student in the anthropology and sociology of religion program here in the Divinity School. I study spiritual tourism in South America. I'm focused mostly on Peru and Brazil and right now I'm really focusing on the Cusco region of Peru.

So what that means is that I look at new age spirituality in very contemporary formations of spiritual practice as they're occurring transnationally with tourists traveling from the United States and other places, but mostly the United States, to South America in order to participate in certain shamanic and indigenous Peruvian rituals and practices. I came to the ASR program here in the Divinity School for a number of reasons. So I did my undergraduate degree in sociology and I was really interested in religion because through studying social science it had become apparent to me that religion is a really important thing to understand if you're going to understand social dynamics in just about any social or cultural context. And I wanted to continue with social science in the setting of a Divinity School, and specifically the U Chicago Divinity School because the faculty here are social scientists, but they are really in an environment where the focus of their study is on religion and on understanding the complexities of religion and the social dynamics that are really specific to religion as a phenomenon. And that's something that I think I really wouldn't be able to do if I was just in a social science program. So there's a lot of overlap here in the Divinity School with people who are studying religion in different contexts. And the program here allows me to have a lot of conversations with those people. So for example, I am co-coordinating the religion and human sciences workshop this year along with another PhD student who does history of religion.

And so we're having interdisciplinary conversations all the time which really adds to the richness in my own understanding of religion and in the research that I'm producing. I have also just found the community in the Divinity School to be really fruitful academically and personally. I have also been on the board of the Divinity Students Association for two years. Right now I am the Secretary of the Divinity Students Association So there's a really strong community here and a community with a really long and rich tradition of investigating religion from a variety of different viewpoints and a variety of different disciplinary perspectives.

And we really spend a lot of time engaging with one another and that has really strengthened my ability to really understand religion in my own research coming from a social science background. Being able to constantly be in conversation in the Divinity School does a really excellent job of cultivating conversation between people who are studying really different things and that's what I really value here.

Rachel Carbonara PhD Student in Anthropology and Sociology of Religion

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