Rachel Carbonara PhD Student in Anthropology and Sociology of Religion

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.