Emma Rifai

Emma Rifai
PhD Candidate
Education: 
M.A. in Religious Studies, The University of Iowa, 2018; M.A. in International Studies, University of Washington, 20ll; B.A. in Sociology of Religion, Minnesota State University Moorhead, 2009; B.M. in Music, Concordia College, 2008
Office: 
322 GILH
Office Hours: 
Emma is on fellowship. Please email for an appointment.
Curriculum Vitae: 

Emma Rifai is a PhD candidate in the department of religious studies at The University of Iowa.  Her dissertation, “Embodied Covenants:  Women, Weight Loss, and American Secularism,” explores how women’s practices of weight management have become cultural techniques for producing and replicating America’s particular Protestant-informed secularism.  This work provides a needed supplement to ongoing conversations in religious studies, cultural, studies, and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies by demonstrating how American weight loss culture is a gendered and bodily technique of the particular mix of Protestantism and secularism that defines public life in the United States and how the gendered body in contemporary dieting trends contributes to the creation and maintenance of broader political formations.

For more information, please visit her personal website.

Research Interests: 
American Religions; Critical Theory and Religion; Religion, Food, and the Body
Selected Publications: 
  • “Spreading the Religion of Thinness from California to Calcutta:  A Critical Feminist Postcolonial Analysis” with Michelle Lelwica and Jenna McNallie.  Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 24:1 (Spring 2009):  20-41. (Published under Emma Hoglund.)
  • Review of Religious Affects:  Animality, Evolution, and Power, by Donovan O. Schaefer. Material Religion 12:4 (December 2016):  515-516.
  • Review of The Story of Radio Mind:  A Missionary's Journey on Indigenous Land, by Pamela E. Klassen.
    Material Religion.  Forthcoming.
Presentations: 
  • "Uploading the Body; Embodying the Online: Bodies, Digital Space, and the Pro-Ana Movement," Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Cenver, Colorado
  • “Networked Anorexia: Pro-Ana Communities, Network Logic, and the Internet,” Conference of the International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture, University of Colorado Boulder
  • "Pro-Ana:  An Internet-Mediated 'New Religious Movement'?" Craft Critique Culture:  Reckoning with Appetite Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference, The University of Iowa
  • "Networked Anorexia:  Pro-Ana Communities, Network Logic, and the Internet," Conference of the International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture, University of Colorado Boulder 
  • “Disrupting Secular Space:  Veiled Female Bodies in Turkish Shopping Malls,” Jakobsen Memorial Graduate Conference, The University of Iowa, 2017
  • “Fashioning Identities:  New Relationships with Fashion and Modesty in Turkey,” Doing the Body in the 21st Century Conference, University of Pittsburgh, 2016
  • “Spreading the Religion of Thinness from California to Calcutta:  A Critical Feminist Postcolonial Analysis,” Concordia College, 2014
  • “Fashioning Identities:  New Relationships with Fashion and Modesty in Turkey,” Minnesota State University Moorhead, 2014
  • “The Body’s Iron Cage and Its Relationship to the Protestant Ethic,” Annual Upper Midwest Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, 2008
  • “From California to Calcutta:  Spreading the White-Western Devotion to Female Thinness - A Feminist Post-Colonial Analysis,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, 2007
Service and Public Engagement: 
  • Steering Committee Member of the Religion and Media Workshop of the American Academy of Religion, 2018-Present
  • Host of a Workshop on Women and Islam, JustChurch, Iowa City, Iowa, 2018
  • Host of a Workshop on Women and Islam, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Iowa City, Iowa, 2018
  • Summer Doctoral Seminar at Wayne State University of Professor Bonnie Dow, 2018
  • Peer Reviewer for Contemporary Women's Writing, 2018-Present
  • Dissertation Writing Summer Camp, 2018
  • Grant and Fellowship Writing Seminar, 2018
  • Theta Alpha Kappa, The University of Iowa
  • Student Director of the Upper Midwest Region of the American Academy of Religion, 2017-Present
  • Co-Host of a Three-Part Workshop on Islam, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Iowa City, Iowa, 2017
  • Iowa N.E.W. Leadership Institute Participant, The University of Iowa, 2016
  • UI Council on the Status of Women Participant, The University of Iowa, 2016-2017
  • Advanced Graduate Student Workshop Leader, The University of Iowa, 2015
  • Graduate Student Critical Theory Reading Group Leader, The University of Iowa, 2015-Present
  • Religion Graduate Student Organization (RGSO), The University of Iowa Co-Coordinator, 2017-Present
  • Faculty Committee Representative, 2016-Present
  • Graduate Student Mentor, 2017-Present
  • Social Event Chair, 2015-2016
  • Secretary/Treasurer, 2016
  • Guest Discussion Leader on Islam, Lutheran Campus Ministries, Iowa City, Iowa 2015
Awards, Honors and Grants: 
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dissertation Writing Fellowship, 2019
  • Graduate College Post-Comprehensive Research Fellowship, The University of Iowa, 2019
  • Louis Pennigroth Scholarship, The University of Iowa, 2018
  • Alice Marguerite Blough Award, The University of Iowa, 2017
  • Graduate Student Senate Travel Grant, The University of Iowa, 2016
  • Department of Religious Studies Travel Grant, The University of Iowa, 2016, 2017
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship, University of Washington, 2010-2011
  • Schwartz Fellowship, University of Washington, 2009-2010
  • Alpha Kappa Delta, Minnesota State University Moorhead, 2009
  • Summa Cum Laude, Concordia College, 2008
  • Religion Honors, Concordia College, 2008
  • Centennial Scholars Grant, Concordia College, 2006-2007