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Alumnus Update: CJ Rice

I graduated from WVU in 2013 with two bachelor’s degrees: one in history and one in religious studies. While there, I participated in numerous clubs and activities, including Phi Alpha Theta/History Club and Religious Studies Club. I also twice traveled abroad as part of my studies. In the summer of 2012, I traveled to Israel to work on an archaeological excavation and visit important religious sites. The following summer, I visited Rome, Florence, and Sorrento on a study abroad trip to Italy. When I graduated, I was named outstanding senior for the History department and inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. 

I matriculated into the M.A. in history program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC later that month. At NC State, I worked as a teaching assistant in the history department and as a graduate assistant with the Fellowship Advising Office. I also occasionally volunteered in the NC State Archaeological Laboratory and Repository. In spring 2015, I completed the Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching at NC State. Throughout my career at NC State, I have worked on the editorial staff of the history department’s The Graduate History Journal, serving as editor-in-chief for the 2015/16 academic year. 

This fall, I will start my Ph.D. in the department of history at Yale University. There, I hope to continue the work of my MA thesis by expanding the chronological parameters of my analysis. I’m also developing an interest in the applications of critical theories (especially feminist and queer theories) to the study of religious violence. I’m looking forward to the opportunities Yale has to offer. But, it’s nice to think that it all started at WVU!

My MA Thesis is titled, “Diocletian’s “Great Persecutions”: Minority Religions and the Roman Tetrarchy” (Under the direction of Prof. S. Thomas Parker). 
In the year 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the other members of the Tetrarchy launched a series of persecutions against Christians that is remembered as the most severe, widespread, and systematic persecution in the Church’s history. Around that time, the Tetrarchy also issued a rescript to the Pronconsul of Africa ordering similar persecutory actions against a religious group known as the Manichaeans.

At first glance, the Tetrarchy’s actions appear to be the result of tensions between traditional classical paganism and religious groups that were not part of that system. However, when the status of Jewish populations in the Empire is examined, it becomes apparent that the Tetrarchy only persecuted Christians and Manichaeans. This thesis explores the relationship between the Tetrarchy and each of these three minority groups as it attempts to understand the Tetrarchy’s policies towards minority religions. In doing so, this thesis will discuss the relationship between the Roman state and minority religious groups in the era just before the Empire’s formal conversion to Christianity. It is only around certain moments in the various religions’ relationships with the state that the Tetrarchs order violence. Consequently, I argue that violence towards minority religions was a means by which the Roman state policed boundaries around its conceptions of Roman identity.