Dr Lee Scharnick-Udemans
Senior researcher, Dr Lee Scharnick-Udemans’ current research focuses on religious diversity and pluralism. It is important for both its intellectual contribution to the interdisciplinary and intersectional study of religion and for its social significance for understanding and enacting equality in a vastly inequitable world. Dr Scharnick-Udemans is also a trained filmmaker with expertise in documenting issues and phenomena related to the religious landscape in South Africa. In 2019 she was awarded a prestigious catalyst fellowship by the University of Edinburgh. Dr Scharnick-Udemans graduated with a B. Soc Sci degree from the University of Cape Town in 2007. Her majors were in Religious Studies and Media Studies. She obtained a Bachelor of Social Science (Honours) in 2010 and obtained her Master’s degree in Social Science in 2012 in the area of Religious Pluralism and Media, also at UCT. She obtained her PhD in 2016 at the age of 29 from the University of Cape Town.
Trained in the study of religion and society, Dr Scharnick-Udemans researches, teaches and supervises in the area of religious diversity, pluralism, religion education, the political economy of religion, new religious movements, and the media. She is the co-editor of the Journal for the Study of Religion and the managing editor of the African Journal of Gender and Religion and secretary for the Association for the Study of Religion in Southern Africa.
Dr Scharnick-Udemans, and Dr Megan Robertson have worked tirelessly in setting up a number of national and international partnerships that have been most productive in furthering the vision and objectives of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice.
Centre for Religion and Public Life feature
Dr Scharnick-Udemans was featured on the Centre for Religion and Public Life (CRPL) at the University of Leeds’ blog, Religion in Public Life in the Researcher of the Month series.
This series aims to showcase the work of scholars in the field of religion and theology and demonstrate how their work examines the role of religion in public life.
Al Jazeera feature
In March 2020, Dr Scharnick-Udemans was interviewed by media network Al Jazeera which is renowned for its critique of global news coverage and media trends. The interview focused on the relationship between the media and televangelists in South Africa. Dr Scharnick-Udemans discussed the apparent rise of televangelism in South Africa but also offered critique of the ways in which the TV pastors are often portrayed as manipulative, exploitative and deceptive. The interview also engaged with the regulation of religion and media in South Africa. More specifically Dr Scharnick-Udemans discussed the ways in which the media often uncritically problematises televangelists by making truth claims and assumptions about what is deemed “authentic” Christianity.
Women in Academia and Leadership
In June 2021 the University of the Western Cape’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Prof Vivienne Lawack, released the third edition of the UWC digimag focusing on excellent women in academia and in leadership.
Dr Scharnick-Udemans contributed to the digimag sharing relatable struggles for achieving a healthy work-life balance in the time of COVID in her piece, “Notion of a healthy work-life balance just a myth”. Read the full edition here.