I am Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, where I have been teaching since 2013. I am also the Undergraduate Director in the Department and oversee advising undergraduate majors and changes to the undergraduate curriculum.
I received my Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures from the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University, my M.A. in Religion from Duke University, and my B.A. in Religious Studies and English from the College of Charleston.
Outside of academic life I enjoy hiking with my family, gardening, and watching pro wrestling.
I research and teach courses about the category “religion” in American history and culture. More specifically, I use examples of religion in America to explore larger questions about how people and groups use “religion” to separate “us” from “them.” My first book, Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu: American Representations of India, 1721-1893 (Oxford University Press, 2017) examined a variety of ways Americans used representations of religion in India to argue over what counted as American at home. I have written other articles and book chapters on Asian religions in America, religion in film, podcasting in religious studies, and American evangelicalism.
My latest research has turned to the category “evangelicalism” and the identity “evangelical” in American religious history, religious studies, and the media. I am interested in the ways both scholars, journalists, and everyday Americans argue over who counts as an evangelical and why. I am also interested in the ways the term has been constructed and deployed in America history. My hypothesis is that the terms “evangelical” and “evangelicalism” have become so popular and useful to so many different people because they are elastic terms that can be stretched into a variety of meanings. This allows individuals and groups to use the term in whatever way best suits their social, political, or economic goals and ends.
Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu: Representations of India in America, 1721-1893, (New York: Oxford University Press), 2017.
“Religion, Religions, Religious in America: Toward a Smithian Account of ‘Evangelicalism.’” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 31, no 1 (February 2019): 71-82.
“Orientalism in the 19th Century.” in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Race in American History. Paul Harvey and Kathryn Gin Lu eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 2018.
“The Business of Asian Religions: Guru Entrepreneurs and Godmen CEOs” in The Business Turn in American Religious History. John Corrigan, Darren Grem, and Amanda Porterfield eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 2017.
“Before Hinduism: Missionaries, Unitarians, and Hindoos in Nineteenth Century America.” Religion & American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 26, no 2 (Summer 2016): 260-295.
“The Construction of Hinduism in America” Religion Compass 10, no. 8 (2016): 207-216.
“Death in True Grit” inThe Coen Brothers’ Religion: Mythology, Morality and the American Landscape. Elijah Siegler ed. (Fort Worth, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2016).
“Podcasting Religious Studies.” Religion45, no. 4 (2015): 573-584.
“Where Did this Box of Books Come From?: In Search of an Explanation for The Norton Anthology of World Religions.” Theory and Method in the Study of Religion 28 (2016): 287-296.
“Constructed in Doubt: The Evangelical Invention of Religion in Early America.” Fides et Historia 46, no. 2 (Summer Fall/2014): 60-63
“Dispelling the Magic: Blogging in the Religious Studies Classroom.” Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy25, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2014): 119-123.
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My newest project is American Examples, a series of workshops for early-career scholars of religion in America hosted by the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. I serve as the director of the program and work with an amazing steering committee of faculty in the department. The program has been graciously funded by a $350,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.
Find out more about American Examples