About Me

I am a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, where I have been teaching since 2013.

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.

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My Work

For me, religion is one of the ways people understand who is “us” and who is “them.” This basic function of religion guides all my research and teaching about a range of topics from Hinduism in the United States to religion in film to American evangelicalism. Most recently, my research has turned to theorizing about the intersections of religious studies and professional wrestling and a book project I’m calling Wrestling with Religion: Working Theories of Culture. It’s a giant, fun, wild, experiment.

I have written other articles and book chapters on Asian religions in America, religion in film, podcasting in religious studies, and American evangelicalism.

In 2022, I published Hinduism in America: an introduction with Routledge. The book is a concise introduction to the long history of religion in the encounter between America and India. It is not a book that will tell you what Hinduism is; rather, it is an introduction to the variety of ways in which Hinduism has been represented, constructed, and practiced in the United States. Each chapter introduces a key term in the study of religion in American culture and uses that term to tell the story of particular historical period.

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.

Faculty Bio

Recent Publications

Hinduism in America: an introduction (New York: Routledge), 2022.

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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American Examples


I am the director of  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 and funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. Along with the workshops, American Examples produces a series of annual edited books featuring research from the participants in the program and published by University of Alabama Press.

American Examples

American Examples: New Conversations about Religion, Volume One
Edited by Michael J. Altman

American Examples

American Examples: New Conversations about Religion, Volume Two
Edited by Samah Choudhury, Prea Persaud, and Michael J. Altman

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