My book, Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity, published by the University of California Press, won an Award of Excellence from the American Academy of Religion. In the book, I show how liberal Protestants went from being early-twentieth-century medical missionaries seeking to convert others through science and scripture, to becoming vocal critics of missions who experimented with non-western healing modes such as Yoga and Reiki. In coming to their changing visions of healing, liberal Protestants became pioneers three times over: in the struggle against the cultural and medical pathologizing of homosexuality; in the critique of Christian missionary triumphalism; and in the diffusion of an ever-more ubiquitous anthropology of “body, mind, and spirit.”
I teach and research religions of North America at the University of Toronto, where I am in the Department for the Study of Religion, with a graduate appointment in Anthropology. I was first drawn to the study of religion as a creative space for robust, interdisciplinary thinking about some of the most compelling concerns of contemporary life: how authority and power are imposed or cultivated within a life or a community; how technological change has altered bodies, imaginations, and the very notion of what it is to communicate; and how the past is a powerful tool for shaping the present, in the hands of both scholars and laypeople. The specific question of religion, both in the sense of its genealogical formation as a concept and in the sense of its effects as a familiarized category under which people and communities act, holds its own particular interest for me. The category of religion is at once provisional and powerful, with different cultural and historical resonances depending on what one takes as sources and methods of study. Thinking and writing about religion in juxtaposition with gender, material culture, biomedicine, colonialism, and technological innovation, I have asked how practices of religion make possible or enforce certain kinds of subjects in a world shaped as much by the material realities of wombs, wedding dresses, and radio waves, as by the conceptual possibilities of narratives, rituals, nation-states, and theories.
In January 2012, I delivered the John Albert Hall Lectures at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society within the University of Victoria. The four lectures were collectively titled: “Testimonies of the Spirit: Christianity, Media, and the Politics of Confession.”
For a recent, and brief, piece, see my “Max Weber’s Grave” at Frequencies: A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality.
I direct an interdisciplinary initiative at U of T called Religion in the Public Sphere, and am a strand leader in the Religion and Diversity Project based at the University of Ottawa. I supervise many graduate students working in the study of religion, as well as in collaborative programs in Diaspora and Transnational Studies, Women’s Health, the Women and Gender Studies Institute, and Sexual Diversity Studies.