About

Klassen Radio Mind coverI teach and research religions of North America at the University of Toronto, where I am a Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion, with a graduate appointment in Anthropology.  From 2014-17, I served as the Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Anthropology of Modern Religion, Ludwig-Uhland-Institut (LUI) of Historical and Cultural Anthropology, University of Tübingen. From 2015-20, I hold the Anneliese Maier Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation; this award supports the Religion and Public Memory in Multicultural Societies Project, which I run together with Prof. Dr. Monique Scheer of LUI. Over the same period, I am also working on a SSHRC Insight Grant called “Supernatural Resources”, together with collaborators and graduate students in Ontario and British Columbia.

I supervise and serve on the committees of graduate students in the study of religion, anthropology, and history, and am affiliated with several initiatives and collaborative programs, including Book History and Print Culture.

My most recent book is called The Story of Radio Mind: A Missionary’s Journey on Indigenous Land (University of Chicago Press, 2018), and focuses on the travels of Frederick Du Vernet, an Anglican missionary, on Ojibwe, Ts’msyen, and Nisga’a territory. Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State, co-written with Paul Christopher Johnson and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, is also published by University of Chicago Press, 2018. My third book, Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity, published by the University of California Press, won an Award of Excellence from the American AcadeEkklesia covermy of Religion in 2012. I am also the author of Blessed Events: Religion and Home Birth in America a 2001 ethnography of religious diversity within the alternative childbirth movement. My first book, Going by the Moon and the Stars: Stories of Two Russian Mennonite Women, recounts and analyses the life histories of two women who were displaced people in World War II, and found their way to Canada after the war. Together with Courtney Bender, I co-edited After Pluralism: Reimagining Religious Engagement. For links to my articles and book chapters, please see my research page.

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 everyone. 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.

With students (some now graduates) in Tübingen: Dr. Matthew King, Dr. Amy Fisher, and Ms. Maria Dasios.

Thinking and writing aboutRPM_Logo 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.

Selected Keynote/Invited Lectures:

  • February 2018: “Telepathy, Empire, and Public Memory” Max-Planck-Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany.
  • January 2018: “Spiritual Jurisdictions: Thinking about Treaty People, Ceremony, and the Crown” University of Winnipeg.
  • October 2017: “Protest on the Page: Print as an Affordance for Revolutionary Spirits,” Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
  • March 2016: The Margin is the Medium: Reading Religion on the Edge of Empire” Keynote Lecture, Syracuse University Religion Graduate Student Conference.
  • February 2016: “The Secular Sublime” Secular Bodies, Affects, and Emotions Conference U. of Tübingen.
  • September 2015: “Recognizing Religion: Public Memory and Modes of Apprehension”  Anneliese Maier-Forschungspreis Preisverleihung und Fachkolloquium, Humboldt Foundation, Leipzig, Germany.
  • November 2014: “Supernatural Resources: Religion, Capitalism, and the Value of Land in Colonial British Columbia” Resource Cultures: Sociocultural Dynamics and the Use of Resources, SFB 1070, University of Tübingen.
  • May 2014: “Why the Study of Religion, Health, and the Body is not a Case of Mind over Matter” The Armstrong Lecture, Kalamazoo College, in conjunction with the “Religion, Health, and the Body in North America” Conference held at Western Michigan University.
  • January 2012: “Testimonies of the Spirit: Christianity, Media, and the Politics of Confession.” John Albert Hall Lectures at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society within the University of Victoria.