I currently serve as the Acting Director of the Jackman Humanities Institute, an interdisciplinary circle of fellows, working groups, and research initiatives at the University of Toronto. I also teach and research religions of North America at U of T, where I am in the Department for the Study of Religion, with a graduate appointment in Anthropology. As well, I direct an initiative at U of T called Religion in the Public Sphere and serve as a strand leader in the Religion and Diversity Project based at the University of Ottawa. I supervise and serve on the committees of 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.
My most recent 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 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 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 May 2014, I will deliver the Armstrong Lecture at Kalamazoo College, in conjunction with the “Religion, Health, and the Body in North America” Conference held at Western Michigan University. 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.”