Across the range of my books, my approach to the study of religion has drawn upon anthropology, history, and theories of modernity to ask how people and communities become “religious” subjects in purportedly secular times and places.
I’m in the final stages of a project entitled “The Story of Radio Mind: A Missionary’s Journey on Indian Land” which features the man in the picture to the right, and in the banner, Frederick H. Du Vernet, Bishop of Caledonia, an Anglican diocese in British Columbia. I worked on the project in 2010-11 as a Humboldt Foundation Alumni Fellow at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tuebingen, and during 2008-9, I began the project as a Jackman Humanities Institute Faculty Fellow, at the University of Toronto.
Photo courtesy of Prince Rupert Archives
My latest book, Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing and Liberal Christianity, is published by University of California Press, and won the 2012 American Academy of Religion Award of Excellence for Analytical-Descriptive Studies. The book focuses on how, via tropes and practices of healing, liberal Protestants in Canada went from thinking of themselves as the “healers of the nations” to apologizing for their participation in colonialism, while also taking on such therapeutic practices as yoga and Reiki. Contrary to common depictions of liberal Protestants as pewbound and disenchanted devotees of modernism (or what their Pentecostal detractors called “sad Christians”), liberal Protestants held strong commitments to effective forces beyond the material or the “scientific”. They aligned this supernaturalism with their politics in a mix that I call “supernatural liberalism.”
Another recent project, After Pluralism: Reimagining Religious Engagement, is co-edited with Courtney Bender, and brings together a range of scholars concerned with the question of how the ideal of “religious pluralism” has shaped the recognition of what counts as religious in scholarly, state, and popular contexts.
My 2001 book Blessed Events: Religion and Home Birth in America considered the ways that women from a diversity of religious affiliations–including conservative evangelicals and Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Old Order Amish, Christian Scientists, mainstream Protestants, and goddess feminists–were united in their conviction that childbirth was not a biomedical, but a “spiritual” event.
Going by the Moon and the Stars: Stories of Two Russian Mennonite Women, my first book (1994), is a comparative life history of two women from Mennonite settlements in South Russia who lived under German occupation during World War II. The women fled with the soldiers back to Germany at the end of the war, to live as displaced people, eventually settling in Canada. Employing feminist theories of autobiography and life writing together with methods of feminist ethnography, I argued that the stories these women told me revealed how “religious identity” was formed at the complicated nexus of gendered norms, embodied rituals, collective myths, and personal memory.
Women and Religion: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies is a four-volume collection I edited with the assistance of Shari Golberg and Danielle Lefebvre. I wrote the orienting introductions for the first two volumes, “Women and Religion: Critical Foundations” and “The Politics of Public and Private Religion.” Shari Golberg wrote the introduction for Volume 3, “Texts, Rituals, and Authoritative Knowledges”, and Danielle Lefebvre wrote the introduction for Volume 4, “Women and Religion: Feminist Effects”. The four volumes gather some of the best critical research on women and religion from diversity of disciplines, and include both “classic” and new articles.
I’ve also written several blogs for The Immanent Frame, with titles including Fantasies of Sovereignty, Blinded by the Light, or why can’t liberals see?, and The Spiritual Politics of Healing. I contributed “Max Weber’s Grave” to Frequencies: A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality.
- Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
- After Pluralism: Reimagining Religious Engagement. Co-edited with Courtney Bender. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.
- Women and Religion: Critical Concepts. 4 volume edited collection. With Shari Golberg and Danielle Lefebvre. Routledge, 2009.
- Blessed Events: Religion and Home Birth in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.
- Going by the Moon and the Stars: Stories of Two Russian Mennonite Women. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994.