A Fall Research Update: 3 New Journal Articles You Should Read

lizzie bennet diaries 3

I haven’t been writing on this blog much. I only have so many words in me and they have been going elsewhere. Where have those words gone, you ask? Well, glad you asked.

Most of them went to my book.

I am happy to report that I sent my final manuscript of Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu: American Representations of India 1721-1893 off to Oxford University Press at the end of July. So look for more updates as the book goes through the production process.

A lot of words went into some journal articles. Three of those were just published.

“Where Did this Box of Books Come From: In Search of an Explanation for the Norton Anthology of World Religions in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion


The publication of The Norton Anthology of World Religions and the subsequent massive free exam copy mailing campaign by W. W. Norton requires an explanation. Why does the field of religious studies need such an anthology? What has led us to the place where such an anthology even makes sense? This essay examines the explanations General Editor Jack Miles gives for why The Norton Anthology of World Religions arrived in faculty mailboxes all over the country in the spring of 2015.

This article is part of a roundtable on the Norton Anthology that also includes essays from my colleagues Merinda Simmons and Nathan Loewen. You should read their essays too. They are great!

“The Construction of Hinduism in America” in Religion Compass


There has never been a unified or singular Hinduism in America. Rather, the story of Hinduisms in America provides an important example for the ways a religious tradition is imagined in America. In the 18th and 19th century, Americans described religion in India as ‘heathenism’, ‘Hindoo religion’, ‘Hindu religion’, and ‘Brahmanism’. By the end of the 19th century, figures like Swami Vivekanada brought the idea of ‘Hinduism’, a world religion, to America. In the 20th century, Hindu immigrants from South Asia began to build temples and practice their own forms of Hinduism throughout the United States.

“Before Hinduism: Missionaries, Unitarians, and Hindoos in Nineteenth-Century America” in Religion & American Culture


American interest in and knowledge of religion in India began before Americans imagined Hinduism as a coherent world religion. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century,Americans used a variety of terms to describe, represent, and imagine the religious culture of India: Gentoos, Hindoos, religion of the Hindoos, Hindoo religion, Brahmanism, heathenism, and paganism. Each term meant different things to different writers at different times. But there was no Hinduism, a world religion originating in India and comparable to others, in America prior to the late nineteenth century. Americans read and wrote about “Hindoos” and “Hindoo religion,”something altogether different from Hindus and Hinduism. This article analyzes two examples of American representations of Hindoo religion before Hinduism. First, it examines American missionary reports about “Hindoo heathenism” written by American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions missionaries and published in American missionary journals in the early nineteenth century. Second, it examines the Unitarian interest in Rammohun Roy and his growing popularity in New England during the 1820s and 1830s. Unitarian interest in Roy and ABCFM missionary reports exemplify the ways Protestant questions and interests shaped the American understanding of religions and the eventual construction of “world religions” such as Hinduism to suit American Protestant concerns.

Now I’m thinking about new projects on Gandhi and “American religion.”

I have to big ideas that I’m thinking about moving forward. The first is a book project I’m tentatively calling America’s Gandhi. This is cultural history of Mohandas Gandhi in American culture. This is not a biography of who Gandhi was, but rather, it is a study of how he was and is represented in American culture beginning with his appearance in American new media in the late 1920s and all the way through to contemporary America. In a lot of ways this is a natural follow up to Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu as it continues my interest in representation and racial and religious difference.

The second project is still a bit more amorphous in my mind but broadly it is about genealogy and so-called “American religion.” There has been a lot of work deconstructing and historicizing the category “world religions.” I think it is time for a similar analysis of “American religion” or “American religions” or even “American religious history.” I’ve played around with these ideas in the past and now I want to spend some more time thinking about them. I have a feeling this will probably end up a journal article somewhere.




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