Chair of Religion
Director of Asian Studies
Asuka Sango (Wittenberg University, B.A.; University of Illinois, M.A.; Princeton University, Ph.D.), 2007-, teaches courses in the religions of East Asia. Her chief research field is Japanese Buddhism of the medieval period. She is the author of The Halo of Golden Light: Imperial Authority and Buddhist Ritual in Heian Japan (2015), which examines the competitive and yet complementary relationship between the state and the Buddhist community in ancient Japan. In her spare time, she pursues her passion for Argentine tango.
Sonja Anderson (UCLA, B.A.; University of Notre Dame, M.T.S.; Yale University, M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.) teaches courses in late ancient Christianity and Judaism, biblical studies, and gender and Catholicism. Her dissertation, “Idol Talk: The Discourse of False Worship in the Early Christian World,” explored how ancient Christians and Jews used idolatry polemic to claim a distinctive identity for themselves over against their “pagan” peers and how scholarly narratives have replicated this claim to uniqueness. At the moment, she is particularly intrigued by the nexus of sincerity, materiality, anxiety, and ritual action in early Christian conceptions of the eucharist and penitential discipline. Her favorite place to be is in conversation with students and colleagues about the weirdness of how we imagine ancient religion.
Kristin Bloomer (Wesleyan University, B.A; University of Montana, M.F.A; Cambridge University, B.A, M.A; University of Chicago, Ph.D.) teaches courses in Christianities and religions of South Asia, with specializations in spirit possession and women’s and gender studies. Her research pertains to Christianity, Hinduism, and spirit possession in postcolonial south India; her more general interests lie in exploring historically specific articulations of subjectivity, with particular attention to religiosity, gender, and embodiment. She is the author of Possessed by the Virgin: Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, and Marian Spirit Possession in South India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), a book about Marian spirit possession in Tamil Nadu, India’s most southeastern state. She is currently working on another research project about Hindu family deities and their attendant possession practices. Theoretically, her work addresses questions of religion and postcoloniality, ritual and performativity, feminist approaches to ethnography, and relationships between religion, gender, and the body. Her methods aim to explore and interrogate ideas of agency and of subjectivity that pertain not only to the postcolonial “Other,” but also to the anthropologist-scholar. At Carleton, she is affiliated with the Women and Gender Studies Program and is Coordinator of South Asian Studies.
Bloomer’s academic publications include: “Comparative Theology, Comparative Religion, and Hindu-Christian Studies: Ethnography as Method,” in The Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies: Ethnography as Method in The Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, 2008; “Notes From the Field: Retrieving the Dead,” The Martin Marty Center for Religion and Culture Web Forum, University of Chicago, February 2005; and other articles and book reviews.
Before entering academia, she worked for several years as a print journalist and earned an M.F.A. in non-fiction writing. From 2012-2013, she served at Harvard University’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and South Asian Religions and Research Associate with the Women’s Studies in Religion Program. She is a 2013 fellow with the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). Prior to Carleton, she served as Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where she learned to surf – a skill that has come in handy, even in Minnesota.
Elizabeth Dolfi (Vassar College B.A., Yale University M.A.R, Columbia University M.A., M.Phil, Certificate in Women Gender and Sexuality Studies, PhD) teaches courses in Christian Traditions, American religions, and feminist and queer studies of religion and the secular. Her research focuses on the history of American evangelicalism, with particular emphasis on the ways that race, gender, and sexuality are imagined in popular Christian media. Her current project, Restoring Broken Selves: Gender, Humanitarian Affects, and the Evangelical Anti-trafficking Movement is a historical and ethnographic study of the contemporary Christian movement to “end modern slavery.” In this project she analyzes how and why so many American Christians have come to feel a special calling to do humanitarian work in this field, and investigates the impact faith-based communities have had on our understanding of human trafficking as a lived reality and policy problem. She is looking forward to spending her first Minnesota winter talking with Carleton students about Christianity and capitalism, sexual revolutions, apocalypses, and queer religions.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion
Caleb Hendrickson (St. Olaf College, B.A.; Yale Divinity School, M.Div.; University of Virginia, Ph.D.) specializes in modern Christian and Jewish thought. His dissertation, “Paul Tillich and Franz Rosenzweig: Picturing Revelation,” compared two prominent figures in twentieth-century religious thought, one Protestant and one Jewish, treating their understandings of revealed religion in relation to developments in modern visual art and continental philosophy. He has worked collaboratively with artists and journalists to create multimedia works concerning religion, society, and visual representation. He enjoys thinking about all aspects of religion, preferably with the help of pictures and in conversation with students.
Michael D. McNally (Carleton, B.A.; Harvard Univ., M.Div., M.A., Ph.D.), 2001-, teaches courses in American religion and culture and Native American religious traditions. His special interests include the tradition and history of Minnesota’s Anishinaabe/Ojibwe community, Native American Christianity, and lived religion in America. He is author of Honoring Elders: Aging, Authority, and Ojibwe Religion (2009), Ojibwe Singers: Hymns, Grief, and a Native Culture in Motion (2000), editor of Art of Tradition: Sacred Story, Song, and Dance among Michigan’s Anishinaabe (2009), and a number of book chapters and journal articles. His current research project explores the intersection between Native American traditions, the category of “religion”, and various facets of the law.
Ahoo Najafian (B.A. University of Tehran; M.A. University of British Columbia; Ph.D. Stanford University) is interested in how cultures understand and reproduce themselves across time. Her research explores the relationship between the different notions of literature and religion with a focus on Persianate literature and Islamicate cultures. She is also interested in contemporary art of the Middle East and has worked with Iranian artists on collaborative projects. Her current project, Poetic Nation, explores the intersections of religion, poetry, and politics in twentieth-century Iran through the category of mysticism (ʿerfan) and follows a range of nation-building enterprises, from Islamism to Communism, materialized in the ways in which the fourteenth-century poet Hafez and his poetry are understood. She will be teaching courses on gender, literature, arts, and nation building in the Middle East.
Lori K. Pearson (St. Olaf College, B.A.; Harvard, M.T.S, Th.D.), 2003–, is a specialist in the history of Christian theology with particular interests in modern philosophy of religion, social theory, race, and gender. Her research has focused on theories of tradition, and on concepts of religion, modernity, and the secular in nineteenth-century Germany. She is author of Beyond Essence: Ernst Troeltsch as Historian and Theorist of Christianity (2008) and co-editor of The Future of the Study of Religion (2004). Her current book project uses the work of Marianne Weber (wife of Max Weber) to explore the ways in which cultural and political debates about women’s rights informed early 20th-century theories of religion, social order, and secularization in fin-de-siècle Germany.
From 2012-13, she was a Research Associate and Visiting Associate Professor in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard University. She currently has a 3-year Mellon New Directions Grant to help her link theology to the social sciences, especially around questions of law, social theory, and politics.
At Carleton, she has enjoyed her work as a mentor in the Posse Program and is interested in academic initiatives related to ethics, social philosophy, and the humanities.
Daniel Picus (Macalester College, B.A.; University of Oxford, M.St.; Brown University, Ph.D.) is a specialist in Jewish Studies, with particular interests in the rabbinic period. While at Brown, he completed a dissertation about rabbinic reading practices in late antiquity, with a particular focus on the different ways in which ancient rabbis broke the text of the Hebrew Bible into smaller pieces, and the practices that grew out of those divisions. He recently spent a semester as a fellow at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, thinking and writing about Judaism and materiality in antiquity. Though a Texan at heart, Daniel could not be more excited to return to Minnesota after eight years away.
Noah Salomon (B.A., Reed College; M.A., Ph.D. University of Chicago) teaches courses in Islamic Studies and the anthropology of religion. His first book, For Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan’s Islamic State, was published by Princeton University Press in 2016. Other recent research has focused on the establishment of state secularism in South Sudan as a mode of unraveling the Islamic State, and the concomitant construction of a Muslim minority as part of a nascent project of nation-building. Salomon was a member at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) in the School of Social Science for the 2013–14 academic year and has been part of recent collaborative grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (on Islamic epistemologies in Africa) and the Islam Research Programme, Netherlands (on religious minorities in the two Sudans following partition). Faculty Website
Bardwell Smith (Yale, B.A.; Yale Divinity School, B.D.; Yale University, M.A., Ph.D.). Taught at Carleton 1960-1995 in East and South Asian religions and philosophies. His special interests include religion and society in Sri Lanka and Buddhism in Japan. He is the author of Narratives of Sorrow and Dignity: Japanese Women, Pregnancy Loss, and Modern Rituals of Grieving. Some of his other publications have been the following: Unsui: A Diary of Zen Monastic Life; Religion and Legitimation of Power in Sri Lanka; Warlords, Artists and Commoners: Japan in the Sixteenth Century; Essays on Gupta Culture; and The City as a Sacred Center: Essays in Six Asian Contexts. He is a Past President of the American Society for the Study of Religion (ASSR, 1996-1999). Earlier he served as Dean of the College, 1967-72.
Richard E. Crouter, Emeritus (Occidental, B.A.; Union Theological Seminary, B.D., Th.D.), 1967- 2003 has a primary interest in the modern religious thought of Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, and Reinhold Niebuhr. He is the translator of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s 1799 On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers (1996), co-editor of the Journal for the History of Modern of Theology, (1993- ), and author of Friedrich Schleiermacher: Between Enlightenment and Romanticism (2005). His most recent book is Reinhold Niebuhr: On Politics, Religion, and Christian Faith (2010).
Roger R. Jackson (Wesleyan, B.A.; Wisconsin, M.A., Ph.D.), 1983-84, 1989-, teaches the religions of South Asia and Tibet. His special interests include Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, meditation, and ritual; Buddhist religious poetry; religion and society in Sri Lanka; the study of mysticism; and contemporary Buddhist thought. He is author of Is Enlightenment Possible? (1993) and Tantric Treasures (2004), co-author of The Wheel of Time: Kalachakra in Context (1985), editor of The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems (2009), co-editor of Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre (1996), Buddhist Theology (1999), and Mahamudra and the Bka’brgyud Tradition (2011), and has published many articles and reviews. He is a past editor of the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, and is currently co-editor of the Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies.
Shana Sippy (Barnard College, B.A.; Harvard University, M.T.S., Columbia University, M. Phil, Ph.D. 2018) is a visiting professor. She is a specialist in the religions of the South Asian diaspora. She is the author of numerous articles and presentations and coauthor of The College Woman’s Handbook (Educating Ourselves) (1995).