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My research areas include Native American and Indigenous religions and American religious history. I am interested in discussions about method and theory in the study of religion, the role of religion in colonial governance, material religion, and religion in museums. Themes that arise in my work include religion and race, culture, science, politics, and popular culture.

bae book

I am currently at work on a book manuscript tentatively titled The Materialization of Native American Religions: The Smithsonian, Settler Colonialism, and the Study of Indigenous Lifeways. It will be published as part of the Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology Series from the University of Nebraska Press.

This project examines the legacy of government-funded research on Native American religions conducted by the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE), a Smithsonian agency. I focus on the Bureau’s origins, methods, and the theories about Indigenous religions they promoted, with case studies on Zuni landscapes, Cherokee language, and Lakota ceremonial practices. The Bureau’s research on Native American beliefs and practices was conducted during the “assimilation era” of U.S. Indian policy, a devastating period in which many Native traditions were targeted by the federal government. Bureau contributions increased knowledge of Native American traditions among policymakers, scholars, and the general public–but often at a great cost to the Indigenous communities they studied.

articles, chapters, & entries

“Native American Religions” | The Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion in America, ed. John Corrigan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) <pdf>

“An Equation of Language and Spirit: Comparative Philology and the Early Study of American Indian Religions” | Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 27.3 (2015): 195-219 <pdf>

“Whiteness” | Dictionary of American History, Supplement: America in the World, 1776 to the Present, ed. Edward Blum, Cara L. Burnidge, Emily Conroy-Krutz, and David Kinkela (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2016) <pdf>

“Navigating Conversational Turns: Grounding Difficult Discussions on Racism” (co-authored with Beth Godbee and Moira Ozias) | Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 5.1 (2007) <pdf>

essays

Memory | A Universe of Terms, The Immanent Frame, May 29, 2020

Including Religion in the Standing Rock Syllabus | The Revealer, February 9, 2017

Resisting the “Inevitable” Narrative: Standing Rock’s Anti-Colonial Eventualities | The Revealer, December 7, 2016

posts for religion in american history blog

collaborative projects, past & present

Dees_LanguageMap_Colorful
John Wesley Powell’s map of American Indian languages, 1890. Powell was the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology from 1879 until hist death in 1902.