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, religious materiality, and the role of religion in colonial governance. Themes that arise in my work include religion and race, culture, science, politics, and popular culture.
I am currently at work on a book manuscript entitled The Materialization of Native American Religions: Cultural Science in an Era of Assimilation. Based on my 2015 dissertation, “The Scientific Study of Native American Religions, 1879-1903,” this book examines the legacy of government-funded research on Native American religions conducted by the Bureau of American Ethnology, a Smithsonian agency. I focus on the Bureau’s reports of Zuni landscape, Cherokee language, and Sioux ceremonial practices in order to better understand early American anthropological renderings of Native American materiality. The research on Native American religious 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.
essays + articles
“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
“Whiteness” (3000 words), 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)
- Adventures in Religious Materiality, May 17, 2016
- Haunted by the Archive, February 25, 2016
- Religion on Display: Exploring Museums in the Study of Religion, Race, and Ethnicity, November 17, 2015
- Zen and the Art of Cultural Commodification, May 17, 2015
- Future Saint: Junipero Serra, Violence, and the Legacy of Missions, January 17, 2015
- Online Resources for the Study of Native American Religions, November 27, 2014
Review of Joseph Calabrese, A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church, for Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 19.1 (2015), 114-16
Review of R. Andrew Chesnut, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, in Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 26.2 (2014), 261-2
Review of Meta G. Carstarphen and John P. Sanchez, eds., American Indians and the Mass Media, in Journal of Popular Culture 46.2 (2013), 453-5
Review of Kelly J. Baker, Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930, in Journal of American Culture 36.1 (2013), 58-9
collaborative projects, past & present