About

UPDATED: 9 September 2014

I’m an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana).

My not-so-humble brag: I just received the “2013-2104 Outstanding Teaching Award,” the top teaching award at Ball State University, awarded annually to one faculty member.

I blog about three main themes:

  1. Comics and Religion
  2. Courses I teach
  3. Marathi translations

In 2012-2013, I helped lead an intensive series of pedagogy / professional development workshops offered by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. I also was runner-up for the “Outstanding Teacher Award” at Ball State University (2013).

I sort of fell into what is now my career. I started college as an art major—once I became realistic about my (lack of) artistic ability, I switched majors (more than once).

A friend’s father had recently resigned as minister of a church. He said he was following a guru. I wanted to learn more—I wasn’t so interested in following his path, but I really wanted to find out what may have been so appealing to him about teachings from the “East.”

The guru was a white male: an American who had studied under a famous Indian guru—now this American-born guru was teaching a mix of Hindu and Buddhist notions of “Self-Actualization” to a worldwide following.

I had a great deal of respect for that former minister—I still do.

I bought the guru’s first book. I didn’t “get it”—but I was young.

When I was at the University of California at Santa Barbara, a friend told me he was a Religious Studies major. I took a course: “Yoga Philosophies of India.” The professor was amazing—his passion for (and knowledge of) yoga, religion, and India blew my mind.

I switched majors, again.

Our Buddhism class had a private meeting with the Dalai Lama, long before he became a religious rock star!

I studied for a long time after UCSB, eventually earning a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. My first teaching gig was a three-year non-renewable contract at Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA). I wasn’t done with my dissertation when I took that job. Good times: three new courses per semester and trying to finish my own writing—a common story among academics.

People often falsely equate studying religion with being religious. I view religion as a powerful lens through which to study human beings. And, if human beings are the focus, then there are multiple approaches to the academic study of religion. My own approach is anthropological, broadly conceived: I study human beings; I also teach “Ethnography of Religion,” which gives students a little background in anthropology.

Many scholars of religion describe their expertise in terms of their focus on a particular religion, in a specific geographical location, and during particular historical moments. Some even learn numerous languages in order to study “sacred” texts and/or to engage in field-based research. These categories are intentionally general, and scholars traverse (or reject) many of them.

According to these categories, my expertise is contemporary temple Hinduism in Maharashtra (India).

One thought on “About

  1. Wonderful about page! I am curious to know more about “contemporary temple Hinduism” – I have a general interest in sacred architecture. Perhaps a conversation on Twitter will ensue, soon. 🙂 [we recently connected on Twitter; this is @atulsabnis]

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