Religion, Cultures, and Society

About the Cluster

We include intellectual, cultural and social historians who share interests in religion as it intersects with cultural and social history and, in particular, as a force in historical processes of stability, change, conflict and exchange.  We are also engaged as public intellectuals with a variety of current debates concerning religion and society – from the place of religiosity in indigenous land claims and use to the dynamic relations between religion and scientific inquiry and practice.   With research and teaching interests that encompass a broad range of regions and historical periods, we aim to develop a conversation that will invite comparative insights and questions about religion as a category of historical inquiry, as a force in social and political life, and about religiosity/spirituality in the context of identity formation and expression.  Some of the cross-cutting issues that characterize members’ research are:

  • Religion and violence – how/why religion precipitates violence in specific historical contexts and the consequences of those processes
  • Contacts between different religiously identified communities, the ways that those differences are translated and/or transposed, and the historical effects of such interchanges
  • Religiosity and religious affiliation as dimensions of identity that intersect with other forms of identification (gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality among others); ritual practice and the making of subjectivity and community.
  • Liminal experiences and contexts – involving improvisation, mixing, reinvention – that religiosity and/or spirituality may engender at different historical moments
  • The epistemological and evidentiary challenges posed by efforts to study the lived experiences of religiosity/spirituality in different historical contexts; the related instability of “religion” as a category of historical inquiry.
  • The ruptures and continuities between ways of being/knowing associated with religion/spirituality and those associated with science.
  • Religiosity and ritual as factors in the production, valuation and transformation of space, urban and rural.

People in the Cluster


Departmental Affiliates: 

  • Janet Afary (Religious Studies & Feminist Studies)
  • Cathy Albanese (Professor Emerita, Religious Studies)
  • Joseph Blankholm (Religious Studies)
  • Rudy Busto (Religious Studies)
  • Stuart Smith (Anthropology)
  • Ann Taves (Religious Studies)
  • Christine Thomas (Religious Studies)
  • David Walker (Religious Studies)