Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia
Where do you currently work?
I am now an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where I am also an Associate Faculty member in the Folklore, Oral Tradition, and Culture Studies Program. I regularly work with Folklore graduate students and serve on Folklore MA and PhD committees.
Tell me a bit about your career?
My work in religious studies is heavily informed by folkloristics. As a scholar of American religious history and culture, I am especially interested in religion "as it is lived" in particular situated contexts -- especially as it is shaped by cultures of work. My first book, Work and Faith in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Fields: Subject to Dust (Indiana University Press, 2008), examines religious responses to the industrialization of eastern Kentucky. I am currently exploring the world of 19th century whaling out of New England, and the intercultural exchanges and comparative religion that emerged from this culture of work in its global and local contexts.
How has folklore prepared you for your career?
Folklore is the root of what is today called "cultural studies." It has been worrying about the relationship between the local and the national (or global) longer than many other fields. It takes seriously the interaction between tradition and innovation. For all of these reasons, Western's Folk Studies Program prepared me well for thinking about how culture works, which lies at the heart of my perspective on the study of religion.
I actually think about my time at Western a lot! The friends, the professors, the classes, the assignments, and the adventures remain touchstones of my formation.