My teaching integrates my research into pedagogical areas within the fields of religious studies, Indian history and culture, social and cultural theory, modern Western philosophy of history, film studies, and media and cultural studies. My teaching, like my research, is inherently interdisciplinary, traversing the fields of religious studies, history, philosophy, international studies, area studies, anthropology, and media studies, and I bring these fields into dialogue in the classroom. My two fields of specialization are India (history, culture and religion) and modern theories of religion.
Within the Jackson School, which has a social science focus, I teach in the areas of South Asia Studies, Comparative Religion, and International Studies. I also teach for the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, which has a humanities focus, and for the Department of History. In general my broad disciplinary approach is best described as within the “humanistic social sciences.”
I approach all my teaching as inherently interactive and exploratory. I try to distinguish between “positive” information I can impart to students (historical data, ethnographic evidence, archival or media materials) and the critical conclusions they might draw from this material. In lectures, I make ample use of audio-visual material and group activities meant to generate curiosity and interaction. In seminars, I press students to think critically, paying as much attention to the content of scholarly work as to its rhetorical strategies. I emphasize oral and written communication skills, a symbiosis of creative and rational criticism, and writing in stages to lay open the skills of composing different kinds of writing. I try to make all of my classes relevant to some aspect of the world in which students live. If we are discussing ancient India, I explore the contemporary political uses of that history; if we are studying contemporary Indian film, I help students understand the way this medium is shaped by global forces. I always bring my teaching into the present and try to equip students with modular skills that they can use outside the classroom and into the future. For example, I taught a capstone seminar to international studies majors in the spring quarter about one of my key areas of research, the intersection of religion and history in the modern Western philosophy of history. We traced ideas from Hegel, Marx, Weber, de Certeau, Fukuyama, and Huntington, and along the way, I asked students to relate the readings to contemporary issues in politics and culture of their interest expressed through the news media and across international contexts.
Some Recent Syllabi
- Religion and Modernity (Undergraduate Lecture)
- Hinduism (Undergraduate Lecture)
- Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: World Cultures through the Asian Martial Arts (Undergraduate Seminar)
- History and Religion (Undergraduate Seminar)
- Theories of Religion (Graduate Seminar)
- The History and Practice of South Asia Studies (Graduate Seminar)