Anthropology and Sociology of Religions

The ASR area examines religious phenomena as social facts and cultural processes, using a combination of tools including fieldwork, archival research and textual interpretation.  

Faculty: Alireza DoostdarAngie Heo, Elham Mireshghi

Associated Faculty: Hussein Ali Agrama, Julie Chu, William T.S. Mazzarella, Omar M. McRoberts, Stephan Palmié, Jenny Trinitapoli

Anthropology and sociology have long served as core disciplines of the social sciences, and social scientific work on religion has been foundational for our current theorizations of culture, society, personhood, language, knowledge and economy.   Promoting critical inquiry of what is regarded as 'religion', anthropologists and sociologists are attendant to the categories and politics of analysis, beginning from the everyday contexts of discourse and practice that make collective institutions and competing horizons of authority possible.

Our ASR program is committed to qualitative ethnographic fieldwork, serious linguistic training, and historically sensitive research.  Our Ph.D. students have worked on a range of topics from transnational movements in India, South Korea and the U.S. to spiritual tourism/ pilgrimage in Peru, Brazil and Iran.  Our core faculty are experts in contemporary Islam and Christianity, with geographic specialties in the Middle East and East Asia.  We maintain a particular focus on the following topics in the comparative study of religion worldwide:

  • epistemology and philosophy of knowledge
  • media and materiality
  • political economy, authority, governance
  • colonialism, nationalism, globalization

ASR students at the Divinity School gain unique training, combining a rigorous theoretical approach with fieldwork tools as well as engaging complementary methods in the historical, philosophical, and literary study of religion.  Our students are encouraged to take courses in other areas of study within the Divinity School such as History of Religions, History of Christianity, Islamic Studies and Religions in America, as well as in other university departments outside the Divinity School such as the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology.   ASR is also active in fostering collaborative work with students in other areas and disciplines through our student-run Religion and Human Sciences Workshop (see below). 

Sample Courses

  • Problems in the Anthropology of Religion I
  • Problems in the Anthropology of Religion II
  • Religion and Economy
  • Classical Theories of Religion
  • Secularism
  • Islam and Biomedicine
  • Transnational Religious Movements
  • Is Modernity Disenchanted?
  • Magic, Science and Religion
  • Anthropology of Christianity
  • Feminism and Islamic Studies
  • Islamic Jurisprudence, Reason, and the State
  • Ethnographic Methods
  • Spirits of Capitalism
  • Religion and the Cold War


For PhD Students

The following documents provide guidelines for current and prospective PhD students in ASR.  Please consult these texts before contacting the faculty with questions.