Skip Navigation

Emory Forum for the Ethnographic Study of Religion

Convened by Professor Don Seeman

About Us Faculty Members Affiliated Programs
Upcoming Events Past Events Prospective Students

Ethnography is both a tool for research and a genre of scholarly literature. As method, it is grounded in participant observation and the insistence on contextual understanding of religious practices, beliefs and institutions. As a genre of scholarly writing, ethnography strives to be holistic, expansive and humanizing. It builds analytic understanding of religion through the prism of local social and moral worlds and through the relationships that ethnographers build with their informants over time.

Falasha EldersThere is no single approach to ethnographic research or writing, and individual scholars may bring diverse theoretical and methodological resources to bear. Anthropologists, academic scholars of religion and practical theologians have all made use of ethnographic methods in pursuit of different kinds of research questions and agendas. Indeed, we have created this forum as an opportunity for collegial sharing across departments and also because we realize that though Emory University possesses world-class resources in the ethnographic study of religion, their very presence across several departments and programs may render them less institutionally visible than they should be.

The Emory Forum for the Ethnographic Study of Religion is devoted to intellectual exchange and promotion of research among diverse scholars, to the mentoring of students and to the visibility of ethnography as a research method in the study of religion. To that end, we will sponsor lectures by members of the Emory community and outside scholars, support one another’s research, and contribute to the recruitment and training of students in each of our fields.

All members of our extended academic and intellectual community are invited to participate. Students and faculty members who wish to be added to an email list for invitation to Ethnographic Forum events should please send an email with details of their interests, contact information and affiliation to our student coordinator Suma Ikeuchi ( or Cory Driver (

Faculty Members

Faculty who participate in the Forum are drawn from across Emory’s academic community, especially the Graduate Division of Religion, the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Religion. Emory has particularly strong ethnographic resources in  West and South Asian Religions, Jewish Religious Cultures, Islamic Civilizations and American Religious Cultures.

Don Seeman
Don Seeman
Anthropology of experience and phenomenology of religion, modern Jewish thought and mysticism, medical anthropology, and the ethnography of contemporary Israel.

Joyce Flueckiger
Joyce Flueckiger - Performance studies and anthropology of religion, with a particular interest in gender.

Michael Peletz

Michael Peletz - Social and cultural theory, gender and sexual diversity, discipline and disorder, and the cultural politics of religion - especially Islam - and modernity, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Chikako Ozawa-de Silva

Chikako Ozawa-de Silva
- Cross-cultural understandings of health and illness, especially mental illness, medical anthropology and perspectives on the mind-body, religion, medicine, therapy, and health and illness.

Jim Hoesterey
Jim Hoesterey - Islamic self-help in contemporary Indonesia.

diakite photo

Dianne M. Stewart Diakité - African and African Atlantic/diaspora religious cultures.

Faculty with Strong Secondary Interests in Ethnographic Research

Gary Laderman
Gary Laderman
- The sacred in American life, death and funerals, and religious cultures of medicine.

vincent image

Vincent Cornell - Islamic thought from the doctrinal and social history of Sufism to theology and political philosophy.

Elizabeth Bounds

Elizabeth Bounds - Peace-building and conflict transformation, restorative justice and the prison system, democratic practices and civil society, feminist and liberation ethics, and transformative pedagogical practices.

patterson photo
Bobbi Patterson - Comparative contemplative practices and pedagogies often related to questions of place and thriving/sustainability.

Ted Smith

Ted Smith
- Intersections of practical and political theology, with special attention to the forms preaching and worship take in modern societies.


Frequently Taught Classes (coming soon)

Prospective Students

Emory University is a major research university with considerable resources in the ethnographic study of religion. Graduate study is extremely rewarding and also very demanding, so please take the time to make a careful decision.

JF_photoStudents interested in pursuing graduate research involving the ethnographic study of religion need to apply to one of Emory’s degree granting units, such as the Department of Anthropology or the Graduate Division of Religion. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with faculty you may want to work with and contact them directly before submitting materials. You will need to closely follow the application procedure of the individual department or unit to which you are applying.

Applicants to the Graduate Division of Religion will need to specify a course of study to which your application will be directed. There is no single course of study that focuses primarily on ethnographic approaches to the study of religion, but courses of study that have welcomed students conducting ethnographic research in the past include:

Prospective GDR students who are unsure where to direct their applications should speak with relevant faculty members in each course of study and are also welcome to contact Professor Don Seeman (

Affliated Programs

Graduate Division of Religion
Department of Anthropology
Department of Religion
Candler Divinity School
Rabbi Donald Tam Institute for Jewish Studies
Practical Matters Journal: Ethnography and Theology