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Deonnie Moodie

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Deonnie Moodie

Deonnie Moodie

Deonnie Moodie joined OU in the fall of 2014, after earning her Ph.D. in Religious Studies at Harvard University.  Prior to that, she earned an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School and a B.A. from Hope College, where she majored in International Studies.

Dr. Moodie specializes in South Asian religions, particularly Hinduism.  She has spent two years living and researching in the region of Bengal, in both the Indian state of West Bengal and the nation of Bangladesh.  She is especially interested in contemporary temple Hinduism in urban South Asia and the ways in which people of various class backgrounds negotiate these sites as spaces of devotion, memory, monumentality, labor, and leisure.

Prof. Moodie’s forthcoming book focuses on Kālīghāṭ Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Kālī in Kolkata, India.  From the colonial period to the present, among foreigners and locals, in the vernacular Bengali language and in English, this site has been envisioned as a site of great spiritual power, an ancient relic, a hotbed of priestly corruption, and a physically unclean space site in need of major cleansing and renovation.  Employing historical, legal, and ethnographic sources, Prof. Moodie analyzes the various ways in which individuals constitute their ideas of what the Hindu temple is, and ought to be.  She pays particular attention to transnational exchanges in these discursive constructions of the temple – including exchanges between colonialists and Hindus beginning in the eighteenth century (when “Kolkata” was “Calcutta”), and now, between various groups of Hindus living in India and abroad.  Through this work, Prof. Moodie hopes to contribute to scholarly understandings of what a religious site is, how and why it is differently conceptualized, and the mechanisms by which those conceptualizations are circulated.  In this same vein, Prof. Moodie has a forthcoming article with the International Journal of Hindu Studies, "Kālīghāṭ and the Fashioning of Middle Class Modernities." Her work was recently featured on Marginalia, an L. A. Review of Books podcast:  Directions In the Study of Religion:  Deonnie Moodie on Temples, Class, and Hindu Identity. 

At OU, Prof. Moodie teaches Introduction to Religious Studies, Introduction to Hinduism, Approaches to the Study of Religion, and Religion and Nationalism in India.


University of Oklahoma College of Arts & Sciences, Jr. Faculty Summer Fellowship


University of Oklahoma Office of the Vice President for Research, Jr. Faculty Fellowship

Fulbright-Nehru Student Researcher Grant, Kolkata, 2011-2012
Critical Languages Scholarship Alumni Grant (Bengali - Kolkata), 2012
Critical Languages Scholarship (Bengali - Kolkata), 2009
Critical Languages Scholarship (Bengali - Dhaka), 2008


Introduction to Religious Studies

RELS 1113

Our approach to the study of religion in this class is comparative, historical, and analytical.  In particular, we examine critical turning points within three of the world's major religions - Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam.  Students are introduced to foundational figures, events, and concepts within these religions, while also being exposed to the ways in which religions develop and change over time.  The primary goals of the course include: preparing students to be more informed citizens capable of engaging in a religiously diverse world; training students to be more nuanced thinkers by equipping them with tools to interrogate the various ways in which humans across the globe (including themselves) conceptualize religion; and further developing students' skills in close reading and careful writing.


Religions of India

RELS 2603

This course is an introduction to the religions of India.  We focus predominantly on the theologies and rituals of religions that were established in the region (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism), while also examining religions that have taken root there over time (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism).  Close attention is paid to the ways in which these religions intersect and overlap with one another.  We also seek to understand the circumstances under which religious boundaries between these traditions have been more firmly defined such that their adherents come into conflict with one another.  Finally, we examine the independence movements of the modern era and the implications of those firmly-drawn religious boundaries on the creation of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as separate nation-states.

The course is divided into three units that are divided thematically, but also follow a chronological trajectory: Asceticism and Devotion in Early Indian Religions; Monotheism Comes to India; and Religious Revival and Nationalism in Modern India. 

Introduction to Hinduism

RELS 2713

This course introduces students to some of the most influential texts, theologies, and rituals of Hinduism.  Topics are organized both chronologically and thematically to demonstrate the historical development of the myriad traditions that come under the umbrella of what we now call "Hinduism."  We will pay particular attention to the ways in which Hindu ways of being have been influenced by many factors in South Asian history, and have constantly been debated and in flux.

This course is divided into four units: Foundations, Encountering God/s in Stories, Encountering God/s on Earth, and Re-Presenting Hinduism.  


Approaches to the Study of Religion

RELS 3413

This student-led seminar is intended for upper-level students who are either Religious Studies majors or who have a deep interest in the academic study of religion.  Honing in on the questions OU Religious Studies minors and majors have been asking throughout each of their courses, this seminar addresses the questions:  What do scholars mean when we talk about religion?  How ought we go about studying it?  What do we gain from the practice of comparing religions, or thinking about religion as a universal category?

We begin by examining the ways in which early travelers and missionaries considered the religions of other peoples across the globe, paying close attention to the categories and approaches they employed.  We then look at some of the foundational figures in the field and how they have defined their object of study from sociological, psychological, phenomenological, and anthropological perspectives.  Finally, we turn to major critiques of the field that have been levied from both within and outside Religious Studies in the past forty years, and think about how those of us engaged in this field might respond to those critiques.  By taking this historical approach, students gain entry into the major promises and perils of the field, and are able to confidently stake their own claim in it.  

A Modern Temple for a Modern City: Reforming Kālīghāṭ and Kolkata [under contract with Oxford University Press]. 

Journal Articles:   
“Kālīghāṭ and the Fashioning of Middle Class Modernities,” International Journal of Hindu Studies [forthcoming]. 

Encyclopedia Entries: 
“Middle Class Hinduism” Encyclopedia of Indian Religions: Hinduism and Tribal Religions.  Ed: Arvind Sharma, Springer [forthcoming]. 
Book Reviews: 
“Review of Scott, Spiritual Despots: Modern Hinduism and the Genealogies of Self-rule,” Religion, April 13 2017,


Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Antonio, Texas
"Hindu Spirituality for the Moral and Mobile"
November 2016

The Rufus Monroe & Sofie Hoegaard Paine Lecture Series
"Modernizing a Hindu Temple: Kālīghāṭ in Colonial and Contemporary Calcutta"
October 2016


Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Atlanta, Georgia
 "Kolkata, City of Temples?"
 November 2015

Annual Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin
 "Managing God's Money:  Brahmins, Civil Society, and the 'Public' in Twentieth-Century Bengal"
 October 2015

Religion in South Asia Conference, Missouri State University, Springfield, MO
 Re-Presenting Hinduism in Urban India:  Cleaning Up Kālīghāṭ Temple
 March 2015

Animal Sacrifice on Trial:  Cases from South Asia"  Workshop at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris, France
 "Blood, Power, and Public Interest at a Hindu Temple in Kolkata"
 June 2015


American Academy of Religion in San Diego, California
 “Cleaning up Kālīghāṭ: Class Contestations of the Temple Space”
 November 2014

Annual Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin
 “Tracking Wealth and Patronage at Kālīghāṭ Temple”
 October 2014

 Educators for Teaching India Conference at Harvard University
 “Doting Wives and Ferocious Mothers: The Divine Feminine and Her Power in Hinduism”
 April 2014


Hindu Studies Colloquium, Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School
 “Kālīghāṭ Temple: Discursive Productions of an Ambivalent Antiquity”
 October 2013

 International Students' Conference, Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
 “A City Contested: British and Bengali Versions of Calcutta's History”
 April 2012

 Iconic Faculty Series at Globsyn Business School, Kolkata
 “Corporate Governance of a Religious Institution”
 March 2012

 Fulbright-Nehru Conference, Kochi
 “God's Representatives on Trial: The Case of Kālīghāṭ”
 March 2012

 Society for Preservation, Kolkata
 “A Temple and its City: Kālīghāṭ's Place in Conceptualizations of Calcutta”
 February 2012

Member of the OU Asian Studies Committee

Co-faculty advisor, RELS Student Journal

Member of the Asia Regional (Study Abroad) Committee, OU

Reviewer, Journal of South Asian Studies
 January 2015

Search Committee, New Testament/Early Christianity RELS faculty search
 Fall 2014/Spring 2015

Search Committee, Buddhist Studies RELS faculty search
 Fall 2015/Spring 2016