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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
December 3, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Faculty Research Areas


Faculty from both universities have excellent scholarly credentials that qualify them to serve as core or supporting faculty. All members of the core faculty have completed, or are completing, substantial research projects. Some have been awarded major grants from external funding organizations. Many have published books or monographs with distinguished presses, and all have published scholarly articles in refereed journals with national or international readerships. All are active members of national or international professional organizations, with many serving on the executive boards of those organizations. A number have served as principal organizers of national and international conferences.

Notes (in parentheses) immediately following the names below indicate a faculty member’s major field of expertise The notes under each name below indicate areas of competence that bear directly on the study of religious diversity in North America.

Core Faculty: Wilfrid Laurier University

Desjardins, Michel  (Early Christianity)
BA (Alberta), MA (British Columbia), PhD (Toronto)

> more information

  • The academic study of religion in North America
  • Religion and Food

Duncan, Carol B. (Sociology of Religion)
BA (Toronto), MA, PhD (York)

>more information

  • The African diaspora; Caribbean religion and culture
  • Cultural studies, popular culture in North America
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Women’s studies
  • Educational studies; critical pedagogy

Neelis, Jason (Hinduism)
BA (Brown University), MA (University of Texas at Austin), PhD
(University of Washington)
>more information

  • South Asian religions, history, literature, and languages

  • Buddhist transmission across Asia

  • Gandharan manuscripts, epigraphy, and archaeology

  • Inscriptions and petroglyphs in northern Pakistan

McLellan, Janet (Buddhism in North America)
BA, HBA, MA, PhD (York)

>more information

  • The relations between ethnic identity, religion, and multiculturalism
  • Anthropology of religion, ethnographic fieldwork
  • Buddhist immigrants and refugees in Canada
  • Re-creating and transforming Asian religious traditions in North America

Ross, Christopher (Psychology and Religion)
BA (Durham), Msc (Edinburgh), PhD (Calgary)

>more information

  • Religion and personality
  • Cultural psychology
  • Buddhism and psychotherapy

Sharify-Funk, Meena (Islam)
BA (Gustavus Adolphus College), MFA (University of Maryland), MA (American University), PhD (American University)
>more information

  • Contemporary Islamic Thought and Identity
  • Social and Intellectual History of Pre-Modern Islam
  • Sufism/Islamic Mysticism
  • Religions of the West, Religions and Cultures of the Middle East
  • Sacred Space/Place, Inter-Religious Dialogue, Peace Studies
  • Women in the Islamic World

Freston, Paul (CIGI Chair in Religion and Politics in Global Context) BA (University of Cambridge), MA (University of Cambridge and University of Liverpool), PhD (Universidade Estadual de Campinas)
>more information

  • Religion and politics
  • Religion and globalization
  • Religion and Diversity
Fox Tree, Erich

Core Faculty: University of Waterloo

Cowan, Doug (Sociology of Religion)
BA (Victoria), M Div (St. Andrew's), PhD (Calgary)

>more information

  • Religion and Film
  • Religion and the Internet
  • Religion and Material Culture
  • Modern Paganism
  • New Religious Movements
  • Method and Theory in the Study of Religion

Dawson, Lorne (Sociology of Religion)
BA (Queen’s), MA, PhD (McMaster)

>more information

  • Sociology of religion
  • New religious movements
  • Religion and computer-mediated communication
Diamond, James (Jewish Studies)
BA, MA, PhD (Toronto)

>more information
  • Medieval Jewish thought
  • Jewish mysticism
  • Jewish Philosophy
  • Rabbinics and Biblical Exegesis
Fenn, Mavis (Buddhism)
BA (Winnipeg), MA (Calgary), PhD (McMaster)

>more information
  • Buddhist studies
  • Buddhism in North America
  • Women and religion
Frick, Peter (Christian Theology)
BA (Waterloo), PhD (McMaster)

>more information
  • Modern Christian theology
  • Political and liberation theology
Gollnick, James (Psychology of Religion)
BA (Marquette), MA, PhD (Toronto)

>more information
  • Psychology of Religion
  • Religion and dreams
  • Spiritual development
Jakobsh, Doris (Gender and Sikhism)
BA (Waterloo), MA (Harvard), PhD (British Columbia)
>more information
  • Sikhism
  • Gender and Sikhism
  • Eastern Religions
  • Women and Religion
Klassen, Norman (English, St. Jerome's)
BTh (Canadian Bible College, BA (Waterloo), MA (Waterloo), DPhil (Oxford)
>more information
  • Christianity and English literature
  • Christianity and humanism
Kline, Scott (Ethics)
BA (Southeastern College), MA (Kansas), PhD (McGill)

>more information
  • Religious ethics and political affairs
  • Sexual ethics

Pankratz, Jim (History of Religion)
BA, MA, PhD (McMaster)
>more information

  • Religion in South Asia
  • Global Christianity
  • Interreligious dialogue

Reimer, James (Christian Theology)
BChEd (Canadian Mennonite Bible College), BA (Manitoba)
MA (Toronto), PhD (St. Michael’s)

>more information

  • Modern Christian theology
  • History of Protestantism
  • War and peace in Christian thought
  • The Mennonite tradition

Seljak, David (Sociology of Religion)
BA, MA (Toronto), PhD (McGill)

>more information

  • Religion and identity
  • Roman Catholicism in Canada
  • Religion in Quebec

Suderman, Derek (Old Testament)
BTh (Canadian Mennonite Bible College), BA (Waterloo), BEd (Brock), MTS (Conrad Grebel), PhD (St. Michael's)
>more information

  • Old Testament
  • Biblical methodologies
Tataryn, Myroslaw (Eastern Christianity)

BA (Toronto), MDiv, ThD (Toronto/USMC)
>more information

  • Religion and Culture
  • Eastern Christians in Canada
  • Eastern Christian theology

Vanin, Cristina (Theology, Ethics)
BA (Waterloo), MDiv (Toronto), PhD (Boston College/Andover Newton)

>more information

  • Religion and ecology
  • Religion and women
  • Roman Catholicism

Wilson, Jeff (History of Religion)
BA (Sarah Lawrence College), MA, PhD (North Carolina)
>more information

  • Buddhism
  • Japanese Religion
  • Religion in North America

Yoder Neufeld, Thomas (New Testament)
BA (Manitoba), MDiv, ThD (Harvard)

>more information

  • New Testament
  • War and peace in Christian thought
  • The Mennonite tradition

Faculty Clusters

These lists are informal and by no means prescriptive. They were created merely to help students (and faculty) recognize clusters of various sorts. Others may exist that we have not yet recognized. If you notice any, please point them out to the director.

Themes, Phenomena


religious histories of North America (including indigenous and new religions) Diamond, Duncan, Jakobsh, Shapiro, Seljak, Fenn, Walker, Wilson
the nature of contemporary North American society and its cultures (e.g., civil society, consumer cultures) Dawson, Desjardins, Cowan, Shapiro, Sharify-Funk, Seljak, Kline, Walker, Wilson, Freston
religious pluralism and syncretism Cowan, Dawson, Duncan, Ross, Jakobsh
interreligious dialogue; interreligious conflict and violence; relations between religious traditions Cowan, Diamond, Dawson, Desjardins, Sharify-Funk, Yoder-Neufeld, Jakobsh, Neelis
religion, media, communications, popular culture, the arts Dawson, Duncan, Jakobsh, Walker
religion, ethnicity, immigration, class, & gender Duncan, Fenn, McLellan, Seljak, Sharify-Funk, Shapiro, Jakobsh
contemporary ethical issues Frick, Ross, Seljak, Vanin, Kline
theory, method (including field research methods) Desjardins, Duncan, McLellan, Ross, Shapiro, Walker, Neelis

Methods, Theories


anthropology of / and religion McLellan
sociology of / and religion Cowan, Duncan, Dawson, Seljak, McLellan
philosophy of / and religion; theology Frick, Yoder-Neufeld
history of / and religion Diamond, Fenn, Desjardins, Jakobsh, Neelis, Freston
literary, textual, philological methods Desjardins, Erb, Diamond, Fenn, Neelis
psychology of / and religion Ross, Gollnick
arts & performance methods; media criticism Cowan, Dawson
ethics, politics Seljak, Vanin, Kline, Freston

Traditions, Groups


Buddhism Fenn, McLellan, Wilson, Neelis
Hinduism Neelis
Sikhism Jakobsh
Judaism Diamond, Shapiro
Christianity Bryant, Desjardins, Frick, Kline, Seljak, Vanin, Yoder-Neufeld
Islam Sharify-Funk
African Diaspora Duncan
New religious movements Cowan, Dawson

Adjunct Faculty: Wilfrid Laurier University

The following are adjunct faculty from outside the two religious studies departments. Generally, these faculty do not supervise dissertations, but they have one or more area of expertise contributing to the program. Thus, they may serve on dissertation committees when the topic is in the area of their expertise.

Campbell, Neil (Philosophy)
BA (Toronto), MA, PhD (McMaster)

• Philosophy of the mind

Dille, Sarah (Seminary)
BA (St. Olaf College), MDiv and MTh (Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary), PhD (Emory)

  • Old Testament Theology
  • Hebrew

Friesen, Leonard (History)
BA, (Waterloo), MA, PhD (Toronto)

• History of Russia

Guenther, Mathias (Anthropology)
BA, MA, PhD (Toronto)

• The religions of hunter-gatherers
• Shamanism and shamanic expressive culture
• Religious change (revitalization, nativism, syncretism)
• Missions

Hegedus, Timothy (Waterloo Lutheran Seminary)
BA (Victoria), MDiv (Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon)
MA (WLU), PhD (Toronto)

• Interfaith relations
• Jewish-Christian relations
• Christian attitudes to neo-paganism

Holmes-Rodman, Paula (Independent Scholar, Anthropology of Religion)
BA, MA (Calgary, PhD (McMaster)

• Indigenous religions in the Southwest United States
• Native Americans and Catholicism
• Interdisciplinary perspectives on religion and narrative
• Religion and inculturation
• Women and religion
• Saints

Kelly, Robert A. (Waterloo Lutheran Seminary)
BA (Pepperdine), MDiv (Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield)
PhD (Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena)

• Christian political and economic ethics
• Ecumenical dialogue
• Lutheran theology and ethics in North America
• 19th century self-help literature

Khan, Shahnaz (Women’s Studies/Global Studies)
BFA, MFA (Punjab University), MEd (Ottawa), PhD (Toronto)

• Muslim women in Pakistan and Canada
• Women imprisoned for Zina in Pakistan

Lyons, Andrew (Anthropology)
BA, MA, DPhil (Oxford)

• Mass media as a religious phenomenon
• The history of theories of religion

Neylan, Susan (History)
BA, MA (University of Toronto), PhD (University of British Columbia)

• Native-Missionary relations in Canada
• Aboriginal expressions of Christianity among Northwest Coast First Nations (especially the Tsimshian)

Pravaz, Natasha (Anthropology)
BA(Licenciada en Ciencias Anthropologicas), MA, PhD (York)

• Afro-Brazilian religions
• Anthropology of gender and the body
• Medical anthropology
• Ritual studies, spectacle and nationalism

Sawchuk, Dana (Sociology)
BA, MA (Winnipeg), PhD (Toronto)

• Sociology of religion
• Religion and politics in the Americas
• Catholic social teachings
• Women and religion

Walker, Stephanie (Independent Scholar, Religion and Canadian Culture)
BA (Toronto), BLS (Toronto), MA (Laurier), PhD (Toronto)

• Religion and the arts
• Religion and place
• Presentation of the self in biography and photography
• The Waterloo region: its landscape and heritage
Wong, James (Philosophy & Communication Studies)
BA (Toronto), MA (York), PhD (Toronto)

• Religion and communications
• Ethics and responsibility

Adjunct Faculty: University of Waterloo

Brown, Graham (Philosophy)
BSc (Toronto), MDiv (Yale), DPhil (Oxford)

• Philosophy and religion
• Religious ethics

Burris, Chris (Psychology)
BA (Grace College), MA (Ball State), PhD (Kansas)

• Psychology of religion
• Religious identity
• Theories of self

Lyons, Harriet (Anthropology)
BA (Barnard), MLitt, DPhil (Oxford)

• Religion and sexuality
• African-American folklore
• Judaism in comparative perspective
Park, Robert (Anthropology)
BA (Toronto), MA (McMaster), PhD (Alberta)

• Contemporary Innuit culture
• Shamanism
• Arctic archeology

Prus, Robert (Sociology)
BA (Manitoba), MA, PhD (Iowa), DLit (Brandon)

• Symbolic interaction and ethnographic research
• Religion as human lived experience and collective activity
• The pragmatist analysis of human knowing and acting in religious texts from the classical Greeks to the present