I became fascinated by religion growing up in Kansas, my experience of the landscape strongly affected by the passion and religious beliefs of the people who live there. Religion became a formal focus of study while I was an undergraduate at Amherst College in Massachusetts, as an undergraduate I spent a year at SOAS in London where I was inspired by the varieties of religious life in the multicultural city. In order to explore living religion further, I enrolled in an MSc in Religion in Contemporary Society in the Sociology Department of the London School of Economics. I completed my PhD in the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge looking at the popularsiation of yoga and ayurvedic medicine in Britain.
I am very interested in the interfaces between religion, health and healing; I am currently working half-time on a project funded by the European Research Council (Horizon 2020) entitled ‘Medicine, Immortality and Moksha: Entangled Histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Alchemy in South Asia’ where I am focusing on overlaps between yoga, ayurveda and Indian alchemy in the modern period. At the moment, my research is focusing on ideas about immortality, rejuvenation practices and the medical interventions of sadhus.
I also have extensive experience in Sociology of Religion specializing in new and minority religious movements in contemporary Britain. From 2002-2016, I worked for Professor Eileen Barker at Inform, a registered charity based at the London School of Economics that researches and provides information on new and minority religions and spiritualities using social scientific methodology. I have a specialty in movements originating in, or inspired by South Asian religious beliefs and the overlaps between religious beliefs and health care practices. I also have a long-term interest in millenarianism and apocalyptic groups and conducted in-depth research at Inform concerning millennial expectations of 2012.
I currently chair A332: Why is Religion Controversial? and am also the Module Team Accessiblity Co-ordinator for A227: Exploring Religion: Places, Practices, Texts and Experiences for which I also co-convened Block 3. I produced the Open Learn course Religious Diversity based on material from A227. I am contributing material to A111: Discovering the Arts and Humanities, which will present for the first time in 2019.
I have a passionate interest in making complex and controversial subjects intelligible for the general public and have often given talks to A-level students and to the media. I am also currently working with Inform and the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) at the Panacea Charitable Trust to create accessible online Profiles of Millenarian Movements.
Since 2016, I have served on the educational advisory committee for the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM).
I am also treasurer for the International Society for the Study of New Religions (2017-present)