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 alongside interests in Russian literature and American history. 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 where I collaborated with colleagues in the Faculty of Divinity and the interdisciplinary Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). From 2002-2016, I worked for Professor Eileen Barker at Inform, a registered charity based at the LSE that researches and provides information on new and minority religions and spiritualities using social scientific methodology.
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 was a founding member of the Modern Yoga Research website and am book reviews editor for the journal Religions of South Asia.
I also have extensive experience in Sociology of Religion specializing in new and minority religious movements in contemporary Britain. 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 am on the module team for the development of A227: 'Exploring religion: Places, practices, texts and experiences' which will go live in the autumn of 2017 and am also working with the module team for A332: 'Why is Religion Controversial?' for which I also played a role in the development process.
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 resources about millenarian groups. I also serve on the educational advisory committee for CenSAMM.