Assistant Professor Contact Areas of Interest
J. Barton Scott
Department for the Study of Religion
170 St. George St., Room 205
  • Modern South Asia
  • Modern Hinduism
  • Postcolonial theory and anticolonial thought
  • Secularism
  • Nineteenth-century studies
  • Religion and law
  • Media and print culture
  • Public sphere theory
  • Affect theory


J. Barton Scott is a theorist of religion who works on the global intellectual and cultural history of the long nineteenth-century, with a focus on South Asia and its connections to the British empire. He has been particularly interested in modern Hindu thought (mostly in English, Hindi, and Gujarati), religious polemics, and anticolonialism. He is the author of Spiritual Despots: Modern Hinduism and the Genealogies of Self-Rule (Chicago) and the co-editor of Imagining the Public in Modern South Asia (Routledge), and he teaches courses on social and cultural theory, religion in political thought, and media and material religion.

Scott’s current book project, Slandering the Sacred: Law and Religious Affect in Colonial India, is a study of the sections of the Indian Penal Code that criminalize wounding “religious feelings.” The book situates these so-called blasphemy laws within the history of religious polemics in nineteenth and early twentieth century India, particularly those of the Arya Samaj, as well as within the global history of liberal ideas about free speech, secular governance, and print publicity. As a whole, the book asks how affect or emotion became part of state efforts to define and govern religion, both within India and beyond.

Curriculum Vitae

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Primary Teaching

Recent Undergraduate Courses

    • Introduction to Religion, Media, and Popular Culture
    • Stranger Things: Religious Objects in Theory and Practice
    • Insulting Religion

Recent Graduate Courses

    • Religion, Secularism, and the Public Sphere
    • Religion, Media, and Culture



Spiritual Despots: Modern Hinduism and the Genealogies of Self-Rule (Chicago, 2016; Primus, 2018)
Imagining the Public in Modern South Asia, co-edited with Brannon Ingram and SherAli Tareen (Routledge, 2016)


“Only Connect: Three Reflections on the Sociality of Secularism.” Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry6 (1):48-69.
“Translated Liberties: Karsandas Mulji’s Travels in England and the Anthropology of the Victorian Self,” Modern Intellectual History (online, print forthcoming).
“How to Defame a God: Public Selfhood in the Maharaj Libel Case.”Imagining the Public in Modern India. Eds. Brannon Ingram, J. Barton Scott, and SherAli Tareen. Spec. issue of South Asia: The Journal of South Asian Studies. 38 (3): 387-402.
Co-authored with Brannon Ingram.“What is a Public? Some Notes from South Asia.”Imagining the Public in Modern India.Eds. Brannon Ingram, J. Barton Scott, and SherAli Tareen. Spec. Issue of South Asia: The Journal of South Asian Studies38 (3): 357-370.
“Aryas Unbound: Print Hinduism and the Cultural Regulation of Religious Offense.”Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East35 (2): 294-309.
“Luther in the Tropics: Karsandas Mulji and the Colonial ‘Reformation’ of Hinduism.”Journal of the American Academy of Religion83 (1): 181-209.
“Unsaintly Virtue: Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Modern Hindu Hagiography.”Journal of Hindu Studies7 (3): 371-391.
“Comic Book Karma: Visual Mythologies of the Hindu Modern.”Inscriptions.Eds. Jeremy Stolow and Lisa Gitelman. Spec. issue of Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds4 (2): 177-197.
“Miracle Publics: Theosophy, Christianity, and the Coulomb Affair.”History of Religions49 (2): 172- 196.

Book Chapters

“A Commonwealth of Affection: Modern Hinduism and the Cultural History of the Study of Religion.”in Constructing Nineteenth Century Religion,eds. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2019.
“The Supernatural and Colonialism.”in Super Religion,ed. Jeffrey Kripal. New York: Palgrave, 2016.


University of Toronto-Mississauga Annual Research Prize in the Humanities
Harry Levin Prize, Honorable Mention: Runner Up for the Best First Book Award from the American Comparative Literature Association
Connaught New Researcher Award