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Pamela Klassen

Pamela Klassen (Photo: Johnny Guatto)

(Click to enlarge)

Department for the Study of Religion
170 St George Street
Toronto, ON M5R 2M8
e: p.klassen@utoronto.ca
w: projects.chass.utoronto.ca/pklassen
  • Anthropology of religion
  • Religion, healing, and medicine
  • Religious diversity in North America in historical and contemporary perspectives
  • Women, gender, and religion
  • Ritual and ritual theory
  • Narrative and life writing
  • Religion and the secular


I am Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and have been at U of T since 1997.  Overall, my research and teaching is in conversation with currents in religious studies, anthropology of religion, critical theories of secularism, postcolonial, feminist and gender theory, and North American religious history.

My most recent book, Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity, won the 2012 American Academy of Religion Award of Excellence for Analytical-Descriptive Studies. My current book project, “Spiritual Invention of a Nation: Mediums and Missionaries on Indian Land”, focuses on the intersection of Christianity, First Nations, colonialism, and the (social) sciences in the making of Canada. I consider the exchange between Protestant and Indigenous practices of storytelling and confession, paying particular attention to differences in mediation—photography, printing presses, maps, and radio.

Another ongoing area of my research involves issues of religion and public life.  My co-edited publication, After Pluralism: Reimagining Religious Engagement, brings together a range of scholars concerned with how the ideal of “religious pluralism” has shaped the recognition of what counts as religious in scholarly, state, and popular contexts.  I direct Religion in the Public Sphere, an interdisciplinary initiative at U of T, and am a strand leader in the Religion and Diversity Project based at the University of Ottawa.

In Fall 2014 I am teaching a new course called “Museums and Material Religion”, in conjunction with my colleague Ajay Rao in Historical Studies at UTM. Several of the class meetings will be held at the Royal Ontario Museum.  In the winter term, I am teaching a graduate course entitled “Genealogies of Christianity” which is open to advanced undergraduates with my permission. I will also be team- teaching a full-year interdisciplinary Big Ideas first-year course, “The Internet: Saving Civilization or Trashing the Planet.”

Primary Teaching

  • Method and theory in the study of religion
  • Religion, mediation, and narrative
  • Christianity, cultural change and conflict in 19th and 20th century
  • Anthropological and historical approaches to medicine, ritual, the body, and religion
  • Religion in North America

Selected Publications


2011  Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

2010  After Pluralism: Reimagining Religious Engagement, co-edited with Courtney Bender.  New York:Columbia University Press.

2009 Women and Religion: Critical Concepts, 4 vols. with Shari Golberg and Danielle Lefebvre.  London and New York: Routledge.

2001  Blessed Events: Religion and Home Birth in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 316 pp.

1994  Going by the Moon and the Stars: Stories of Two Russian Mennonite Women. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 151 pp.

Articles and Chapters:

Forthcoming  “Suppressing the Mad Elephant: Missionaries, Lamas, and the Mediation of Sacred Historiographies in the Tibetan Borderlands,” Co-authored with Matthew King, History and Anthropology.

2014  “The Politics of Protestant Healing: Theoretical Tools for the Study of Spiritual Bodies and the Body Politic” Spiritus 14(1, Spring): 67-75.

2013  “Christianity as a Polemical Concept” for The Companion to the Anthropology of Religion, eds. Michael Lambek and Janice Boddy, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 344-362.

Forthcoming  “Mentality, Fundamentality, and the Colonial Secular; or How Real is Real Estate?” Postsecular Publics, ed. RosiBraidotti, Palgrave MacMillan, 29 ms pp.

2013  “Material Witnesses: Women and the Mediation of Christianity” co-authored with Kathryn Lofton, in Mia Lövheim, ed., Media, Religion, and Gender.  New York: Routledge, 52-65.

2012    “Saint as Cipher: Paul and the Politics of Ritual Repudiation”, co-authored with John Marshall, in History of Religions, 51(4, May), 344-363.

2012. “Religion and Myths of Nationhood in Canada and Mexico in the Twenty-first Century.” Concluding Essay in The Cambridge History of Religions in America: Volume III: 1945 to the Present, ed. Stephen J. Stein, Cambridge University Press, pp.719-745.

2008  “Practice” in Keywords in the Study of Media and Religion, ed. David Morgan, New York: Routledge, pp. 136-147.

2008  “Ritual” The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion, Ed. John Corrigan, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 143-161.

Accomplishments & Awards

  • 2012  Winner of the American Academy of Religion Award of Excellence in Analytical-Descriptive Studies for Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).
  • 2012  John Albert Hall Lecturer, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria.  Four public lectures, January 19-25.
  • 2012 Religious Diversity Youth Leadership Project, funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (Federal Government), $500,000 over 3 years for academic and community workshops, service learning, and youth engagement. Joint application with Religion in the Public Sphere, The Multifaith Centre, and Centre for Community Partnerships, all at U of Toronto
  • 2011  DAAD/German Academic Exchange Program Study Tour Grant (I led a tour of four German research institutes for 11 U of T PhD students).
  • 2010-11  Humboldt Foundation Returning Research Fellow
  • 2010-11  Visiting Professor, Institut für Ethnologie, University of Tübingen
  • 2008-09  Jackman Humanities Institute Fellowship, University of Toronto