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Skidmore College
Religious Studies Department

Eliza KentEliza Kent

Professor & Department Chair

Office:  Ladd 209
Phone:  (518) 580-5405


  • Ph.D. The University of Chicago, History of Religions.  1999, with distinction.
  • M.A. The University of Chicago, Religious Studies. 1992.
  • B.A. Williams College, Religion and Women’s Studies.  1989, magna cum laude.


  • South Asian Religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Christianity): religious pluralism in India and its side effects, such as conversion, syncretism, crypto-conversion, reform and revival.
  • Religion and Ecology/Environmentalism
  • Religion, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Method and Theory in the Study of Religion


  • Religion and Culture (RE103)
  • Methods and Theories in the Study of Religion (RE241)
  • Health and Healing in Asian Religions (RE218)
  • Hindu Mythology (RE217)
  • Religion and Society in Modern India (RE315)
  • Yoga: Theory, History and Practice (RE330)



Sacred Groves
Sacred Groves and Local Gods: Religion and Environmentalism in South India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).
Converting Women
Converting Women: Gender and Christianity in Colonial South India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).  Received a CHOICE Award for Outstanding Academic Title of 2004 from the American Library Association.   Received Award for Best Book in Hindu-Christian Studies for 2003-2005 from the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.
Lines in Water
Lines in Water: Religious Boundaries in South Asia, co-edited with Tazim Kassam (Syracuse University Press, 2013).


  • “Bus Stop Sami: Transient Temples in Urban South India,” South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (SAMAJ) 18 (2018)
  • Co-authored with Isabella Orlowska, “Accidental Environmentalists: The Religiosity of Church Forests in Highlands Ethiopia,” Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture And Ecology, 2018.

  • Co-Authored with Cardelús, Catherine L., Scull, Peter, Wassie, Alemaheyu Woods, Carrie L., Klepeis, Peter, Kent, Eliza F., & Orlowska, Isabella. “Shadow conservation and the persistence of sacred church forests in northern Ethiopia.” Biotropica, 2017, 1–8.
  • Co-Authored with Klepeis, Peter, Orlowska, Isabella,  Kent, Eliza F., Cardelús, Catherine L., Scull, Peter, Wassie, Alemaheyu, & Woods, Carrie, “Ethiopian Church Forests: A Hybrid Model of Protection,” Human Ecology, 44 (2016): 715–730.
  • “Convenience, Consumption and Creatureliness: Thoughts on Sacred Groves, Hindu and Christian,” Journal for Hindu-Christian Studies 27 (2014).
  • "What Are You Going to Do with a Degree in That? Arguing for the Humanities in an Era of Efficiency,” Arts & Humanities in Higher Education 11, 3 (July-August 2012): 273-284.

  • “Secret Christians of Sivakasi: Gender, Syncretism, and Crypto-Religion in Early Twentieth-Century South India,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79, 3 (September 2011): 676-705.

  • “Forests of Belonging: The Contested Meanings of Trees and Forests in Indian Hinduism” [editor’s introduction], Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 4, 2 (June 2010): 129-138.

  • “A Road Runs through It: Changing Meanings in a Sacred Grove in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu,” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 4, 2 (June 2010): 213-231.

  • “Sacred Groves and Local Gods: Religion and Environmentalism in South India,” Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology 13, 1 (April 2009): 1-39.  

  • “’What’s Written on the Forehead Will Never Fail’: Karma, Fate and Headwriting in Indian Folktales,” Asian Ethnology 68, 1 (2009): 1-26.

  • “Fierce Gods and Dense Forest: Sacred Groves in Coromandel,” with M.P. Ramanujam, Indian Folklife [Chennai, India] 26 (July 2007): 14-19.  

  • “Landscapes of Changes: Recent Ethnography on the Religious Meanings of Trees and Forests in India” [editor’s intro.], Indian Folklife [Chennai, India] 26 (July 2007): 3-4.  

  • "Representing Caste in the Classroom: Perils, Pitfalls and Potential Insight,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 17, 3 (2005): 231-241.

  • “Law of the Land: Indigenous Marriage Practices, Caste and Indian Christians in Nineteenth-Century India,” Vidyajyoti: Journal of Theological Reflection (Delhi) (June, 2005): 431-443.  

  • “Tamil Bible Women in the Zenana Missions of Colonial Tamil Nadu,” History of Religions 39, 2 (November, 1999): 117-149.


  • “Gender and the Creation and Destruction of Social Boundaries between ‘Hindus’ and ‘Christians,’” in Routledge Handbook of Hindu-Christian Relations, ed. by Chad Bauman and Michelle Voss Roberts (Routledge Press, 2021).
  • “Vernacular Christianities: Tamil Protestantism and Tamil Catholicism,” in Vernacular Catholicism, Vernacular Saints: Selva J. Raj on “Being Catholic the Tamil Way,” ed. by Reid Locklein (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2017)
  • "Hinduism and Environmentalism in Modern India,” in Hinduism in the Modern World, ed. by Brian A. Hatcher, 290-308 (New York: Taylor & Francis/Routledge, 2016)
  • “Civilization and Conjugality: Indian Christian Marriage in Law and Literature,” in Conjugality and Beyond: Sexual Economies, Citizenship and the Marital Form in India, ed. by Lucinda Ramberg and Srimati Basu (New Delhi: Women Unlimited Press/Kali for Women, 2015).

  • “Feminist Approaches to the Study of Conversion,” in the Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion, ed. by Lewis R. Rambo and Charles E. Farhadian (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

  • “Introduction: Drawing Lines in Water: The Construction of Religious Boundaries in South Asia,” [editor’s introduction], Lines in Water: Religious Boundaries in South Asia, 1-36 (Syracuse University Press, 2013).  

  • “Syncretism and Sin: An Independent Christian Church in Nineteenth-Century South India,” in Lines in Water: Religious Boundaries in South Asia, 101-124 (Syracuse University Press, 2013).

  • “Mass Movements in South India, 1877-1936,” in Converting Cultures: Religion, Ideology and Transformations of Modernity, ed. by Kevin Reinhart and Dennis Washburn, 367-394 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Press, 2007).

  • “Raja Clarinda – Widow, Concubine, Patroness: Women’s Leadership in the Indian Church,” in The Beginning of the Protestant Churches in India, The Danish-Halle Mission in South India (1706-1845), vol. 2, 659-683 (Halle, Germany: The Francke Foundation, 2006).  

  • “Books, Boots and Bodices: Material Culture and Protestant Missions in Colonial South India,” in Mixed Messages: Materiality, Textuality, Missions, ed. by Gareth Griffiths and Jamie S. Scott, 67-87 (New York: Palgrave-McMillan, 2005).

  • “Hinduism and Indian Ecstatic Religions,” in Shamanism: An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices and Culture, ed. by Mariko Walker and Eva Fridman, 750-755 (Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2004).

  • “Redemptive Hegemony and the Ritualization of Reading,” in Riting Between the Lines: Popular Christianity in India, ed. by Corinne Dempsey and Selva Raj, 191-209 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002).


  • New York Six Upstate Global Collective Working Group grant, sponsored by Mellon Foundation, for “Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Pluralist Societies,” with colleagues from Colgate, Skidmore, Union and Hobart William Smith Colleges.  June 2014 – August 2017.

  • Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute Faculty grant for “Does religious management mitigate the socio-ecological drivers of forest change in sacred groves of northern Ethiopia?” with Catherine Cardelús (Biology), Peter Klepeis and Peter Scull (Geography), along with Margaret Lowman (NC Museum of Natural Sciences & NC State University) and Alemayehu Wassie Eshete (Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia).   July 2013-June 2014.

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for “Sacred Groves and Local Gods: Religion and Environmentalism in South India,” June 2007-December 2007

  • American Institute for Indian Studies, Senior Short Term Research Grant for “Sacred Groves and Local Gods: Religion and Environmentalism in South India,” 2005-2006

  • Committee on South Asian Studies Dissertation Fellowship, University of Chicago, 1997-99

  • Center for Gender Studies Research Grant, University of Chicago, 1998

  • Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Grant in Women’s Studies, 1997-98

  • Fulbright IIE Dissertation Research Fellowship, 1996-97

  • American Institute for Indian Studies Junior Research Grant, 1996-97

  • Foreign Language Area Studies Academic Year Fellowships in Tamil, 1992-95

  • American Institute for Indian Studies Summer Fellowship, Madurai, India, 1993