Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad

Luce Postdoctoral Fellowship in Religion, Politics, and Global Affairs

The Luce Postdoctoral Fellowship in Religion, Politics and Global Affairs is held by Sarah Dees. Dees received her PhD in Religious Studies in 2015 from Indiana University, Bloomington. In 2014-15, before coming to Northwestern, Dees was a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Sarah Dees is a scholar of American and indigenous religious history with a focus on the history of the intersection of American state governance and Native American religions and cultures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Her dissertation, “The Scientific Study of Native American Religions, 1879-1903,” is a study of the relationship between US governmental and scholarly production of knowledge about Native American religions and federal Indian policies governing those traditions. Combining historical and anthropological approaches, the dissertation surveys investigations into Native American religions and cultures conducted by the Smithsonian’s Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) from its inception in 1879 to the death of its first director, John Wesley Powell, in 1902.

Dees is the author of “An Equation of Language and Spirit: Comparative Philology and the Early Study of American Indian Religions,” which appeared in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion in 2015.

In addition to participating in the “At Home and Abroad” project activities, during the course of her two-year fellowship Dees is expanding and revising her dissertation into a book manuscript, preliminarily entitled The Materialization of Native American Religions: Cultural Science in an Era of Assimilation. She is also working on two additional chapters on the origin, organizational structure, and impact of the BAE, expanding her conclusion to offer more insight into the international significance of BAE research on Native American religions, and beginning work on several new articles.

Dees also will teach one undergraduate course per academic year in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively.