about

I am an ethnographer of religion in South Asia, with a focus on the intersection of Hinduism, health, media, and the environment.

My research explores how large-scale religious institutions intervene in consumer culture in order to provide solutions to modern societal problems.

research

news

Presented “‘Mathura is next’: Nationalist Projections in Local Perspective” at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting on November 9, 2022.

Published “‘Sankalp se Siddhi’: The Brahma Kumaris and Pandemic Positivity.” CoronAsur: Religion & COVID-19 (blog). April 5, 2022.

projects

teaching

I teach in the Department of Asian Studies at Hamilton College.

Current Courses:

Gurus, Godmen, Godwomen

What leads people to place unwavering faith in others? What are the ramifications of relationships between everyday people and those they revere as semi-divine? This course explores issues of faith and charisma within weekly case studies of Indian gurus, popularly referred to as “godmen” or “godwomen.” We will investigate how such figures gain, use, and sometimes lose popularity and power. The primary context of this course is Hindu India, but we will also consider notable examples of gurus who have gained appeal in the US. The final six weeks of the course will involve an intensive collaborative archival project in conjunction with Hamilton College’s Special Collections and LITS.

Hinduism and Healing

How do Hindus understand and pursue health? To what extent do historical, regional, class-based, gender-based, age-based, and other differences impact the stakes, objects, and methods of healing? How can healing help us understand what it means to be or become Hindu? We will investigate these idiosyncrasies and overlaps by considering various instruments of healing. We will examine five such instruments in this course, without any presumption that these are the only five: healing with medicine, with persona, with place, with bodies, and with posture. Due to the timeliness of the topic, the sixth unit departs from the “instrument” model and instead considers Hindu responses to COVID-19.

Mother Nature--Climate Crisis--Hinduism

Is religion good or bad for the natural world? How do we conceptualize ecosystems, environments, and the relationship of humans to other forms of life? How do the attitudes and practices that emerge from such ideas protect or imperil the physical environments in which we live? Using Hindu contexts as case studies, we will consider the relationship between religion and the environment. No prior coursework on Hinduism is required. The course generally progresses in two-week pairs. During the first week of each pair, we will consider how Hindus ascribe divinity to various facets of the natural world. During the second week of each pair, we will evaluate religious responses to ecological disasters that threaten the inviolability of the environment as sacred space.

Past Courses / Courses Taught Elsewhere:

Religions of India

Religions of India (NYU)

This course is an investigation of religious developments in India within a historical context. Students will familiarize themselves with the religions of the subcontinent—including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, and Judaism—through secondary source readings and English translations of primary source materials. Rather than survey religious traditions as closed systems divorced from time or place, students will grapple with the central theories and historiographical challenges pertaining to religion in India, especially those that impact our ability to understand everyday religious experience, past and present.

Indian Buddhism

Indian Buddhism (Hamilton College)

This course is an introduction to the origins, essential beliefs, popular practices, and institutions of Buddhism. Students examine the life of Buddha, his teachings (Dharma) and Buddhist communities through a range of Buddhist texts, art, and archaeological sources.

Sacred Space in South Asia

Sacred Space in South Asia (Hamilton College)

Students in this course examine the complex relationship between space, society, and religious identity in South Asia, past and present. The course will draw upon Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic materials to analyze the ways in which the idea of ‘sacred space’ has been used in political, social, and legal contexts for decidedly secular objectives.

c.v.

Asian Studies Department Hamilton College 198 College Hill Road Clinton, NY 13323
7077 College Hill Road Clinton, NY 13323 +1 (815) 298 4294 jtackes@hamilton.edu

Employment

2022—
Visiting Assistant Professor
Asian Studies
Hamilton College
2022
Adjunct Professor
Religious Studies
New York University

Education

2022
PhD
Religion
Columbia University
Dissertation:
“Everyday Eschatology: Centering and Healing in Two Hindu Sects”
2016
MA
Religion
Columbia University
2013
BA
Religion, Great Ideas
Carthage College

Certificates

2021
Center for Teaching and Learning
Foundational Track Completion
Columbia University
2020
South Asia Institute
Advanced Certificate
Columbia University

Languages

English (native)
Hindi (fluent)

Competitive Scholarships and Honors

2022
Hindu Temple of Antelope Valley Jagadish Fellowship
2021
Columbia University IRCPL Dissertation Fellowship
2018
AIIS Junior Research Fellowship (declined)
2018
Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award
2017
Summer FLAS Fellowship (Hindi)
2017
AIIS Language Fellowship (Hindi)
2016
Summer FLAS Fellowship (Hindi)
2015
Academic Year FLAS Fellowship (Hindi)
2014
Academic Year FLAS Fellowship (Hindi)
2013
Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship (Teaching)
2011
ASIANetwork Freeman Fellowship

Publications

  • “‘Mathura is next’: Nationalist Projections in Local Perspective,” in “Jurisprudence and Geography of Hindu Majoritarianism in the Post-2019 Ayodhya Verdict,” ed. Knut A. Jacobsen and Vera Lazzaretti, special issue, Contemporary South Asia (under review).
  • “‘Sankalp se Siddhi’: The Brahma Kumaris and Pandemic Positivity.” CoronAsur: Religion & COVID-19 (blog). April 5, 2022. https://ari.nus.edu.sg/20331-107/
  • “COVID-19 First Responders: The Gayatri Pariwar and the Immune Ritual Body.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 89, no.3 (Sept. 2021): 1006-1038. https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfab057
  • “Metabolic Living: Food, Fat, and the Absorption of Illness in India by Harris Solomon (Review).” Global Public Health 11, no.2 (2018): 318-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2018.1511742

Conferences and Invited Talks

  • “‘Mathura is next’: Nationalist Projections in Local Perspective,” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, November 9, 2022.
  • Panel Organizer, “Natives, Foreigners, and Imagined Others in South Asian Religious Homelands,” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, November 9, 2022.
  • “COVID-19 First Responders: The Gayatri Pariwar and the Immune Ritual Body,” Hinduism Unit and Religion in South Asia Unit, American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, November 20, 2021 (online).
  • “Om Shanti Emojis: Three Facets of Digital Hinduism,” Anthropology of Religion Unit and Religion, Media, and Culture Unit, American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, December 5, 2020 (online).
  • Invited Speaker, “Energy and Vibrations: The Logic of Transformation in the Gayatri Pariwar and the Brahma Kumaris,” Public Health Workshop, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, March 12, 2020.
  • “Marketing Religion: From Mathura to Madhuvan,” South and Central Asia Fulbright Conference, Kochi, India, February 24, 2020.
  • “Zooming in on Mozoomdar: A Microhistory of Brahmo Belief,” Religion in South Asia Section, American Academy of Religion, Denver, November 18, 2018.
  • Panel Discussant, “Yoga and Politics: South Asia and Beyond,” Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, October 12, 2018.
  • “The Creation of a Mahatma: Creative License in Ratnadeep Pictures’ Tulsidas (1954),” Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, October 23, 2015.

Professional Memberships

American Academy of Religion
American Anthropological Association
ASIANetwork
International Exchange Alumni

Teaching

At Hamilton College

Gurus, Godmen, Godwomen
Hinduism and Healing
Indian Buddhism
Mother Nature—Climate Crisis
Sacred Space in South Asia

At New York University

Religions of India

Academic Service

2022
External Reviewer
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
2022
Principal Investigator
Teacher-Scholar Enrichment Working Group (AHA! Group)
Hamilton College
2020
Lead Teaching Fellow
Center for Teaching and Learning
Columbia University
2018
Graduate Mentor
Laidlaw Scholarship Program
Columbia University