My teaching interests encompass: Religion and Medicine, Biomedical Ethics, Indigenous Religions and Healing Traditions, Religions in America, Early Modern Christian Thought, the History of Medicine, and of course, anything about Leprosy (Hansen’s disease).

I currently have a full-time postdoctoral appointment as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Chicago in the Divinity School, the College, and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. Within the Division of Social Sciences, I am teaching sections of “Global Society” and “Self, Culture, and Society” as part of the College’s Common Core curriculum. Between these Core classes, I have taught a diverse catalog of seminal texts in social theory and history/philosophy of science including: Thomas More’s Utopia, Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, Jonathan Metzl’s The Protest Psychosis, Bruno Latour’s The Pasteurization of France, Edward Said’s Orientalism, and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble.

The appointment also entails teaching courses of my own design in the University of Chicago’s Undergraduate Program in Religious Studies. This includes my course, RLST 26302 “Religion, Medicine, and the Experience of Illness,” (cross-listed as HIPS 26312, SOCI 20542, HLTH 26302, KNOW 26302, HIST 24923, CCTS 21012) which introduces students to a diverse array of literature and case studies while investigating how religious traditions furnish an explanatory reservoir for what I term the “three C’s” or questions of causation, coping, and curing vis-à-vis the experience of illness. A highlight of this course has been an organized viewing of the various medical artifacts in the collections of the University of Chicago’s Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures Museum.


The Panel: O’Loughlin, myself, and Schulman

In Fall 2022, I taught RLST 26301 “Religion and AIDS,” (cross-listed as CHST 27501, PBPL 25301, HLTH 26301, HIPS 26301, CCTS 21014, GNSE 23142, HIST 28007, SOCI 20563, HMRT 26301) which interrogates whether it’s possible to understand current debates over public health or the role of religion in the public sphere without first examining religious responses to the AIDS crisis. As part of the course, and with the generous assistance of the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion, I organized a public panel: “All That AIDS Erased: A Conversation with Sarah Schulman and Michael O’Loughlin.” It was such a privilege to bring together Sarah Schulman, an accomplished novelist, playwright, AIDS activist, and author of LET THE RECORD SHOW: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, along with Michael J. O’Loughlin, national correspondent for America and author of Hidden Mercy: Catholics, AIDS, and Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear. We had the additional opportunity to hear from the team at the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination (CCHE), an organization that delivers vital services to disenfranchised residents on Chicago’s South Side. Dr. Renslow Sherer, Director of the International AIDS Training Center at the University of Chicago and a key figure in the response to the AIDS epidemic at the former Cook County Hospital, likewise spoke to the class about his experiences and the arrival of AIDS in Chicago. Finally, through a guided tour of the Smart Museum of Art, we were able to view a series of artworks connected to AIDS, including Derek Jarman’s experimental film, Blue and “Untitled” (L.A.) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. This is unquestionably one of my favorite courses I’ve taught.


Page from De humani corporis fabrica

I taught RLST 26316 “Medical Innovation and Religious Reform in Early Modernity,” (cross-listed as CCTS 21013, HIST 24924, HLTH 26316, HIPS 26316) in Winter 2023. Through a survey of innovative medical authorities and religious reformers, students in the course investigated the co-constitution of these two bodies of knowledge at a historical moment when questions of authority and epistemology are in considerable flux. As part of the course, we met at the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago Regenstein Library. Students were able to work with several rare manuscripts, including a first edition (1628 CE) of William Harvey’s Exercitatio Anatomica De Motu Cordis Et Sanguinis in Animalibus, and first edition (1543 CE) of Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica.

Also in Winter 2023, I taught my new course, RLST 27501 “Indigenous Religions, Health, and Healing (cross-listed as HLTH 27501, HIPS 26316, CCTS 21016, CHST 27501, CRES 21501, KNOW 27501). This course introduced students to the dynamic, often-contested understandings of health, healing, and religion among the Indigenous peoples of the Americas with the ultimate goal that a more robust understanding of Indigenous healing traditions will augment our own approaches to global/public health and the study of religion. As part of the course, I coordinated a visit to the Newberry Library to work with their Edward E. Ayer Collection on American Indian and Indigenous Studies (one of the best in North America). Students had the chance to view a series of rare, indigenous manuscripts, including the famous (and only extant copy) Popol Vuh–the Mayan creation myth, a letter of Samson Occom, and several Native Hawaiian documents. In partnership with the Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity, I also organized a public lecture with Dr. Olivia Beckman, the Chief Medical Officer of the Bemidji Area of the Indian Health Service. And again, with the generous support of the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion, I organized a public lecture: “Urban Indigenous Healthcare: Community Solutions to Systemic Racism, a Conversation with Jocelyn Formsma.” Jocelyn Formsma is the Executive Director of the National Association of Friendship Centres, a network that supports Indigenous peoples in urban environments throughout Canada. This particular course owes a lot to a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Professional Development Grant which enabled me to further incorporate postcolonial studies and Indigenous sources into my teaching. I am also proud to have been a part of the first cohort of Divinity School Inclusive Pedagogy Fellows–a select group of Divinity School PhD students working together to learn best practices for teaching college students.

“Christ writing a prescription for Adam and Eve (for Original Sin)” Rouen ca. 1519-28

I was an Alma Wilson Teaching Fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year. The Alma Wilson Lectureship is an opportunity for one or two graduate students from the Divinity School to teach a course of his or her own design in the University of Chicago’s Undergraduate Program in Religious Studies. I used that lectureship to teach the first iteration of my “Religion, Medicine, and Illness” course. Throughout my graduate studies, I worked as a teaching assistant to several professors, including Professor Russell Johnson for the first iteration of his popular undergraduate course, “Star Wars and Religion.” The University of Chicago actually composed a profile on this innovative course (https://news.uchicago.edu/story/force-strong-one-course-uses-star-wars-examine-religion). During the course, I lectured on The Life of Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus, explaining the significance of hagiography and the cult of saints for medieval Christians and problematizing the traditional understanding of saints first outlined by Émile Durkheim. As an undergraduate at Truman State University I served as a co-instructor with Professor Dereck Daschke for the course, “Religion and Film.” The course was actually of my own design and is still being offered. But I created the initial syllabus, in addition to organizing a Religion and Film Festival, as a Student Initiated Learning Course.

Featured Image: Watercolor by Richard Tennant Cooper (1885-1957) (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)