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Elijah Siegler

Department Chair

Address: 4B Glebe Street, Room 206
Office Hours: T 10:00 - 12:00 and 2:00 - 3:00 or by appointment
Phone: 843.953.3910

Elijah Siegler is originally from Toronto, Canada, and he has been teaching at the College of Charleston since 2004.

 In his own words:

 I am a historian of American religions, with expertise on new religious movements, religion and popular culture, and Asian religions in America. I teach in all of the above areas and also various introductory courses, and the religions of China and Japan. All my courses are structured around a series of problems or issues and  they use the latest scholarship, often books that are still in manuscript form.

 My research is an extension of my teaching as well as of my personal interests (traveling, watching TV and movies) and aims to be accessible and teachable. Whatever the subject, my research is theoretically informed by questions of the translation, transmission, and appropriation of religions.

 My overall research program continues to develop the seeds planted in graduate school more than 10 years ago— showing how television can be as much a religious art as film, fine art or music, and investigating the lost history, current manifestations and future trends of American Daoism—while also committing to new avenues of research in the fields of pedagogy and of religion and tourism. I am currently finishing up a co-written book, titled Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and Predicament of Modern Spirituality about the relationship between a Chinese Daoist monk and two Americans who travel frequently to China, a New Age teacher of commercialized inner alchemy and a scholar-practitioner of Daoism. I am also presently writing an article called “Working Through the Problems of Study Abroad Using the Methodologies of Religious Studies” based in part on my own experiences teaching College of Charleston students in India and China. It will hopefully be the lead article in a special issue of the Journal of Teaching Theology and Religion, on Teaching Religious Studies Abroad, for which I will be the guest editor.


2003 - Ph.D., Religious Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara
1992 - B.A., Comparative Study of Religion, Harvard University

Research Interests

  • New religious movements
  • Religion and popular culture
  • Asian religions in America
  • Religious Studies Pedagogy


Daoism remains the most misunderstood of the major religions but luckily there are two good websites that provide accurate, up-to-date information on Daoism. Both sites are very accessible to the novice, even those interested in Daoist practice. Also both sites are run by scholars whom I respect a great deal both academically and personally.

Courses Taught



New Religious Movements (Prentice Hall, 2007).

Articles and Book Chapters:

Daoism beyond modernity: The ‘Healing Tao’ as post-modern movement,” in David Palmer and Liu Xun, eds. Daoism in the 20th century: Between Eternity and Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press), 2011

Globalization and Chinese Religions” (co-written with Richard Madsen) in David Palmer, Glenn Shive and Philip Wickeri, eds. Chinese Religious Life: Culture, Society and Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2011

“’Back to the Pristine’: Identity Formation and Legitimation in Contemporary American Daoism” Nova Religio 14.1 October 2010: 45-66

Is God Still In the Box? Religion in Television Cop Shows Ten Years Later” in Eric Mazur and Kate McCarthey eds, God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture, 2nd edition (New York: Routledge Press, 2010).

A Television Auteur Confronts God: The Religious Imagination of Tom Fontana” in Diane Winston, ed. Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2009), 401-426.

Of Alchemy and Authenticity: Teaching About Daoism Today” (co-written with James Miller) Teaching Theology and Religion Vol. 10 (2007): 101-108.

“Marketing Lazaris: A Rational Choice Theory of Channeling,” in James R. Lewis, ed., The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of New Age Religions, (Buffalo: Prometheus Press, 2004), 174-191.

Selected Book Reviews

Review of An Introduction to Feng Shui by Ole Brun, Nova Religio 14.3, February 2011

Review of The Lure of Images by David Morgan, Nova Religio, 41.1, August 2010

Review of Engaged Spirituality by Gregory Stanczak, Nova Religio 13.3, February 2010: 114-116.

Review of Teaching And Performing by William Timpson, Teaching Theology and Religion Vol 10 (2007): 206-207.