Brennan Keegan

Assistant Professor

Address: 4B Glebe Street, Room 201
Office Hours: W 2:00-4:00 pm or by appointment
Phone: 843.953.2741

Brennan grew up in the American West: Oregon, Washington, and Montana, and considers the West a core personality trait. She teaches courses in Native American religious traditions, religion and the environment, sacred space, and theory and method in the study of religion.

In her own words

Religion is messy. Contested. Hard to define. But that is also what makes it so interesting. Committed to decolonizing religious studies, my teaching foregrounds Indigenous voices and challenges students to think about the colonial history of the category of religion. Through the study of Native American traditions, students encounter the diversity of religious life in the United States and encounter new ways of approaching scholarship—through oral histories, storytelling, poetry, and landscape studies. As a teacher, my goal is to create an inclusive and supportive learning community where we work together through tough questions about the intersections of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and class. We will literally go beyond the classroom. Students will learn best practices for ethnographic inquiry and spend time visiting religious communities (in all the diversity that entails) within our own Holy City.

Using the tools of ethnography and archival analysis, my research investigates Native American religious traditions and religion and the environment. Native Americans have repeatedly asserted legal rights to religious freedom to protect their sacred landscapes, practices, and knowledge, but these claims are often unsuccessful because Native traditions don’t fit easily into modern Euro-American definitions of religion. Drawing on my work with an environmental non-profit, I explore how Native peoples creatively combine religious and environmental claims to protect sacred space, sovereignty rights, and ignite cultural revitalization. My dissertation After Eden: Religion and Labor in the American West, 1868-1914, highlights how diverse religiosities shaped, and were shaped by, the landscapes of the Rocky Mountain West. My project shifts the scholarly discourse from a top-down, empire-centered examination of the region to a study of multiple communities’ creative and material acts of resistance to sustain their lands and people. My current research builds on this project by examining the contemporary consequences of Federal Indian Law and settler colonialism, with a focus on Indigenous land claims, religion, and sovereignty rights.


PhD, American Religions, Duke University
MA, American Religions, Duke University
BA, Religion, Whitman College

Research Interests

  • Native American Religious Traditions
  • Religion and the Environment
  • Religion in the American West
  • Lived Religion
  • Theory in the Study of Religion
  • Ethnography

Courses Taught


  • "Contemporary Native American and Indigenous Religious: State of the Field," Religion Compass. Vol. 16, Issue 9. September 2022.
  • “Gospel of Gold: Unearthing Religious Spaces in the American West,” Religion & American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation. (January 2021)
  • “Our Lady of the Rockies: Catholicism and Environmental Reclamation,” US Catholic Historian, special issue “Experiences of the Sacred.” (Summer 2020)
  • “Digital Building Blocks for Original Research,” The Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy.
  • “Religion and the Formation of 18th and 19th Century American Society,” Religious Freedom Center Educational Resources, textbook chapter for high school students.
  • “Apostolic Faith Mission of Portland, Oregon,” “Armstrong, Richard,” “Paintings,” “Textile Arts.” In Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Co-authored with Lawrence R. Watson. “Unintended Consequences: How Sustainability Certification and Renewable Biomass Mandates Threaten Nonindustrial Private Forests.” Forest Landowner. Vol. 71, No. 2.
  • “The Grizzly Art of Justice.” Missoulian, (appeared in 20 additional western newspapers). October 12, 2011.