Elijah Siegler


Address: 4B Glebe Street, Room 201
Office Hours: MW 12:00-1:30 or by appointment (in person or on Zoom)
Phone: 843.953.3910
E-mail: sieglere@cofc.edu

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.

After 12 years of work, it was a thrill to see the November 2017 publication of Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and Predicament of Modern Spirituality. It’s a co-authored book 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. As of 2018, I am diving back into a project about how Asheville, North Carolina, and surrounding areas became home to a diverse collection of alternative religions, including Asian, New Age, and earth-based traditions. How did a small city in politically and religiously conservative Western North Carolina become a "New Age Mecca", a "Santa Fe of the East," and an "Appalachian Shangri-La" (to quote from various mass media stories)? . I will be investigating the criss-crossing economic, geographic, and religious histories and ethnographies that made alternative Asheville possible.


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

Courses Taught



Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and Predicament of Modern Spirituality (co-written with David Palmer), (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017)

Coen: Framing Religion in Amoral Order (editor and author of three chapters), (Waco, Tex: Baylor University Press, 2016)

New Religious Movements (Prentice Hall, 2007).

Articles and Book Chapters:

David Cronenberg: The Secular Auteur as Critic of Religion” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 80.4 December 2012: 1098-1112 (to be reprinted in Film and Religion, S. Brent Plate, ed. (New York: Routledge, 2017)

"Adventure Time and Sacred History: Myth and Reality in Children’s Animated Cartoons" a chapter in Religion and Popular Culture in America, 3rd edition, Bruce Forbes and Jeffrey Mahan, eds. in press, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017)

“Television” in John C. Lyden and Eric Michael Mazur, eds. The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 2015), 41-64

“Working through the problems of Study Abroad Using the Methodologies of Religious Studies” Teaching Theology and Religion Vol. 18 (2015): 37-45

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

“What Is American Daoism?” Yang Sheng online journal, May 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.

Online Articles

Trump’s Magical Appeal: A Dated Anthropologist Offers Clues” Religion Dispatches, July 19, 2016"

Sacred Matters of Coen” Sacred Matters, March 2016"

Reality as Revelation: “Hail Caesar!” is the Coen Brothers’ Most Religious Movie Yet” Religion Dispatches, February 24, 2016"

Do the Oscars snub films without redemptive messages?” OUP Blog, February 25, 2013"

Automation” freq.uenci.es: a collaborative genealogy of spiritualities, Dec 22, 2011"