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Faculty

Natalie Gummer*, Ph.D., is Professor in the Religious Studies Program at Beloit College. Professor Gummer, a literary and cultural historian of Buddhism with a doctorate from Harvard University (2000), studies the intersection of textual practices (especially ritual practices, oral performance, and translation) and ethics in premodern Mahāyāna Buddhist literary cultures. She teaches courses in comparative religion and Asian religions, with particular attention to religious ethics, processes of acculturation, and religious conceptions of language in both contemporary and premodern contexts. Professor Gummer contributes actively to Asian Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, and International Education on campus. She is co-editor of Defining Buddhism(s): A Reader, and the author of several articles on Buddhist literary culture and pedagogical approaches to the study of religion. She is currently working on a study of late Vedic cosmology in Mahāyāna sūtras, and a translation of the Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra (The Sūtra of Utmost Golden Radiance), a Mahāyāna Buddhist Sanskrit text that theorizes its own transformative power. 

Debra Majeed, Ph.D., is Professor in the Religious Studies Program at Beloit College. A religious historian, Professor Majeed has made the interconnection between religion, gender and culture central to her life’s work. She is the first African American female and first Muslim to be tenured in the 162-year history of Beloit College. Professor Majeed received her doctorate in Religious & Theological Studies from Northwestern University in 2001. Her research and writing reflect Majeed’s concern with issues of social, political, racial and religious injustice, particularly in regards to women. She has published in CrossCurrents, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Teaching Theology and Religion, the Encyclopedia of Religious Freedom, the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in America, the Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures, the Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies, and Delving Deeper Shades of Purple: Charting Twenty Years of Womanist Approaches in Religion and Society, among others. Her current project, “Encounters of Intimate Sisterhood? Polygyny in the World of African American Muslims,” is forthcoming from University Press of Florida. An international speaker, Professor Majeed is actively engaged in interfaith dialogue. She also has served as a resource for several media groups including the Washington Post, and has appeared on NPR’s “News & Notes.”

Sonya Maria Johnson, PhD., holds a Dual Major Ph.D. in Socio-Cultural Anthropology and African American & African Studies from Michigan State University. She serves as Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Beloit College for 2016-2017. Dr. Johnson’s current research and writing engages Cuban African descendants’ engagement of ancestral spirits from Cuba’s colonial past to maintain their “African” identity. She integrates the significance of contemporary ritual realities into theoretical discourses about the “Black Atlantic,” those diverse social spaces throughout the Caribbean and North, Central and South America wherein Africans and their descendants’ enduring presence has reconfigured the religious, social, economic, and political landscapes. Johnson has published on and presented portions of this work at the Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion, the American Anthropological Association, the Bi-Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), the Transatlantic Roundtable on Race and Religion, and the International Sociological Association’s Religious Roundtables.  She currently serves as an Executive Board member for ASWAD.

*Chair