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John Freeman, Visiting Assistant Professor

John Freeman

My interdisciplinary training both as a field anthropologist and scholar of the vernacular and classical languages and literatures of India is reflected in my writings and research projects as a historical anthropologist of South Asian religions. In my principal ethnographic research, I have worked for many years on the lower-caste, spirit-possession cult of Teyyam in the state of Kerala. As a complement to this, and drawing more centrally on my textual training, I have developed a corresponding program of research into both the Brahmanical culture of Sanskrit learning and regimes of worship in the region’s high temple culture, and into the local, vernacular cultures of the martial and yeoman caste-strata. The goal has been to explore how these distinctive systems of knowledge and worship articulate in the wider region’s social and political history over long stretches of historical development. My broadest research agendum is thus to bring together the rich literary sources of South Asia with the perspectives and methods of social anthropology and history to develop an overview of south India’s religious culture that is ethnological in substance and historical in sweep.

Contact Info:
Office Location:  112 Carr Building, Box_ 90719, Durham, NC 27708
Email Address: send me a message

Teaching (Fall 2017):

  • RELIGION 213S.01, SHAMANISM & SPIRIT POSESSION Synopsis
    Allen 306, TuTh 03:05 PM-04:20 PM
    (also cross-listed as CULANTH 214S.01, HISTORY 215S.01, ICS 256S.01)
  • HISTORY 219S.01, INDIAN CIVILIZATION Synopsis
    West Duke 108A, WF 11:45 AM-01:00 PM
    (also cross-listed as AMES 257S.01, CULANTH 215S.01)
Office Hours:

Wednesdays and Fridays 12-1 and by appointment
Education:

Ph.D.University of Pennsylvania1991
M.A.University of Pennsylvania1984
B.A. (hons)University of Pennsylvania1979
Research Interests: cultural anthropology, ethnohistory, indology, religion

My interdisciplinary training both as a field anthropologist and scholar of the vernacular and classical languages and literatures of India is reflected in my writings and research projects as a historical anthropologist of South Asian religions. In my principal ethnographic research, I have worked for many years on the lower-caste, spirit-possession cult of Teyyam in the state of Kerala. As a complement to this, and drawing more centrally on my textual training, I have developed a corresponding program of research into both the Brahmanical culture of Sanskrit learning and regimes of worship in the region’s high temple culture, and into the local, vernacular cultures of the martial and yeoman caste-strata. The goal has been to explore how these distinctive systems of knowledge and worship articulate in the wider region’s social and political history over long stretches of historical development. My broadest research agendum is thus to bring together the rich literary sources of South Asia with the perspectives and methods of social anthropology and history to develop an overview of south India’s religious culture that is ethnological in substance and historical in sweep.

Keywords:

History • Nature

Recent Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Freeman, J, Arresting Possession: Spirit Mediums in the Media, in South Asian Festivals on the Move, edited by Husken, U; Michaels, A (2013), Wiesbaden
  2. Freeman, R, Caught in Translation: Ideologies of Literary Language in Kerala’s Maṇipravāḷam, in Bilingual Discourse and Cross-Cultural Fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in Medieval India, edited by Cox, W; Vergiani, V (2013), École Française d’Etrême Orient
  3. Freeman, R, Taste, Material Religion, vol. 7 no. 1 (March, 2011), Berg Publishers, Oxford (Special Issue: Key Terms in Material Religion.)
  4. Freeman, R, The Performative Context of Nala in Late Medieval Kerala, in Damayanti and Nala: The Many Lives of a Story., edited by Wadley, S (Fall, 2010), pp. 187-241, New Delhi: Chronicle Books
  5. Freeman, R, Untouchable Bodies of Knowledge in the Spirit Possession of Malabar, in Images of the Body in India., edited by Michaels, A; Wulf, C (Fall, 2010), pp. 125-155, New Delhi & London: Routledge


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