Neena Mahadev

Social Sciences (Anthropology)

Assistant Professor


View Curriculum Vitae

Assistant Professor Neena Mahadev received her PhD and MA in Anthropology from Johns Hopkins University (2013), an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, and a BA in Sociology/Anthropology from Carleton College. Her specialisations are in the anthropology of religion, pluralism, politics, ethno-religious nationalism, media and mediation, postcolonial theory, and South Asian Studies. Her research and graduate studies have been supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (2009-11), a National Science Foundation (U.S.) Graduate Research Fellowship (2004-2007), a Dean’s Teaching Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins University (2012), and a J. William Fulbright Fellowship (2000-01).

Before joining Yale-NUS, Asst Prof Mahadev was employed as a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (Germany), and within the ‘Politics of Secularism and the Emergence of New Religiosities’ initiative at the University of Göttingen. She carried out research in Singapore in 2016 funded by the Max Planck Institute. She is presently a Research Associate of the Asia Research Institute (ARI) at NUS.

Asst Prof Mahadev teaches modules on Religion and Media, Anthropology of Violence, Introduction to Anthropology, Christianities in Cross-Cultural Perspective, as well as Modern Social Thought (MST).

Asst Prof Mahadev is a cultural anthropologist with expertise in the anthropology of religion, and secondary focus on political anthropology and the anthropology of exchange, gift, and sacrifice. Her research centers on pressing debates over religion and the political economy, nationalism, religious freedom, proselytism, and differing perspectives over what constitutes fair forms of religious persuasion, with focus on contemporary South Asia.

Her ethnography documents the ritual and theological adaptations, continuities, and change that arise from inter-religious competition, and from the new configuration of politics in post-tsunami and post-war Sri Lanka. Moreover, Asst Prof Mahadev’s work attends to the innovations in religious thought and ritual that emerge from inter-religious competition. She is also involved in study of forms of religiosity that fall beyond the scope of what are ordinarily classified as ‘World Religions’. The working title of Asst Prof Mahadev’s book manuscript is Of Karma and Grace: Conversion, Conflict, and Belonging in Millennial Sri Lanka.

Keywords: pluralism, religiosity, ethnicity, conflict, violence, war and post-war, Buddhism, Christianity, inter-religion, religion and economy, reckoning and judgment, competitive theologising, innovation, politics, sovereignty, political theology, publicity, proselytism, media, mediation.

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

(2019) “Karma and Grace: Rivalrous Reckonings of Fortune and Misfortune.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. Volume 9(2) (November 2019): 421-438. (Open Access)

(2019) (co-authored with Jeremy F. Walton). “Introduction: Religious Plurality, Interreligious Pluralism, and Spatial Practices of Religious Difference.” Special section entitled “Siting Pluralism: Spatialities of Religious Difference,” with commentary by Winnifred F. Sullivan. Religion & Society: Advances in Research. Volume 10. 2019(b). In Press.

(2019) “Postwar Blood: Sacrifice, Anti-Sacrifice, and Inter-Religious Relations in Sri Lanka.” Religion & Society: Advances in Research. Volume 10. 2019(c). In Press.

(2018) “Economies of Conversion and Ontologies of Religious Difference: Buddhism, Christianity, and Adversarial Political Perception in Sri Lanka,” Current Anthropology, 59, no. 6 (December 2018): 665-690.

(2016) “The Maverick Dialogics of Religious Rivalry: Aspiration and Contestation in a New Messianic Buddhist Movement.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 22 (1), 127-147.

Book Chapters

(2019) “Secularism and Religious Modernity in Sri Lanka and Singapore: Trans-regional Revivalism Considered,” in The Secular in South, East, and Southeast Asia, Dean and van der Veer (eds). Palgrave McMillan. 287-311. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-89369-3

(2014) “Conversion and Anti-Conversion in Contemporary Sri Lanka: Pentecostal Christian Evangelism and Theravada Buddhist Views on the Ethics of Religious Attraction,” in Proselytizing and the Limits of Religious Pluralism in Contemporary Asia, Feener and Finucane (eds). Singapore: Springer. 211-235. doi: 10.1007/978-981-4451-18-5

Introduction to Anthropology
Religion and the Media Turn
Anthropology of Violence
Christianities in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Modern Social Thought (Common Curriculum)