Peter Gottschalk is Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University. He received his B.A. in History at the College of the Holy Cross, his M.A. in South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his Ph.D. in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago. Peter’s research and teaching concentrate on the dynamics of cultural interpretation and conflict in the context of Islam, Hindu traditions, and the West. He is interested particularly in understanding how assumptions of mutual antagonism form between groups despite evidence of religious confluence. Peter enjoys presenting on these topics and has discussed them in the U.S., India, Bangladesh, Britain, Turkey, and other parts of Europe at colleges and universities, professional conferences, public events, and religious communities. His books have been reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times, he has appeared on Voice of America, Air America, and National Public Radio, and his work has been mentioned in USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, and the OnFaith website formerly of The Washington Post.
Among his most recent works, Peter wrote Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hindus and Muslims in British India (Oxford University Press) on the history of British representations of Indians during the Raj. Using archival and other sources, he attempts to show how Christian ideals and the coalescing “Western” sciences of the last few centuries shaped a British urge to classify all things Indian – including people – in mutually exclusive categories. This predilection – resisted by some Indians and facilitated by others – combined with social and political changes on the subcontinent helped reinforce and deepen existing religious divides while often eclipsing social avenues of intereraction.
Also on India, Peter’s first book, Beyond Hindu and Muslim: Multiple Identity in Narratives from Village India (Oxford University Press), ethnographically explores the multiple identities evident in the social memories of residents in some north Indian villages. He demonstrates how Hindus and Muslims do not always understand themselves or each other as such but, through the narratives they tell of their past, often share identities as villagers, Biharis, Indians, and cricket teammates, among others. The book challenges the familiar bifurcation of India and its history into mutually exclusive Hindu and Muslim components.
As part of an effort to provide students with materials about rural India that teach about religion without reinforcing this binary view of Hindus and Muslims, Peter collaborated with Mathew N. Schmalz (College of the Holy Cross) to create “A Virtual Village.” This free, interactive website allows students the opportunity to navigate the streets and alleys of the village central to Peter’s ethnographic work while having the opportunity to read and hear interviews with village members. Peter and Mathew have also collaborated in editing a volume of essays regarding Western engagements with religions on the subcontinent entitled Engaging South Asian Religions: Boundaries, Appropriations, and Resistance (SUNY Press).
Turning to the American context, Peter has most recently completed American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerance (Palgrave). This book explores various moments of antagonism against various religious groups in the United States and explores the dynamics of both intolerance and pluralism. Earlier, Peter collaborated with his former student Gabriel Greenberg in writing Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy (Rowman and Littlefield). This volume demonstrates how Americans have had endemic fears about Islam and Muslims since before the nation’s founding. Using political cartoons, Peter and Gabriel show that despite the different forms Islamophobia has taken in response to shifting social, political, and economic contexts, stereotyped Muslims have served as a foil used to prove American normality.
Peter has seldom encountered anything with wings that he hasn’t liked.
SELECTED ARTICLES, ESSAYS, AND ENTRIES IN BOOKS
“Common Heritage, Uncommon Fear: Islamophobia in the United States and British India, 1687–1947” co-authored with Gabriel Greenberg in Islamophobia in America: The Anatomy of Intolerance. Carl W. Ernst, ed. (Palgrave, 2013). 21-51.
“Mapping Boundaries: The Science of Knowing Communal Identity in British Cartography” in Lines in the Water: Religious Boundaries in South Asia. Tazim R. Kassam and Liza Kent, eds. (Syracuse University Press, 2013). 187-212.
“Religion Out of Place: Islam and Cults as Perceived Threats in the United States” in From Moral Panic To Permanent War: Lessons And Legacies Of The War On Terror. Gershon Shafir, Ev Meade, and William Aceves, eds. (Routledge, 2012). 108-127.
“Introduction” in Muslims and Others in Sacred Space. Margaret Jean Cormack, ed. (Oxford University Press–AAR Series, 2012). 3-14.
“Promoting Scientism: Institutions for Gathering and Disseminating Knowledge in British Bihar” in Knowledge Production and Pedagogy in Colonial India. Daud Ali and Indra Sengupta, eds. (Palgrave, 2011). 171-197.
“A Science of Defining Boundaries: Classification, Categorization, and the Census of India” in Engaging South Asian Religions: Boundaries, Appropriations, and Resistance, Mathew N. Schmalz and Peter Gottschalk, eds. (SUNY Press, 2011).
“From Muhammad to Obama: Caricatures, Cartoons, and Stereotypes of Muslims” for Islamophobia: A Challenge to Pluralism in the 21st Century, John Esposito, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2011).
“A Village as Hermeneutical Lens: Spaces of Rural Hindu-Muslim Interactions” submitted for Village Matters: Relocating Villages in the Contemporary Anthropology of India, Diane Mines and Nicolas Yazgi, eds. (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2010).
“A Categorical Difference: Communal Identity in British Epistemologies” for Religion, Violence and Globalization: The South Asian Experience, John Hinnells and Richard King, eds. (Routledge Curzon, 2006).
“Muslim Traditions” in Religions of South Asia, Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, eds. (Routledge, 2006).
“Visions of Incompatibility: Categorizing Islam and Hinduism in Scholarship” in Incompatible Visions: South Asian Religion in History and Culture, James Blumenthal, ed. (Center for South Asia, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006).
“A Mahatma for Mourners and Militants: The Social Memories of Mohandas Gandhi in Arampur, ” in “Mourning and Memory,” a special issue of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (Vol. 25, No. 1, 2005).
“Mapping Muslims: Categories of Evolutionary Difference and Interaction in South Asia” in Lived Islam: Liminality, Accommodation, and Adaptation, Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut Reifeld, eds. (Social Science Press, 2003).
“Dead Healers and Living Identities: Narratives of a Hindu Ghost and a Muslim Sufi in a Shared Village” in The Living and the Dead: The Social Dimensions of Death in South Asian Religions, Elizabeth Wilson, ed. (SUNY Press, 2003).
ELECTRONIC AND VISUAL PRODUCTIONS
“Hinduism and Islam” entry, Oxford Bibliographies Online (2012).
“History of Religion Timeline.” Encyclopedia Britannica CD-ROM (1998).
“Living Together and Apart: Hindus and Muslims in South Asia.” Script-writer, photographer, and narrator for still-image video produced by the University of Wisconsin-Madison South Asian Outreach Center (1993).
“Living with Geography: Everyday Life in Pakistan.” Script-writer, photographer, and narrator for still-image video produced by the University of Wisconsin-Madison South Asian Outreach Center (1992).
SELECT INVITED LECTURES
“The Brahm’s Revenge: Inequality and Justice in Memory and Practice.” Realizing Justice? Encountering Normative Justice and the Realities of (In)justice in South Asia conference, Erfurt, Germany (June 2014).
“Islamophobia: An Imperial Inheritance.” Beyond Islamophobia conference, School of Oriental and Asian Studies, University of London (June 2014).
“How a Ghost, a Goddess, and a Sultan Disciplined an Empire, Then a Nation (and Vice Versa),” Harvard University (February 2014).
“Islamophobia in Context.” Islamic Center of Northern California, Oakland (February 2014).
“Religious Plurality and the Sentiments of Prejudice.” Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University (November 2013).
“The Faces of Intolerance: Ethnicity, Race, and Religion.” Second International Workshop of Imagology at Necmettin Erbakan Cultural Center (January 2013).
“The Specter of Islam: The Perceived Threat of Mosques and Sharia in the U.S.” University of California, San Diego (May 2011).
“The Many Faces of Islam in South Asia.” State University of New York–Orange (May 2011).
“American Islamophobia: Roots, Nativism, and Political Advantage.” New York University (April 2011).
“A Colonial Heritage: Historical Islamophobia in the United States.” Rockefeller Brothers Foundation conference (November 2009).
“It Takes Two to Tango: Religion and Science in the Imperial Ballroom” and “Picturing Islam: 50 years of Making Muslims the Enemy.” Wickenden Lectures – Miami University (September 2008).
“Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy” at Deconstructing Islamophobia workshop, University of California, Berkeley (April 2008).
“Fear and Loathing: Extremism, the Norm, and the Limits of Religious Tolerance.” Hartford Seminary (April 2008).
“Images of the Enemy: from Caricature to Stereotype.” Islamophobia workshop, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center of Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University (September 2007).
“Putting Bihar on the Map: British Efforts to Know Biharis.” Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, India (January 2007).
“The Science of Communalism: Epistemologies of Difference in British India.” Yale University (November 2006).
“Questioning How Things Are (in South Asia) through a Liberal Arts Education.” University of the Liberal Arts, Bangladesh (March 2005).
“Between Imagination and Experience: Muslims in American Political Cartoons.” Bath Spa University College, England (November 2004).
“The type of difference and the difference of the type: British categories of religion and society in an Indian village.” South Asia History seminar, School of Oriental and African Studies, England (October 2004).
“Knowing the Difference: Indian Religious Identity in Popular and State Discourse.” “Comparative Perspectives on Religious Coexistence: The State and the Everyday” seminar, Duke University (April 2004).
SELECT CONFERENCE PAPERS
“The Past as a Shared and Contested Country: Between History and Memory.” American Academy of Religions conference – Baltimore (November 2013).
“Recentering the Material Temple in Studies of Ritual, Memory, and Archaeological Practices.” American Academy of Religions conference – Baltimore (November 2013).
“The Ghost in the Text: Harsu Brahm and the Coalescence of Folklore Studies” at Conference on the Study of Religions of India – Drew University, New Jersey (June 2013).
“A Temple as Embodied Narrative: Mundesvari of Bihar” at Association of Asian Studies Conference – San Diego (March 2013).
“Fitting the Study of Religion into the Frameworks of Science” at American Academy of Religions Conference – San Francisco (November 2012).
“Militant Muslims and the Wackos from Waco: Religious Marginalization and the Christian Norm” at Plenary Panel on Islamophobia, Middle East Studies Association annual conference, Washington, D.C. (December 2011).
“Mapping Boundaries: The Science of Knowing Communal Identity in British India.” American Academy of Religions conference – San Francisco (November 2011).
“Shared Fears, Divergent Expressions: Islamophobia in British India and the United States.” Annual Conference on South Asia – University of Wisconsin-Madison (October 2010).
“Hindu and Muslim Processions Defining a Shared Village.” International Society for the Study of Religion – Santiago de Compostela, Spain (July 2009).
“Candor, Fear, and Respect: Picturing Muslims.” Candor or Respect? Talking about the Religion of Others conference – Columbia Law School. (Feburary 2009).
“Promoting Scientism: Institutions for Gathering and Disseminating Knowledge in British Bihar.” Conference on Knowledge Production and Pedagogy in Colonial India: Missionaries, Orientalists, and Reformers in Institutional Contexts – School of Oriental and African Studies and German Historical Institute, London (November 2008).
“Picture Perfect: Religion, Representation, and Categories of Comparison.” American Academy of Religions Conference – Chicago (November 2008).
FELLOWSHIPS, GRANTS, AND AWARDS
Faculty Fellow – Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University (fall 2006)
Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship Grant – (2004-2005).
Mellon New Initiative Grant – (2004-2006).
Visiting Fellow – Divinity School, Cambridge University (summer 2001).
Group Project Grant – Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion (2000-2001).
Facilitator – Associated Colleges of the South Teachers’ Workshop: Rollins College (June 2002).
Speaking, reading, and writing fluency: Urdu, Hindi.
Reading ability: Sanskrit, German, French.