• James B. Duke Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Religion
  • 864.294.3293
  • Furman Hall 206E
  • lisa.knight@furman.edu

Dr. Lisa Knight received her degree in anthropology, focusing on gender and religion in South Asia. Her research, on a small religious group in the Bengali speaking region of South Asia, has been funded by grants from Fulbright, the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies, and the Research and Development Fund at Furman. Her work has been published in journals and as a book.

At Furman, she teaches courses on South Asia, gender, religious identities, rituals, and power and resistance for the Departments of Asian Studies and Religion, and the anthropology major.

Experience in Asia

Dr. Knight's doctoral research included over two years of fieldwork in rural West Bengal and both urban and rural Bangladesh between 1998 and 2000. She focused her project on women members of a small religious group called the Bauls, popularly known as musical mendicants who are opposed to the caste system and sectarianism. In 2007, she returned to India to collect songs composed by women in order to prepare her book for publication. Her book, Contradictory Lives, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011. Also in 2011, she began her next project on teaching narratives and the intersections of NGOs and Baul performers in West Bengal.

Name Title Description


Cultural Anthropology

Introduction to social and cultural anthropology. Topics include the comparative study of subsistence regimes and economics, stratification and political organization, marriage and kinship, culture and personality, religion, and social and cultural change.


Peoples & Cultures of World

Ethnographic survey of global cultural diversity, with case studies of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Topics may include daily life, sociocultural and environmental change and adaptation, migration, politics, work, religion, gender, family, and art among foraging, agricultural, and industrial societies.


Anthropology of Ethnicity

Ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in America and around the world. Ethnicity and ethnocentrism, race and scientific" racism; stigmatization and prejudice; assimilation and pluralism; primordialism and circumstantialism; nationalism and identity politics."


Anthropological Mthds & Theory

History of theory and practice in social and cultural anthropology from the armchair evolutionists" of the late 19th century to the symbolic and interpretive anthropologists of the late 20th century. 4 credits."


Seminar in Asian Studies

Capstone experience for majors in the discipline. Varied topics.


Magic and Religion

This course focuses on how people from cultures around the world conceptualize the spiritual realm, and how such conceptualizations are shaped by the values and social relations of the cultures in which they occur. Of particular concern is the relationship between magic and religion. We will examine the diverse ways in which humans attempt to communicate and intervene with the divine as well as ritually mark crucial moments such as birth, death, illness, and change.


Religions of the World

Important ideas and practices of selected major religions in historical and cultural context.


Hindu Cultures, Rel Worlds

Exploration of Hindu beliefs and practices with an emphasis on major religious themes that link classical traditions with popular piety.


Religions of South Asia

Introduction to contemporary religions of South Asia by examining the religions that have developed in the Indian subcontinent151Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism151as well as the influences of religions born elsewhere--Islam, Christianity, and others.


Women & Power in Hinduism

Exploration into Hindu women's religious lives and the female nature of power in Hindu cosmology, mythology, and society. Attention given to the complex interrelationships among mythic, domestic, and economic gender hierarchies, particularly in the contemporary cultural context.


Senior Seminar

  • Agehananda Bharati Memorial Fund Grant, Syracuse University, 2001;
  • American Institute of Bangladesh Studies, for dissertation research in Bangladesh, 1999-2000;
  • Fulbright Fellowship, 1998-1999;
  • National Resource Fellowship for South Asian Studies, 1996-98, 2001-03.
  • Contradictory Lives: Baul Women in India and Bangladesh. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011;
  • "Women and the Baul Tradition." Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. E. J. Brill Publishers, Leiden, 2011;
  • "Bāuls in Conversation: Cultivating Oppositional Ideology." In International Journal of Hindu Studies 14, no. 1 (2010):71-120;
  • "Renouncing Expectations: Single Baul Women and the Value of Being a Wife." In Women's Renunciation in South Asia: Nuns, Yoginis, Saints, and Singers, edited by Meena Khandelwal, Sondra L. Hausner, and Ann Grodzins Gold, 191-222. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Syracuse University, 2005
Syracuse University, 2002
Oberlin College, 1990

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