Ortegren photo update
Office
Munroe Hall 205
Tel
(802) 443-5638
Email
jortegren@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
Fall Term: Tuesdays 1-3 p.m. and Thursdays 1-2 p.m. Sign up at calendly.com/jdortegren.

Professor Ortegren joined the Religion Department in the fall of 2016 as an Assistant Professor of South Asian Religions after receiving her Ph.D. from the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Her current research focuses on the relationship between religious and class identities among upwardly mobile Hindu and Muslim women in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. Her research and teaching interests include women in religion, ethnographic and anthropological approaches to the study of religion, ritual and narrative practices, urbanization in South Asia, and the role of religion in emerging global middle class communities.  

Courses Taught

Course Description

Writing Women's Religious Worlds
In this course we will examine how we can understand and recognize what “counts” as religion—perhaps in new ways—by focusing on the religious lives of women. Our primary texts will be ethnographic studies of women in various religious traditions around the world, including Hindu women in North India, Muslim women in Egypt, and a Vodou priestess in New York. We will examine how women construct their religious identities and negotiate religious authority as public leaders, ritual experts, and healers, and consider how what women say about their own lives and practices may challenge our assumptions of what religion “is” or “does.” We will also consider the ethics of ethnographic approaches to studying religion, particularly in terms of the “self” and “other,” as students develop their own ethnographic practices and writing.

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

CW, PHL

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Religion and Food
In this course we will examine religion and the construction of religious identity, morality, and community through food and cooking practices. We will consider how “rules” about what, when, and with whom one can or cannot eat shape religious traditions, values, and communities, and how these rules inform our very sense of what “counts” as religious. We will engage with practices from Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and students will conduct independent research about specific practices of their own choosing, which may fall outside of these traditions. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

CMP, CW, PHL

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Race, Capitalism, Decolonization
What does decolonization mean in the present context? What does race have to do with capitalism and profit, exploitation and dispossession? In this course we will consider the intersections of race and capitalism in shaping contemporary epistemologies, institutional practices, and lived experiences in local and global contexts. We will consider how present-day formations of race and capitalism are related to histories of imperialism and the global extraction of labour and resources. (Pass/Fail)

Terms Taught

Winter 2021

Requirements

WTR

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Introduction to Religion
Why is religion a significant element in human life and affairs? What roles does religion play in the lives of individuals and communities? And what is religion anyway? Drawing on Western and Asian traditions, we will take a comparative approach to these questions, examining how religious traditions can differ and converge. Throughout the course, we will introduce the basic vocabulary and analytical tools of the academic study of religion. We will also consider how both scholars and practitioners make sense of religion and debate its role in societies past and present. 3 hrs. lect./disc

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

CMP, PHL

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Hindu Traditions of India
In this course we will identify and examine key themes and issues in the study of Hindu religious traditions in India, beginning with the defining of the terms Hinduism, religions, and religious. We will primarily focus on the ways Hindu religious traditions—texts, narratives, and practices—are performed, received, and experienced in India. Essential aspects of Hindu religious traditions will be examined, including: key concepts (darsan, dharma, karma and caste), key texts (the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana), and major religious deities (Shiva, Devi and Vishnu). The course will also cover contemporary Hindu-Muslim encounters, and the emerging shape of Hinduism in the American diaspora. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

Requirements

PHL, SOA

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Islam and Hinduism in South Asia
Islam has played a significant role in shaping the culture and politics of South Asia, from the seventh century to the present. In this course we will consider the historical, socio-cultural, religious, and political impact of Islam in South Asia. We will begin with the introduction of Islam into the South Asian landscape, covering a range of historical moments, including the Delhi Sultanate, the rise of Mughal rule, colonial interactions, and the development of new nation states. We will then examine Islam as it is lived, practiced, and experienced in contemporary South Asia, focusing on themes such as mysticism and sainthood; issues of gender; and Hindu-Muslim encounters. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

Requirements

AAL, HIS, PHL, SOA

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Women, Religion, and Ethnography
In this course we will focus on ethnographic scholarship regarding women in various religious traditions. We will begin with questions of feminist ethnography as proposed by Lila Abu-Lughod and then read a range of ethnographies focusing on women in different contexts, including a female Muslim healer in South India, Kalasha women in Pakistan, Bedouin Muslim women in Egypt, and Catholic nuns in Mexico. We will focus on how gendered and religious identities are constructed and intertwined, and what ethnography contributes to the study of both religion and gender. A prior course in Religion, Anthropology, or Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies is recommended. 3 hrs. sem. (National/Transnational Feminisms)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

Requirements

CMP, PHL

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Methods in the Study of Religion
How do we think about religion? Is there a common way to talk about religion across cultural divides or should we simply concur that religion is like art, where “We can’t define it, but we know it when we see it? This course will take us through the basic twentieth and twenty-first century theories in the study of religion as “ways of perceiving” this most elusive of phenomena: anthropology, psychology, history, text, politics, philosophy, theology, experience. All of these ways of perceiving religion play a crucial role in the history of the field. We will end by thinking through recent issues in the study of religion–religion and politics, gender and sexuality, comparative and interfaith studies, and the authority of religious identity. Students will be asked to outline a single, compelling case study in religion, and each week they will apply the theorists we read to the details of their case. In applying theories about religion to real-life situations, students will become skillful practitioners of the art of interpreting religion. They will also develop their own approaches to the study of religion and be able to articulate that approach to a wider audience. (At least 3 courses in the study of religion or by waiver. Open only to juniors and seniors.) 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Spring 2023

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Spring 2023

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

View in Course Catalog

Course Description

Religion and Food
This course will examine religion and the construction of religious identity, morality, and community through food and cooking practices. We will consider how “rules” about what, where, when, and with whom one can or cannot eat not only shape the values of particular religious traditions, but also how they inform our very sense of what “counts” as religious. We will engage with practices from a variety of the world’s religious traditions and students will conduct independent research about specific practices of their own choosing in any tradition.

Terms Taught

Winter 2019

Requirements

CMP, PHL, WTR

View in Course Catalog