Dr. Caleb Simmons (Ph.D. in Religion, University of Florida) is an associate professor of Religious Studies and the Faculty Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. He specializes in religion in South Asia, especially Hinduism, and digital and online learning. He has recently been named a Center for University Education Scholarship (CUES) Distinguished Fellow for his research on online pedagogy. His Religious Studies research spans religion and state-formation in medieval and colonial India to contemporary transnational aspects of Hinduism. His book Devotional Sovereignty: Kingship and Religion in India (Oxford University Press, 2020), examines how the late early modern/early colonial court of Mysore reenvisioned notions of kingship, territory, and religion, especially its articulations through devotion. His second monograph, Singing the Goddess into Place: Locality, Myth, and Social Change in Chamundi of the Hill, a Kannada Folk Ballad (SUNY Press 2022), examines popular local folksongs that engage the mythology of Mysore's Chamundeshwari and her consort Nanjundeshwara to critique social inequalities. He also edited (with Moumita Sen and Hillary Rodrigues) and contributed to Nine Nights of the Goddess: The Navarātri Festival in South Asia (SUNY Press 2018) a collected volume that focuses on various aspects of the important festival of Navaratri. He also has publications and continuing research interests related to a broad range of contemporary topics, including ecological issues and sacred geography in India; South Asian diaspora communities; and material and popular cultures that arise as a result of globalization—especially South Asian religions as portrayed in comic books and graphic novels. He teaches courses on Hinduism, Indian religions, and method and theory of Religious Studies. He also currently serves as the Book Review editor for Religion (Routledge) and is a member of the Administrative Committee as well as the website/listserv manager for the American Academy of Religion South Asia Religions Unit.
Awards & Fellowships
- Center for University Education Scholarship (CUES) Distinguished Fellowship, Univeristy of Arizona (2022-2026)
- Early Career Scholars Award, University of Arizona (2020).
- Visiting Research Fellow at Käte Hamburger Kolleg at Ruhr Universität-Bochum in Germany (2016-2017).
University of Arizona Committee Service (current only)
- Faculty Senate, at-large member
- Committee of Eleven, member
- Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, member
- Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee (SPBAC), member
- General Petitions Committee, co-chair
- Undergraduate Council, member
- Open Access Task Force, member
- Annual Review/Pay Equity Faculty Task Force, member
- Singing the Goddess into Place: Locality, Myth, and Social Change in Chamundi of the Hill, a Kannada Folk Ballad. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2022.
- Devotional Sovereignty: Kingship and Religion in India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.
- The Great Mysore Bhāgavata: Complete Study of a Manuscript from the Binney Collection in the San Diego Museum of Art. Brijender Goswamy with Robert J. Del Bontà and Caleb Simmons. San Diego: San Diego Musuem of Art, 2019.
- Nine Nights of the Goddess: The Navarātri Festival in South Asia. co-edited with Moumita Sen and Hillary Rodrigues. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2018.
Articles and Chapters
- "Devotional Foundations of Earthly Sovereignty: Conceptualizing Sovereignty and the Role of Devotion in Narrative Political Theology in Premodern India" in Religions Vol. 12 No. 11 (2021)
- "Domains of Dasara: Reflections on the Struggle for Significance in Contemporary Mysore" in Nine Nights of Power: Durga, Dolls, and Darbars. Huesken, et al (eds.). Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2021, pp. 221-248.
- "Tales of Cāmuṇḍā and Uttanahaḷḷi, Fierce Goddesses of Southern Karnataka," in Garland of Forgotten Goddesses: A Sourcebook of Fierce Goddesses in South Asia. Michael Slouber (ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 2020, pp. 29-47.
- "Subversive Space: Representations of Space as Articulations of Sovereignty in Colonial Mysore" in Religion Vol. 50 No. 2 (2020).
- "Dynastic Continuity and Election in Contemporary Karnataka Politics" in The Conundrum of Worldly Power: Sovereignty in South Asia. David Gilmartin, Pamela Price, and Arild Ruud (eds.). London: Routledge, 2019, pp. 136-149.
- "History, Heritage, and Myth: Local Historical Imagination in the Fight to Preserve Chamundi Hill" in Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology Vol. 22 No. 3 (Aug 2018), pp. 216-237.
- “Genealogy and Political Change in Imperial Mysore 1645-1704 CE” in Peninsular Musings. M.P. Mujeebu Rehiman (ed.). Kottayam: National Book Stall/Sahitya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Samghom (SPCS), 2018, pp. 128-153.
- “Family, God, and King: Vaṃśāvaḷi as Royalist Literature” in Clio and her Descendents: Essays in Honor of Keshavan Veluthat. Manu Devadevan (ed.). New Delhi: Primus Books, 2018.
- “The King and the Yadu Line: Performing Lineage through Dasara in Nineteenth-Century Mysore” in Nine Nights of the Goddess: Navarātri Festival in South Asia. Caleb Simmons, Moumita Sen, and Hillary Rodrigues (eds.). Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2018.
- “The Hunt for Noses: Contextualizing Mysore’s Predilection for Nose-Cutting” in Studies in History Vol. 32 No. 3 (August 2016), pp. 162-185.
- “Erotic Grotesque Redemption” in ImageText Vol. 8 No. 1. (Summer 2015).
- “The Goddess and Vaiṣṇavism in Search for Regional Supremacy: Woḍeyar Devotional Traditions During the Reign of Rāja Woḍeyar (1578-1617 CE)” in Indian History Vol. 1 No. 1 (2014), pp. 27-46.
-----------translated into Kannada “Dēvate Vaiṣṇavadharma mata Prādēśika Oḍetana: Maisūru Oḍeyar Bhakti Parampareya Svarūpa-Rāja Oḍeyar (1583-1617) Kālāvadhiyalli Āda Badalāvaṇe” in Itihāsa Darpaṇa: A Peer Reviewed Journal of Historical Research in Kannada Vol. 28 (Winter 2016), pp. 43-62.
- “Creating Royalty: Identity-Making and the Devotional Images of the Woḍeyars of Mysore” in Archaeology of Bhakti: Royal Bhakti, Local Bhakti. Valerie Gillet, et al (eds.). Paris: Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient, 2015. pp. 209-235.
- “Greening the Goddess: Sacred Landscape, History and Legislation on the Cāmuṇḍī Hills of Mysore” in The Changing World Religions Map. Stanley Brunn (ed.). Leiden: Springer Books, 2015. pp. 545-556.
- “The Goddess on the Hill: The (re)Invention of a Local Hill Goddess as Chamundeshvari” in Inventing and Reinventing the Goddess: Contemporary Iterations of the Hindu Goddess on the Move. Sree Padma (ed.). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014. pp. 217-244.
- “Translating Viṣṇu: Native Intuition and the Construction of Meaning in Rāmāyan 3392 AD and Krishna: A Journey Within" in Journal of Vaishnava Studies Vol. 21 No. 2 (Spring 2013) pp. 195-209.
- “The Graphic Goddess” in Modern Art Asia: Selected Papers. Majella Munro (ed.). London: EnzoArts Publishing, 2012. pp. 262-275.
- “Yes Sir, That’s My Devī: Authority and the Goddess in Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues” in Journal of Vaishnava Studies Vol. 20 No. 1 (Fall 2011), pp. 133-156.
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Area of Specialization:
Hinduism and South Asian Religions
RELI 160A1 – Gods, Goddesses, and Demons: Divinity in South Asia
This course is an introduction to multiple concepts of the divine in South Asia. We will explore the different ways that the religious traditions of South Asia understand supernatural beings and forces. In order to do this we will read portions of primary texts in translation, examine iconography, and watch rituals as they unfold. In addition to learning about the South Asia traditions, we will put those conceptions of the divine in conversation with those rooted in a European context, forcing you to learn to think critically about the ways people from different cultures view the world around them.
RELI 350 – Hindu Mythology
Overview of the traditional Hindu narratives found in the Vedic, epic, and puranic literature and in their many forms in regional literary and artistic forms, and the narratives influence on culture, philosophy, literature, and folklore.
RELI 367 – Yoga
In this course we examine the philosophy, practice, historical roots, and development of yoga. Students are asked to use and reflect on the disciplinary perspectives of the historian to examine premodern primary texts (in translation)and the anthropologist and cultural critic to examine contemporary yoga practices. Additionally, students will compare and contrast perspectives of Indian yogis and contemporary international yoga influencers in order to understand how the experience of yoga differs across time and culture and how social systems of power and inequality are imposed upon and by yoga and its practitioners. Therefore, the two driving questions of the course are Does your background (race, ethnicity, gender, religious identity) shape how you view yoga (religious, spiritual, or exercise)? and Is Yoga Cultural Appropriation?
RELI 491 – Preceptorship
Specialized work on an individual basis, consisting of instruction and practice in actual service in a department, program, or discipline. Requires faculty member approval, preceptor application on file with department.