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Nadya Pohran

Nadya Pohran

Bhakti and Spiritual Devotion

Indian Christianity

Lived Religion

Anthropology of Religion

Anthropology of Christianity

Visual Anthropology & Film

Theological Anthropology

Medical Anthropology

Design Anthropology

Interfaith Dialogue

Peace and Reconciliation

Publicly-engaged Scholarship


After completing a bachelor's degree in English Literature and History, I found myself drawn to the academic study of religion with a particular focus on cultural anthropology. I completed my Master's degree at the University of Ottawa (Canada) with a focus on the social scientific study of religion; my MA thesis was an ethnographic study of Charismatic healing practices among Protestant Christians.

I am passionate about contributing to work that is focused on improving society.  I view my academic studies as a trial run and training ground for developing the skills and knowledge to better equip me for this passion. As a cultural anthropologist, I explore how diverse people (both as individuals and as communities) work and what motivates them to act/believe/think the things they do. I collaborate with theologians and philosophers and am keenly interested in questions of religion, belief, and spirituality.

I am also interested in design anthropology and conduct UX design for businesses. 


My PhD is financially supported by the Cambridge International Trust (UK) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada). I have also received funding contributions from the Teape Trust, the Spalding Trust, the Faculty of Divinity, and Hughes Hall in the form of conference, fieldwork, and language-learning grants. 

Subject area and speciality

Religious Studies specialists:

Ethnographic Study of a Christian Ashram in India

Hindu studies specialists:

Research Interests

My broad research interest falls within the anthropology of religion with a specific interest in the way that religiosity and spirituality are experienced within contemporary lived traditions. I believe that religious belief is integrally connected to large-scale phenomena such as religious-motivated violence, community formations, politics, etc., and that religious beliefs (as they are lived out and practiced) must be first understood in order to better engage with the former phenomena.  As such, I am particularly interested in the way that “religious” beliefs and “spiritual” experiences form and inform individuals’ understanding of themselves and the society around them. My current work draws from ethnographic fieldwork at a Christian ashram in India in order to explore questions of religious identity, interfaith dialogue, religious syncretism, among others.

Research Supervision

A6: Understanding Contemporary Religion 
B7: Themes in World Christianities: Context, Theology and Power
B13: Religious Themes in Literature 


I have taught a seminar-style course on creative writing for international high school students through Oxbridge Academic Programs (July 2016.)

I co-instructed a course on cultural anthropology and introduction to fieldwork through St. Stephen's University, Canada. (Sept-Dec 2015.)

I have given several guest lectures to high school and University classes on topics such as the anthropology of religion, Jain dharma, Charismatic (Pentecostal) healing in North America, and devotional love in Hinduism and Indian Christianity.

I have been a Teaching Assistant for the following courses at the University of Ottawa, Canada (2013-2015)
1) Anthropology of Religion
2) Children's Literature
3) Witchcraft, Magic, and the Occult Traditions
4) Religious Perspectives on Death and Dying
5) Introduction to World Religions: Western Traditions


Other Professional Activities

I co-organize the Hindu-Christian Studies reading group, along with Daniel Soars. (2017-ongoing).

I co-organized an interdisciplinary conference on Dual Religious Belonging in Hinduism and Christianity, along with Daniel Soars and Dr. Ankur Barua. (July 2018)

I acted as the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) student representative for Hughes Hall College (2017-2018).

I have been awarded a Full Blue for Cambridge University Women's Basketball (2016, 2018).

I work as an ethnographer and qualitative researcher alongside medical doctors and nurses who are trying to improve the quality of patient care in Intensive Care Units through the introduction of an interactive communication interface called myICUvoice. I design and conduct ethnographic research (participant observation, interviews, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, diary studies), consumer-research and usability testing, and then translate these insights into strategies and solutions.


Key Publications

Articles and Essays

1.“‘Both Truly Indian and Truly Christian’: Exploring 20th century Inculturation through Stanley Jones’s Visions for Sat Tal Christian Ashram.” Nidan: An International Journal for the Study of Indian Religions. (Accepted. forthcoming December 2019)

2. “Christ-Centered Bhakti: A literary and ethnographic study of worship.” Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies. (Accepted. forthcoming September 2019.) 

3. “Being There: A Story from the Field,” Noesis Review. Issue 5 (Easter 2018). 61-69.

4. “Controlling the Spirits: An Ethnographic Glimpse at the Spirits that Possess and the Humans that Master Them.” in Ethnographic Encounters: Essays in the Anthropology of Religion. Vol 2. (2013). 71-82.

5. “Dying, We Live: A theological-conceptual study of biblical death as a redemptive process.” in Ottawa Journal of Religion. Vol 5.  2014.

6. "The World is Not Our Home? Reconsidering What the Bible Says About Environmental Care." Geez Magazine: Contemplative Cultural Resistance. Issue No. 41, Spring 2016.

7. "The Elephant in the Room: Moving Beyond Exclusivist Religious Claims" in The Interfaith Observer. July 2015.

Other Publications

Book Reviews

1. Pentecostals, Proselytization, and Anti-Christian Violence in Contemporary India. (Chad M. Bauman. Oxford University Press, 2015. 193 pages.) Reading Religion: A Publication of the American Academy of Religion. 2016

2. Ecclesial Identities in a Multi-Faith Context: Jesus Truth-Gatherings (Yeshu Satsangs) among Hindus and Sikhs in Northwest India. (Darren Todd Duerksen, 2015, 292 pages.) Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies. Volume 29 (2016).

3. To Be Cared For: The Power of Conversion and the Foreignness of Belonging in an Indian Slum. (Nathaniel Roberts, 2017.)  Reading Religion: A Publication of the American Academy of Religion. 2017.


Conference Papers

1. "The Struggle of Belonging: reconsidering 'dual-religious belonging' due to ethnographic fieldwork." European Academy of Religion Annual Conference. Bologne, Italy. March 2019.

 2. “The Role of Ethnography in Translating Research from Academia to Public Spheres.” Panelist at the University of Cambridge’s Alumni Event, Bridges lecture. Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge (UK). September 22 2018.                                                                                                                 

3. “Dual-Religious, Duo-Religious, and the Struggle of Belonging: An ethnographic case study of a Christian Ashram” at Dual Religious Belonging in Hinduism and Christianity. University of Cambridge, UK. July 3 2018.

 4. “Considering Deep Equality through a Case Study of a Christian Ashram” public lecture delivered at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Religious Studies. June 17 2018.

 5. “Hindu-Christian Dialogue in 20th Century North India: A Case Study of a Christian Ashram.” Noesis Seminar. University of Cambridge, Faculty of Divinity. December 2017.

 6. “The Silent Social Scientist: Methodological Atheism and Bracketing Out Questions of Truth.” Silence(s): Analyses & Articulations. University of Cambridge, Faculty of Divinity. Nov 27 2017. 

7. “Christian Ashrams and Publics” at the American Academy for the Study of Religion (AAR) Boston, USA: Nov 2017. 

8. “Dual-religious Belonging as seen in the documented life of Henri le Saux” at the American Academy for the Study of Religion (AAR) Boston, USA: Nov 2017 

9. “The Ontological Turn Considered Through Charismatic Healing” at International Union of Archaeology and Ethnography Studies (IUAES). Dubrovnik, Croatia: May 2016.

10. “Charismatic Healing and Re-Imagining Religion” at Exploring the Extraordinary. York, UK: Dec 2015.

11. “Spiritual Healing and Animal Rights Activism at Jain Panjrapols” at Dharma Academy of North America. San Diego, USA: November 2014.

12. “Healing the Spirit by way of the Body: A Phenomenological Study of Spiritual Healing” at Psychology Outside the Box: the 3rd national annual conference. Ottawa, Canada: June 2014.

13. “Extraordinary Ethnographic Experiences.” at In/Tangibility: The Mystical, the Material, and the Messy In-Between: The 20th Annual Graduate Interdisciplinary Conference. Concordia University: Montreal, March 2014.

14. “Insiders, Outsiders, and Thinking Outside the Box: Reconsidering the Ethnographic Approach to Contemporary Pilgrimage.” at Change and Continuity: Critical Inquiries in Classics and Religious Studies. Ottawa University: Ottawa, December 2013.

15. “Spiritual Healing and ‘Other-ing’” at Anthropology and Otherness. Carleton University: Ottawa, Nov 2013. 


Current students and supervisors can access the Faculty’s Moodle page by clicking on the image below.