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College of Humanities People

Tanya Erzen, Associate Professor

Department of Comparative Studies: http://comparativestudies.osu.edu/
Sexuality Studies: http://sexualitystudies.osu.edu

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Office Information
428 Hagerty Hall, 1775 College Road, Columbus, OH, 43210
Email: erzen.2@osu.edu
Phone: 614-247-7288
Fax: 614-292-6707

Ph.D. American Studies, New York University, 2002
B.A. Brown University, 1995

General Background:

Tanya Erzen teaches courses in American religion and culture with a focus on gender and sexuality as well as feminist ethnography and the ethnography of religion. Her other research interests include American evangelicalism, the Christian Right, and critical prison studies.

She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, the American Association of University Women, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute for Advanced Study.

Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement (University of California Press, 2006), is an ethnographic and historical study of the ex-gay movement and the sexual politics of the Christian Right. Straight to Jesus traces the stories of people who join ex-gay ministries out of a conviction that the conservative Christian beliefs of their upbringing and their own same-sex desires are irreconcilable. Rather than definitively changing from homosexual to heterosexual, the participants experience a “queer conversion” that is both sexual and religious as born-again Christians. By building new forms of kinship and belonging and becoming what they call "new creations," these men and women testify to religious transformation rather than changes in sexual desire or behavior. Straight to Jesus exposes how the Christian Right attempts to repudiate gay identity and political rights by using the ex-gay movement as evidence that “change is possible.” Yet, the realities of the lives of ex-gay men and women actually undermine this anti-gay strategy.

Straight to Jesus won the Ruth Benedict Prize from the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists and the Gustave O. Arlt Award from the Council of Graduate Schools. Professor Erzen was interviewed on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and other radio programs about the book.

She is also co-editor of Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City (New York University Press, 2001), and she has written for the Boston Globe, The Nation, American Quarterly, PMLA, Religion Dispatches, Alternet and the Revealer.org.

Professor Erzen is currently working on two research projects. God in Captivity: Becoming a Faith-Based Prison Nation (under contract with Harvard University Press) traces forms of faith-based imprisonment in the United States from Florida’s state “faith and character” prisons, to Buddhist meditation groups in Alabama to the evangelical programs of Prison Fellowship Ministries. By following individual stories of women and men in prison as well as the policies of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the book asks: How do women practice religion in the coercive spaces of prison? What are the implications of these prisons for how we envision faith-based policy in the United States? What are the gender and sexual politics of faith-based transformation? Why do states consider individual transformation to be the ideal solution to imprisonment?

Fanpire: The Religion of Twilight (Beacon Press) is an ethnography of the fans and fan cultures around the bestselling Twilight series, and the way girls and women experience enchantment, ritual, belonging, romance, spirituality, and guidance in relation to marriage and sexuality from the books and the virtual and actual spaces of the fandom.

Tanya Erzen is on research leave in 2011-12.

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