College of Humanities People
Hugh Urban, ProfessorDepartment of Comparative Studies: http://comparativestudies.osu.edu/
Center for the Study of Religion: http://religion.osu.edu/
Sexuality Studies: http://sexualitystudies.osu.edu
431 Hagerty Hall, 1775 College Road, Columbus, OH, 43210
By appointment; please email to set up a time
Ph.D., History of Religions, University of Chicago M.A., Religious Studies, University of Chicago B.A., Religion, Philosophy and Art, George Washington University
Teaching and Research
Comparative Religions, Religions of South Asia, New Religious Movements, Colonial and Post-Colonial Studies, Secrecy, Sexuality, Religion and Politics.
Hugh B. Urban is interested in the study of secrecy in religion, particularly in relation to questions of knowledge and power. Focusing primarily on the traditions of South Asia, he is author of Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics and Power in the Study of Religion (2003) and Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism (2006), among other books. He has a strong secondary interest in contemporary new religious movements, and has published articles on Heaven's Gate, Scientology and modern Western magic.
In Progress. Secrecy: The Adornment of Silence, the Vestment of Power. Comparative Studies in Esoteric Religions. Under contract with University of Chicago Press.
In Progress. Zorba the Buddha: GLobalization, Postmodern Spirituality and Late Capitalism in the Osho Movement. Under contract with University of California Press.
2011.The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion. Princeton University Press.
2009. The Power of Tantra: Religion, Sexuality and the Politics of South Asian Studies. I.B. Tauris/ Palgrave MacMillan.
2007. The Secrets of the Kingdom: Religion and Concealment in the Bush Administration. Rowman & Littlefield.
2006. Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism. University of California Press.
2003. Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics and Power in the Study of Religion. University of California Press.
2001. The Economics of Ecstasy: Tantra, Secrecy and Power in Colonial Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press.
2001. Songs of Ecstasy: Tantric and Devotional Songs from Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press.
In Press. “Sexuality,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Western Mysticism and Esotericism, Glenn Magee, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In Press. “Disclosure.” In Vocabulary for the Study of Religion. Kocku von Stuckrad, ed. Leiden: Brill.
In Press. “The Medium is the Message in the Spacious Present: Channeling, Television and the New Age.” In Handbook of Spiritualism and Channeling, ed. Cathy Gutierrez. Leiden: Brill.
In Press. “Desire, Blood and Power: Georges Bataille and the Study of Hindu Tantra in Northeast India.” In Negative Ecstasies: Georges Bataille and the Study of Religion, edited by Kent Brintnall and Jeremy Biles. Fordham University Press, 2014.
2013. “Zorba the Buddha: The Body, Sacred Space and Late Capitalism in the Osho International Meditation Resort.” Southeast Review of Asian Studies 35: 32-49.
2013. “The Church of Scientology.” In Revisionism and Diversification in New Religious Movements, ed. Eileen Barker. London: Ashgate.
2013. “The Church of Scientology.” Virginia Commonwealth University, World Religions and Spirituality Project, edited by David Bromley. http://www.has.vcu.edu/wrs/about.htm.
2013 . “The Secrets of Scientology: Concealment, Information Control and Espionage in a Controversial New Religion.” In Contemporary Esotericism, ed. Egil Asprem and Kennet Granholm. Equinox Publishing.
2012. “The Occult Roots of Scientology? L. Ron Hubbard, Aleister Crowley and the Origins of a Controversial New Religion,” Nova Religio 15, no.3: 91-116.
2012. “Tantra, American Style: From the Path of Power to the Yoga of Sex.” In Transformations and Transfer of Tantra in Asia and Beyond, Istvàn Keul, ed. Berlin: De Gruyter, pp.457-494.
2012. “The Occult Roots of Scientology: Aleister Crowley, L. Ron Hubbard and the Origins of a Controversial New Religion.” In Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism: An Anthology of Critical Studies. Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr, eds. New York: Oxford University Press.
2011 “Millenarian Themes in the Hindu Religious Traditions,” in Handbook of Millenarianism, Catherine Wessinger, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
2011. “The Womb of Tantra: Goddesses, Tribals and Kings in Assam,” Journal of Hindu Studies 4: 231-247.
2011 “Teaching Hindu Mysticism,” in Teaching Mysticism, ed. William Parsons. New York: Oxford University Press.
2010 “The Rundown Truth: Scientology Changes Strategy in War with Media,” Religion Dispatches, May, 2010.
2010 “Birth Done Better: Conceiving the Immortal Fetus in India, China and Renaissance Europe,” in Notes on a Mandala, ed. Laurie Patton. University of Delaware Press, 2010.
2008 "Secrecy and New Religious Movements: Religious Secrecy and Privacy in a New Age of Information,” Religion Compass,2, no.1, pp.66-83.
2008 "Matrix of Power: Blood, Kingship and Sacrifice in the Worship of Mother Goddess Kamakhya," South Asia (in press).
2007 “Machiavelli Meets the Religious Right: Michael Ledeen, the Neoconservatives, and the Political Uses of Fundamentalism.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 42, 1: 76-97.
2006 “The Secrets of the Kingdom: Spiritual Discourse and Material Interests in the Bush Administration.” Discourse 27, 1: 141-159.
2006 “Fair Game: Secrecy, Security and the Church of Scientology in Cold War America.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74, no.2: 356-389.
2006 “America Left Behind: Bush, the Neoconservatives and Evangelical Christian Fiction.” The Journal of Religion and Society, 8 (2006).
2005 "Politics and Religion: An Overview." The Encyclopedia of Religion. Lindsay Jones, ed. New York: MacMillan, v.11, pp.7248-7260.
2005 "Religion and Secrecy in the Bush Administration: The Gentleman, the Prince and the Simulacrum, " Esoterica 7: 1-38. On-line at http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeVII/Secrecy.htm
2004 "Magia Sexualis: Sex, Secrecy and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism." The Journal of the American Academy of Religion 72: no.3: 695-731.
2004 “Songs of Ecstasy: Mystics, Minstrels and Merchants in Colonial Bengal.” The Journal of the American Oriental Society123, no.3: 493-519
2003 "The Power of the Impure: Transgression, Violence and Secrecy in Bengali Tantra and Modern Western Magic." Numen 50: 269-308.
2003 "Sacred Capital: Pierre Bourdieu and the Study of Religion." Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 15, no.4: 354-389.
2003 "The Beast with Two Backs: Aleister Crowley, Sex Magick and the Exhaustion of Modernity." Nova Religio 7, no.3: 7-25.
2003 “An Avatar for our Age: Sathya Sai Baba and the Cultural Contradictions of Late Capitalism.” Religion 33: 73-93.
2003 "Unleashing the Beast: Aleister Crowley, Tantra and Sex Magic in late Victorian England." Esoterica: The Journal of Esoteric Studies 5 (2003): 138-92. On-line at: http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeV/Unleashing_the_Beast.htm
2002 “India’s Darkest Heart: Kali in the Colonial Imagination.” In Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, In the West. Edited by Jeffrey J. Kripal and Rachel Fell McDermott (Berkeley: University of California Press).
2002 "Spiritual Identity in a Transnational Age: Reflections on Religion and Globalization." Ohio State University Humanities Exchange 18: 13-14.
2002 “The Conservative Character of Tantra: Secrecy, Sacrifice and This-Worldly Power in Bengali Sakta Tantra." The International Journal of Tantric Studies 6, no.1.
2002 "Oblatio Rationabilis: Sacrifice in East and West." Sophia: The Journal ofTraditional Studies, v.8, no.1: 153-196.
2002 “A Dance of Masks: The Esoteric Ethics of Frithjof Schuon." In Crossing Boundaries: Ethics in the History of Mysticism, edited by G. William Barnard and Jeffrey J. Kripal (New York: Seven Bridges Press), pp.406-440.
2001 "The Omnipotent Oom: Tantra and its Impact on Modern Western Esotericism," Esoterica: The Journal of Esoteric Studies 3: 218-259. On-line at http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeIII/HTML/Oom.html
2001 “The Marketplace and the Temple: Economic Metaphors and Religious Meanings in the Folk Songs of Colonial Bengal. ” The Journal of Asian Studies 60, no.4: 1085-1114.
2001 “The Path of Power: Impurity, Kingship and Sacrifice in Assamese Tantra.” The Journal of the American Academy of Religion 69, no.4: 597-637.
2001 “The Adornment of Silence: Secrecy and Symbolic Power in American Freemasonry.” The Journal of Religion and Society 3: 1-27. On-line at: http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/toc/2001.html
2001 “Syndrome of the Secret: Eso-centrism and the Work of Steven Wasserstrom.” The Journal of the American Academy of Religion 69, no.2: 439-449.
2000 “Making a Place to Take a Stand: Jonathan Z. Smith and the Politics and Poetics of Comparison.” Method & Theory in the Study of Religions 12, no.3: 339-378.
2000 “The Cult of Ecstasy: Tantrism, the New Age and the Spiritual Logic of Late Capitalism,” History of Religions 39: 268-304
2000 “The Devil at Heaven’s Gate: Rethinking the Study of Religion in the Age of Cyber-Space,” Nova Religio 3, no. 2: 268-302.
1999 "The Politics of Madness: The Construction and Manipulation of the 'Baul' Image in Modern Bengal," South Asia 12, no.1: 13-46.
1999 “The Extreme Orient: The Construction of ‘Tantrism’ as a Category in the Orientalist Imagination,” Religion 29: 123-146.
1998 “The Torment of Secrecy: Ethical and Epistemological Problems in the Study of Esoteric Traditions,” History of Religions 37, no.3: 209-248.
1997 “Elitism and Esotericism: Strategies of Secrecy and Power in South Indian Tantra and French Freemasonry,” Numen 44: 1-38.
1997 “The Poor Company: Economics and Ecstasy in the Kartabhaja Sect of Colonial Bengal,” South Asia 19, no.2: 1-33.
1997 “Disinterested Judgment and its Social Interests, in Kant and Abhinavagupta: A New Approach to Comparative Aesthetics,” The Comparative Civilizations Review 35: 15-41.
1996 “Zorba the Buddha: Capitalism, Charisma and the Cult of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh,” Religion 26: 161-182.
1995 “The Strategic Uses of an Esoteric Text: The Mahanirvana Tantra,” South Asia 18, no.1: 55-81.
1995 “The Remnants of Desire: Sacrificial Violence and Sexual Transgression in the Cult of the Kapalikas and in the Writings of Georges Bataille” Religion 25: 67-90.
1995 “Secret Bodies: Re-Imagining the Body in the Vaisnava-Sahajiya Tradition of Bengal,” The Journal of South Asian Literature 28, nos.1&2.
1994 “What Else Remains in Sunyata? An Investigation of Terms for Mental Images in the Madhyantavibhaga Corpus” (with Paul J.Griffiths), Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 17, no1.
Book Reviews and Review Articles
Review of David Gordon White, Kiss of the Yogini: Tantric Sex in its South Asian Contexts. History of Religions 45, no.3 (2006).
Review of Georges Bataille, unfinished system of nonknowledge. Southern Humanities Review 37, no.2 (2003): 178-80.
Review of Edward C. Dimock, trans., The Caitanya Caritamrta of Krsnadasa Kaviraja. History of Religions (2002).
Review of Rachel Fell McDermott, Daughter of My Heart, Mother of My Dreams and Singing to the Goddess. History of Religions(2002).
Review of Kathleen Taylor, Sir John Woodroffe: An Indian Soul in a European Body? South Asia Research (2002).
Review of Georges Bataille, unfinished system of nonknowledge. Southern Humanities Review (2002).
2002 "Playing the Field, Taking a Stand: A Response to Sam D. Gill." Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 14: 226-230.
2001 “Scholar-Tracking: The Ethics and Politics of Studying ‘Others’ in the Work of Sam Gill.” Review Article for Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 13: 110-136.
1999 Review of Jeffrey J. Kripal, Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna. The Middle East and South Asia Folklore Bulletin 15, nos.1-2: 3-4.
1999 Review of David Kinsley, Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas. Journal of Religion 79, no.1: 179-181.
1998 Review of Jeffrey J. Kripal, Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna. Journal of Religion 78, no.2.
2004 "Religion, Secrecy and Security: Feligious Freedom and Privacy in a Global Context." an Interdisciplinary Conference held at Ohio State University, April 16-18.
PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS
2007 “The Beast with Two Backs: Kabbalah and Tantra in Late Victorian Sexual Magic.” Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion Conference, San Diego, November 18.
2007 “Religion and Secrecy in the Bush Administration: Moses, Machiavelli and the Religious Right.” Presented at UNC Greensboro, March 20, 2007.
2007 “Tantra, American Style: From the Path of Power to the Yoga of Sex.” Presented at UNC Greensboro, March 21, 2007.
2006 “Blood for the Goddess: Impurity, Kingship and Power in Assamese Tantra.” Presented at the American Academy of Religion Conference, November 2006.
2006 “Machiavelli Meets the Religious Right: Michael Ledeen, the Neoconservatives and the Political Uses of Fundamentalism.” Presented at the forum on Fundamentalism at Ohio State University, April, 2006.
2005 “Matrix of Power: Blood, Kingship and Sacrifice in the Worship of Mother Goddess Kamakhya.” University of Chicago, March 7, 2005.
2005 “Religion and Secrecy in the Bush Administration: Gentleman, Prince and Prodigal Son.” Presented at the American Academy of Religion Conference,
Philadelphia, PA, November 21. 2005 “America Left Behind: Bush, the Neocons and Evangelical Christian Fiction.” Presented at the conference “Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right” in New York City, April, 2005.
2004 “The Menstruating Goddess: Ritual Violence and Sexual Transgression in the Worship of Mother Goddess Kamakhya.” Presented for the “Religion and Violence” series at Ohio State University, May 19, 2004.
2003 "Tantra, American Style: Sexuality, Orientalism and the Spiritual Logic of Late Capitalism." Presented at the conference "(De)Colonizing Religion" at the University of California, Santa Cruz, April 5, 2003.
2002 "The Power of the Impure: Transgression, Violence and Secrecy in the Comparative Study of Religion." Presented for the University of Chicago Divinity School Annual Lecture in the History of Religions, November 14, 2002.
2002 "Osho: Transnationalism and Tantric Sex, from East to West and Back Again." Presented at the American Academy of Religion conference, Toronto, Canada, November, 2002.
2002 "The Stinking Fruit in the Garden of Love: The Ambivalent Place of Tantra in Colonial Bengal." Presented at the American Academy of Religion conference, Toronto, Canada, November, 2002.
2002 "The Power of the Impure: Sex, Violence and Secrecy in Bengali Sakta Tantra and Modern Western Magic." Presented at the Tantric Studies Conference, Flagstaff, AZ, October, 2002.
2001 "Power Still Dwells: The Ethics and Politics of the Comparative Study of Religions." Presented at the Conference of the American Academy of Religion, Denver, 2001.
2001 "Tantra, American Style: Neo-Orientalism, Globalization and the Western Appropriation of Tantra." Presented at the Conference of the American Academy of Religion, Denver, 2001.
2000 Discussant for a Panel with Johannes Fabian on his book, Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa. American Folklore Society Conference, Columbus, OH, October 29.
2000 Respondent for the Panel, “Spirituality, Community and Self-Fashioning.” . American Folklore Society Conference, Columbus, OH, October 26.
1999 “A Place on which to Take a Stand: Jonathan Z. Smith and the Politics and Poetics of Comparison,” presented at the Conference of the American Academy of Religion, Boston, November 1999.
1999 “Ceremonies Subversive of Every Moral Principle: Tantrism, the Bengal Renaissance and its Legacy in the Modern Western Imagination,” presented at the Conference of the American Academy of Religion, Boston, November 1999.
1999 Response to Steven Wasserstrom’s book, Religion after Religion, presented at the Conference of the American Academy of Religion, Boston, November 1999.
1999 "Religion for the Age of Darkness: 'Tantrism' in the Methods and Paths, Works and Lives of the History of Religions." Paper presented at the Conference: "Method as Path: Religious Experience and Hermeneutical Discourse," New York University , April 16-18, 1999.
1997 "The Stinking Fruit in the Garden of Love: The Kartabhaja Sect and the Ambivalent Role of 'Tantra' in Colonial Bengal." Paper presented at the Conference, "Eros, Secrecy and Power: Vernacular Tantra in Bengal," University of Pennsylvania, September, 1997.
1996 “The Extreme Orient: The Construction of ‘Tantrism’ as a Category in the Orientalist Imagination,” presented at the Conference of the American Academy of Religion, New Orleans, November 1996.
1994 “Elitism and Esotericism: Strategies of Secrecy and Power in South Indian Tantra and French Freemasonry.” Presented at the Conference of the American Academy of Religion, Chicago, November 1994.
AWARDS AND HONORS
2007 Annual Teaching Award, Department of Comparative Studies, OSU.
2004 Thomas Robbins Award for Excellence in the Study of New Religious Movements
1998 Doctoral Dissertation accepted with Distinction, University of Chicago Divinity School
1995 Pass with Distinction, Ph.D. Qualifying Exams, University of Chicago Divinity School
1990 Phi Beta Kappa
1990 Summa Cum Laude (George Washington University)
GRANTS AND FELLOWSHIPS
2005 American Academy of Religion Research Grant
2003-4 Fulbright Senior Research Grant, India
2003-4 Ohio State University Office of International Affairs, Grant for an Interdisciplinary Conference on an International Theme
2002 Ohio State University Office of International Affairs, International Travel Grant
2001 Ohio State University College of Humanities Grant-in-Aid
2000 National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Research Grant
2000 Faculty Innovator Grant, OSU Instructional Technologies Advisory Committee
1999 American Academy of Religion Research Grant
1999 Ohio State University Seed Grant
1996-7 Junior Fellow in the Institute for the
Advanced Study of Religion, University of Chicago
1995-6 Social Science Research Council Dissertation Fellowship, Bangladesh
1994 Social Science Research Council Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship, Bangladesh
1993-5 Title VI (FLAS) Language Fellowship for Bengali
2007- present Professor, Department of Comparative Studies, Ohio State University
2003-7 Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Studies, Ohio State University
1998-2002 Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Studies, Ohio State University
1997-8 Instructor of Continuing Studies, University of Chicago
Bengali -- speaking and writing ability; extensive experience in India and Bangladesh
Sanskrit -- reading competence
Hindi -- reading ability and some speaking competence; experience in India
Assamese -- reading and some speaking competence; experience in India
French -- reading and speaking
German, Latin, Spanish -- reading proficiency