South Asian religions, especially Hindu traditions; anthropology of religion; religion in relation to globalization, colonialism, science, health, ecology, embodiment, and pop culture
Religion in Asia, Religion in India, Health and Religion, Yoga: Of Loincloths and Lululemon
Dr. Heifetz’s research and teaching draws on his time spent living and travelling in India. This includes American Institute of Indian studies language intensives in Sanskrit (Pune, 2006) and Hindi (Jaipur, 2010-2011). He has also conducted field research in a community called Shantikunj in Haridwar (2012), which is the headquarters of a transnational movement called the All World Gayatri Pariwar. While living in this community, he met numerous STEM professionals who had become disillusioned by the lack of opportunities in the private sector to use science and technology for the public good. Because the All World Gayatri Pariwar makes extensive use of science and technology to justify and disseminate their practices, living at Shantikunj provided these STEM professionals with a sense of moral fulfillment they had not found in their old jobs.
Education & Training
- PhD, Syracuse University
The Science of Satyug: Class, Charisma, and Vedic Revivalism in the All World Gayatri Pariwar. Hindu Studies Series, State University of New York Press (forthcoming, 2021).
“Religion, Science, and the Middle Class in the All World Gayatri Pariwar.” International Journal of Hindu Studies. April 2019. Vol. 23, No. 1.
“From Gurudev to Doctor-sahib: Religion, Science, and Charisma in the All World Gayatri Pariwar.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion. July 2018. Vol. 30, No. 3. 252-278.
“Yajña without Dharma?: Ritual and Morality in the All World Gayatri Pariwar.” Nidan: International Journal for Indian Studies. December 2016. Vol. 1, No. 2. 14-31.
In 2013, Uttarakhand, India experienced devastating floods that wiped entire villages off the map, killed thousands, and stranded hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in remote mountain shrines. Environmentalists have argued that this catastrophe illustrates the unsustainability of the model of development Uttarakhand has followed, which has focused on tourism and pilgrimage. These events have prompted me to develop an ethnographic research project based in ecological non-governmental organizations in Uttarakhand. This project will examine the interplay of religious institutions, capitalist modes of development, and ecological activism.
I am particularly interested in how negotiating this interplay mediates embodied relationships with the environment for local community members.