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Department of Religious Studies

College of Arts & Sciences

Antoinette E. DeNapoli
Associate Professor

UW Recognition

College of Arts & Sciences' Extraordinary Merit in Research award for 2016


B.A. University of South Florida 1996; M.A. Florida State University 2000; Ph.D. Emory University 2009, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies 2010.

Dr. DeNapoli is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the West and South Asian Religions Program in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Dr. DeNapoli’s research, teaching, and writing focus on the religions and cultures of South Asia, and especially on Hindu traditions of devotion and piety; asceticism and mysticism; ritual and performance; and gender. Dr. DeNapoli has published her work in a number of leading academic journals and edited volumes in her subfield of religion and South Asian studies. Her first book, Real Sadhus Sing to God: Gender, Asceticism, and Vernacular Religion in Rajasthan, was published by Oxford University Press (2014); it is based on fourteen years of field work with Hindu ascetics in North India. Currently, Dr. DeNapoli is working on her second book, which explores the idea of “experimental Hinduism” as expressed through the lives and practices of Hindu ascetics in contemporary India. Dr. DeNapoli is interested in the ways that ascetics draw on authoritative religious concepts, views, and practices to understand and experience new and/or emerging transnational shifts, processes, and institutions, such as technology, human and women’s rights, sustainability, and development. She is especially concerned with how the dominant definitional parameters for what Hinduism means and how it is lived in everyday contexts change and expand in response to ascetics’ experimenting with the boundaries of their traditions. Dr. DeNapoli’s professional interests include the historical and comparative study of religion, religious experience, the anthropology of gender and sexuality, performance and narrative studies, and globalization studies.



DeNapoli, Antoinette, Real Sadhus Sing to God: Gender, Asceticism, and Vernacular Religion in Rajasthan, Oxford University Press, release date, April 2014.

Refereed journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews:

DeNapoli, Antoinette, 2016, “‘The Time has come to save our women’: A Female Religious Leader’s Feminist Politics as Experimental Hinduism in North India,” International Journal of Dharma and Hindu Studies vol. 2, no. 1: 1-37.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, 2016, Review of Fertile Disorder: Spirit Possession and Its Provocation of the Modern, WAGADU: A Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies, vol. 15, Special Issue: Women, Gender, and Government Outsourcing in Comparative Perspectives.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “In Search of the Sadhu’s Stone: Metals, Minerals, and Gems in the Practices of Hindu Renouncers in Rajasthan,” in Souless Matter, Seats of Energy: Metals, Minerals, and Gems in South Asian Religions, edited by Thomas Dahnhardt and Fabrizio Ferrari (Springer, 2015). 

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Our Own Two Hands Create our Destiny: Narrative Patterns and Strategies in Male Sadhus’ Personal Stories,” Contributions to Indian Sociology, Volume 48:3, October 2014.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “The Freedom of Wandering, the Protection of Settling in Place: Gendered Symbolizations of Space in the Practices of Hindu Renouncers in Rajasthan,” In The Changing World Religion Map, edited by Stan Brunn, Springer, Fall 2014.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Singing Ramayan and Performing Literacy: Male Hindu Renouncers’ Idea and Performance of Vernacular Texts in Rajasthan,” Asian Literature and Translation Journal 2/1 (2014): 1-23.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Real Sadhus Sing to God’: The Religious Capital of Devotion and Domesticity in the Leadership of Female Renouncers in Rajasthan,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 29/1: 117-131.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Vernacular Hinduism in Rajasthan,” in Introducing Hinduism, edited by P. Pratap Kumar, Equinox Publishing Ltd., July 30, 2013.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, Review Article of Unearthing Gender: Folksongs of North India, by Smita Tewari Jassal, Anthropos A.108/2 (2013): 604-608.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, Review of Interpreting Devotion, by Karen Pechilis, Asian Ethnology, 72/1 (2013): 154-158.
DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Performing a Rhetoric of Renunciation: An Exploration of Hindu Female Renouncers’ Vernacular Practices in North India,” Memphis Theological Seminary Journal for its special issue on Rhetoric and Religion, February 2012.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Performing Materiality through Song: Hindu Female Renouncers’ Embodying Practices in Rajasthan,” Nidan: Journal for the Study of Hinduism for its special issue on Religion and Materiality, December 2011.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, Review of Contradictory Lives: Baul Women in India and Bangladesh, by Lisa I. Knight, Journal of Asian Studies, 71 (2): 569-571.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, 2010, “‘Crossing over the Ocean of Existence’: Performing ‘Mysticism’ and Exerting Agency by Female Sadhus of Rajasthan,” The Journal of Hindu Studies, volume 3, no. 3, pp. 298-336.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, 2010, “Write the Text Letter-by-Letter in the Heart: Non-literacy, Religious Authority, and Female Sadhus’ Performance of Asceticism through Sacred Texts, Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds, Volume 4, no. 3, pp. 3-40.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, 2009, “By the Sweetness of the Tongue: Duty, Destiny, and Devotion in the Oral Life Narratives of Female Ascetics in Rajasthan,” Asian Ethnology,
Volume 68, no. 1, pp. 81-108.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, 2009, “Beyond Brahmanical Asceticism: Recent and Emerging Models of Female Hindu Asceticisms in South Asia,” Religion Compass 3, pp. 1-19.


DeNapoli, Antoinette. Guest Editor. With Tulasi Srinivas. Special Journal Symposium titled, The Moralizing of Dharma in Everyday Hinduisms, for Nidan: The International Journal for the Study of Indian Religions, vol. 28, no. 2: December 2016.

DeNapoli, Antoinette. With Tulasi Srinivas. “Introduction—Moralizing Dharma in Everyday Hinduisms,” Article for Special Journal Symposium for Nidan: International Journal for the Study of Indian Religions, vol. 28, no.2: December 2016.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “‘Nature is our True Friend’: Environmental Empathy and a Modern Female Guru,” for The Moralizing of Dharma in Everyday Hinduisms in Nidan: International Journal for the Study of Indian Religions, vol. 28, no. 2: December 2016.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “God Depends on the Lowest Devotees: Gender, Performance, and Transformation in the Tale of a Female Sādhu,” History of Religions. Fall 2016.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Speaking Shadows to Light: Vernacular Narrative as Vehicle for Rajasthani Female Sadhus’ Voicing Vulnerability and Violence,” in Women and Asian Religions, edited by Zayn Kassam, Praeger Publications. Fall 2016.

DeNapoli, Antoinette. Guest Editor. Special Journal volume on, Experimental Dharmas in Asia and the Diaspora, for International Journal of Dharma Studies. Spring 2017.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Dharm is Technology: The Theologizing of Technology in the Experimental Hinduism of Renouncers in Transnational India,” International Journal of Dharma Studies. Spring 2017.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Gender/Renunciation in Hinduism.” Oxford Annotated Bibliographies Online, Spring 2017.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “‘Nobody can be like Mira!’: How Alternative is Mira Bai’s Model of Alternative Femininity? The Challenge of Contemporary Female Hindu Ascetics in Rajasthan,” in Mira Bai, edited by Nancy M. Martin, Oxford University, Spring 2017.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “God, We are your Beggars: The Songs of Hindu Sadhus in Rajasthan,” in Poetry for Peace, edited by Michael Lidgley and Devanshe Chauhan, Amnesty International Press, n.d.


Book manuscript

“Religion at the Crossroads: Experimental Hinduism and the Theologizing of the Modern in Contemporary India.”


DeNapoli, Antoinette, “‘God’s and Humans’ DNA are the same’: The Rhetoric of Technoscience and the Theologizing of the Modern in the Experimental Hinduism of World Renouncers in North India,” in The Changing World Languages Map, edited by Stan Brunn, Springer Publications. Contract Pending. Fall 2016 submission date.

DeNapoli, Antoinette, “Dharma isn’t a Dinosaur: Rhetoric, Religious Hybridity, and a Female Renouncer’s New Collective Memory of Dharma in North India.” In process, will submit to the Journal of the American Academy of Religion by December 15, 2016.

Courses Taught

Religious Landscapes of Asia
History of Hinduism
History of Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
South Asian Islam
Mysticism, Yoga, and Enlightenment in the East
Gods, Avatars, Heroes, and Mystics: The Divine Personality in Eastern Religions
Religion and the Politics of Gender in Asia
Goddess Traditions of South Asia
Asceticism East and West
Religion and Globalization in India (travel abroad course)
Theory and Method in the Study of Religion

Antoinette DeNapoli

Dr. DeNapoli in India

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