Since 1982, I have been the resident cultural anthropologist at Westminster College. As such I have taught a variety of courses: Cultural Anthropology, Native American Cultures, Theory, Tribal Survival, Shamanism and Spirit Possession, Cyber-Culture, Medical Anthropology, and so forth.
I first began to develop my interest in other cultures during my graduate work at Indiana University, where I earned an MA in Religious Studies and an MA and Ph.D. in Folklore. My dissertation was based on fieldwork in Trinidad, where I studied a religious cult among peoples of East Indian descent. In their worship, the goddess Kali would possess members of the congregation and then proceed to lay on hands and heal other people. I was fascinated with how this worked. What made this practice effective?
Even today, I have a strong interest in shamanism and spirit possession. However, I have expanded my research to study the form and effects of spiritual narratives that people tell about their lives. In particular, I have been doing research on the narratives one hears in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. Over the years, my research has taken me to Trinidad, Malaysia, India, and Japan. I also do fieldwork in the United States, including Fulton, Missouri.
Teaching is my passion, and for years I served Westminster as the Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning. The great thing about teaching anthropology is that you get to watch people react to, absorb, and come to understand cultural practices that are entirely alien to them. The best thing about doing this at Westminster is that you really get to know the students who are going through this process and help them work through it.
I live with my wife Susan and my dog Shiva. When I am not working, I spend much of my time walking the dog, watching films, listening to music, and reading great literature. I am working on writing novels, and I have recently begun to learn how to play disc golf.