Gold Named J. Watson Professor of Religion

Dr. Ann Grodzins Gold, Thomas J. Watson Professor of ReligionDr. Ann Grodzins Gold has recently been appointed the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion. Gold served as the Director of the South Asia Center from 2005 to 2008.

Gold is the fourth Watson Professor of Religion. On her prestigious appointment, Gold says that it came as a total surprise. “It is moving and humbling,” she said. “I am honored and pleased to receive the Watson Professorship.”

The seasoned professor and accomplished researcher further said that the past appointments had never gone to a scholar whose research centered on Asian religions. This recognition, Gold says, “highlights the global scope of the Religion Department at Syracuse University.” She also hopes it will help to attract more students who want to focus on South Asian religions.

On a more personal note, Gold says that holding the Watson Chair gives her more incentive to postpone her retirement. It will enable her to return to her research site in a provincial Rajasthan town. While her earlier work in India was in an agricultural village, during academic year 2010-11 she lived in Jahazpur, a market town with a population over 20,000. Gold, who is originally from Chicago, has lived in Ithaca since 1985. She has come to appreciate small town life on both continents. Her Jahazpur research included a focus on the links between rural and urban areas.

Asked about how she became a scholar of India, Dr. Gold said that she had begun college as a French major but dropped out after two years. A trip to India would entirely change the course of her life.

“Shortly after the Beatles, I traveled to India,” she said. She found everything there both fascinating and bewildering and wanted “to understand what was going on.” A few years later, she went back to college, and studied Hindi and anthropology.

Gold specializes in teaching and research on Hindu traditions in India, religion and gender, religion and the natural environment, and oral performance and storytelling traditions. Her extensive fieldwork in North India, particularly in the state of Rajasthan, has focused on pilgrimage, gender, expressive traditions, and environmental history. Gold’s research and writing have been supported in the past by fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Fulbright Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Spencer Foundation.

Gold spent the academic year 2010-11 in India as a Fulbright Hays Fellow doing ethnographic research on non-rural, nonmetropolitan experiences of place in Jahazpur, Rajasthan. Her inaugural lecture as Watson Professor, delivered last fall, was titled “Jahazpur Passages: Ordinary Pluralism in a North Indian Town.”