Gold Named J. Watson Professor of Religion
Dr. 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
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
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.”