Religion

Kenneth Mello

Associate Professor of Religion

Areas of expertise

I am a specialist in Native American religious studies, and am particularly interested in narrative/folklore, issues of identity, and the active role of land and landscape in native religious activity.  I also teach courses that look at Rastafari, Vodun, Santeria, and the Virgin of Guadalupe, among other indigenous traditions.  I cross-list courses with Environmental Studies and Feminist Studies, and participate in the Ethnic Studies minor as well.



My approach to the study of Religion can be termed an 'integrated approach,' which is a cornerstone for the study of all indigenous, non-textual traditions.  The integrated approach requires interdisciplinary expertise and the use of cultural context, and therefore requires the integration of areas such as history, gender studies, anthropology, sociology, and government to fully understand the ways in which religious activity wholly permeates the lives of people.  It also requires direct contact and interaction with religious communities, and I try to integrate what I learn from community interaction as much as possible into the classroom experience for students.  My courses are designed around the notion that most students know very little about contemporary indigenous religious communities, and my goal is to get students to move outside of stereotypical ideas and try to understand these religious traditions and concepts within their own internal frameworks and contexts.  I ask students to rethink linear, temporal religious orientation and to begin to understand a circular, spatial religious orientation.  My goal is to offer courses which will introduce students to indigenous, non-textual traditions at both the philosophical and practical level.


Education

PhD, The University of California, Santa Barbara 2003
M.A., The University of Arizona 1996
M.A., Colgate University 1994
B.A., Colgate University 1992

Positions

Assistant Professor of Religion
University of Vermont
August 01, 2004 - June 01, 2009

Assistant Professor of Native Studies
The University of Minnesota, Duluth
August 01, 2002 - June 01, 2004

Doctoral Fellow in Native American Studies
The University of Maine, Orono
August 01, 2000 - June 01, 2002

Research

My current research focuses on contemporary Native American religious identity, particularly among native people and communities located in urban settings.  I am also interested in the intersection between Native American religion and "place".  My future work will focus on religious revival through material culture production, contemporary Native American music, and the connection between religion and sports.


Professional Work

I recently completed a 6 year tenure as Chair of the Native Traditions in the Americas group at the American Academy of Religion (AAR), which is the largest professional organization in the world for scholars of Religion.  I currently sit on the Steering Committee for that same group.  I am also actively involved in the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAIAS) and am on the Planning Committee for their upcoming 2014 meeting to be held in Austin.


Interests

I consider myself something of a craft beer aficianado, and am always looking to visit new breweries when I travel.  When not spending time with my family, I also enjoy weight training, reading, and supporting all Boston sports teams.