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John Freeman

Lecturing Fellow in the Department of History
Dept. of History, Box 90719, Durham, NC 27708-0719
112 Classroom Bldg, Durham, NC 27708


My interdisciplinary training both as a field anthropologist and scholar of the vernacular and classical languages and literatures of India is reflected in my writings and research projects as a historical anthropologist of South Asian religions. In my principal ethnographic research, I have worked for many years on the lower-caste, spirit-possession cult of Teyyam in the state of Kerala. As a complement to this, and drawing more centrally on my textual training, I have developed a corresponding program of research into both the Brahmanical culture of Sanskrit learning and regimes of worship in the region’s high temple culture, and into the local, vernacular cultures of the martial and yeoman caste-strata. The goal has been to explore how these distinctive systems of knowledge and worship articulate in the wider region’s social and political history over long stretches of historical development. My broadest research agendum is thus to bring together the rich literary sources of South Asia with the perspectives and methods of social anthropology and history to develop an overview of south India’s religious culture that is ethnological in substance and historical in sweep.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Lecturing Fellow in the Department of History · 2020 - Present History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Education, Training & Certifications

University of Pennsylvania · 1991 Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania · 1984 M.A.
University of Pennsylvania · 1979 B.A. (hons)