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Tisa Wenger studies the intersections of race, religion, and empire in U.S. history, with particular attention to the cultural politics of religious freedom and to the problematics of religion for Native Americans as colonized nations. Her first book We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) shows how the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico deployed the concepts of religion and religious freedom to defend their ceremonial practices against government suppression. Expanding the scope of that inquiry, Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal (University of North Carolina Press, 2017) explores the significance of religious freedom for a variety of colonized and minority peoples, arguing that this ideal worked historically to structure but also to unsettle the racial-religious assemblages of empire.
Wenger is co-editor, with Sylvester Johnson, of Religion and U.S. Empire: Critical New Histories (NYU Press, 2022). She also co-edits the University Press of Kansas book series, Studies in US Religion, Politics, and Law. Wenger’s next monograph, supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2021-2022, asks how settler colonialism shaped and governed religion in the nineteenth-century United States. You can learn more about her research and teaching at https://www.tisawenger.net/