Sarah McFarland Taylor

Associate Professor of Religion
Department of Religious Studies
Office: Crowe Hall, 1860 Campus Drive, 4-144
Phone: (847) 491-4361
On leave Fall 2015 and Winter 2016

Sarah McFarland Taylor is an associate professor of Religious Studies, specializing in the study of religion and American culture; religion and environment; and media, popular culture, and religion. Taylor also teaches in Northwestern’s American Studies Program and in the Program in Environmental Policy and Culture.  She holds a Bachelor's degree from Brown University, a Master's degree from Dartmouth College, and earned her doctorate in Religion and American Culture (with additional Ph.D. emphasis in Women's Studies) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Taylor has held an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Louisville Institute Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, a Wabash Center Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship, and was selected as one of the Indiana University Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture's "Young Scholars in American Religion." She has received a Joseph H. Fichter Award for the study of Women and Religion, the Albert C. Clark Prize for her work on African American religions, and a research award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. In the 2008-2009 year, she held the position of Senior Research Fellow at the Martin Marty Center Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago.

Her book, Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology (published by Harvard University Press in April 2007), is the winner of the Catholic Press Association's First Prize for Best Book on Gender Issues and also the Association's First Prize for Best Book on Social Concerns. Green Sisters documents the growing movement of environmentally activist Roman Catholic religious sisters in North America. In this book,Taylor challenges received notions of "liberal" and "conservative" in American Catholic historiography and offers a new understanding of how "tradition" itself works. Taylor crafted Green Sisters as both historical anthropology and anthropological history, specifically exploring in her work the development of the methodology of historical ethnography in American religious studies.

Taylor's current book project, Green Convergence: Religion, Environment, and Popular Culture explores variegated, complex, and frequently ironic representations of environmental issues in American popular culture.  Whether examining so-called “vegetarian” vampires, eco-feminist sci-fi, global warming video games, green funerals, environmental tattoos, or “eco-rappers,” Taylor makes the case that a detailed multi-channel, cross-platform approach to analyzing popular culture is critical to understanding the kind of important “work” pop culture is doing as both a mirror and engine for the “greening” of American sensibilities. What’s more, she demonstrates how the convergence of religion, environmentalism, and popular culture provides a particularly productive matrix for exploring broader theoretical shifts in the study of religion and culture. 

Taylor serves on the editorial boards for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and has served as both national co-chair of the “Religion and Ecology” section of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and chair of the "Religion, Ecology, and Culture" section of the Midwest region of the AAR.  She has also chaired the AAR's “Religion and Popular Culture” program unit at the national level and currently serves on the AAR’s “Religion, Media, and Culture” program unit steering committee. She chairs the joint Midwest Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association’s new “Nature and Environment in Popular Culture” research area.  While serving as Regionally Elected Director for AAR’s Midwest region and a member of AAR’s national Board of Directors, Taylor also directed the AAR’s Sustainability Task Force, a group that works to reduce the Academy’s ecological “footprint.”

Professor Taylor’s courses in the Religious Studies Department, Environmental Policy and Culture Program, and the American Studies Program at Northwestern, focus on aspects of American religion and culture and explore various understandings of the category of “religion” as it relates to ethnicity, women's experiences, the natural environment, and contested notions of “Americanness.”  

Fields of Specialization

Religion and American Culture
Religion and Environment
Religion, Media, and Popular Culture Studies
Gender Studies

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September 18, 2015