Associate Professor
Religious Studies


Ph.D., Religious Studies, University of Chicago, 2003
M.A., University of Chicago, 1992
B.A., Religious Studies, University of Colorado Boulder, 1990

Regional and Thematic Interests



Dr. Johnson explores repatriation and reburial disputes in American Indian and Hawaiian contexts as a means to understand the ways religious claims are announced, enlivened, and contested in the contemporary moment. His first book, Sacred Claims: Repatriation and Living Tradition (UVA Press) was published in 2007. Sacred Claims has been reviewed widely, including in History of Religions, American Anthropologist, and Journal of American History. Building upon the comparative strategy of Sacred Claims, Johnson’s current book project is provisionally entitled Religion in the Moment: Contemporary Lives of Indigenous Traditions. This project addresses several unfolding repatriation disputes in relationship to their larger cultural and historical frames. In an effort to theorize these disputes with reference to significant currents in the postcolonial study of religion, Johnson explores intra-communal tensions and religious differences in moments of intense friction to illuminate how such episodes animate cultural life and generate or amplify religious sensibilities. Beyond repatriation, Johnson’s research focuses upon indigenous subsistence strategies, sacred land issues, religious life in prisons, and the cultural politics of sovereignty struggles. Johnson maintains a regular research schedule, which includes field research in Hawai`i and in various American Indian communities and attending the bi-annual Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee meetings.