Research Interests: Contemporary indigenous traditions; religion and law, repatriation, method and theory
Primary Teaching Areas and Opportunities for Student Supervision: Indigenous religious traditions Contemporary American Indian and Hawaiian contexts Repatriation, reburial, NAGPRA Theory and method in the academic study of religion Religion and law Religion, discourse and rhetoric Ritual studies.
Greg Johnson received his B.A. degree from this department in 1990. He received his M.A. in 1992 and his Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Chicago. Johnson returned “home” to teach as a visiting instructor in this department during his dissertation writing years. He then taught at Franklin & Marshall College from 2002-2005. Johnson returned to the University of Colorado in 2005. Johnson’s research focuses upon contemporary indigenous religious traditions, especially as expressed in episodes of legal struggle. In particular, 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. In 2008 he visited the Makah Tribe of Washington State; in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010 Johnson conducted research on Maui, Hawai`i Island, and O`ahu. Recent invited lectures and presentations include: Sacred Land Symposium speaker, Wake Forest University (April 2011); Newark Earthwork Symposium speaker, The Ohio State University (May 2011); “Sacred Claims: Unexpected Relationships between Religion and Law in the Repatriation Context,” Fort Lewis College, Four Corners Lecture Series (September 2009); “Genealogy and the Limits of Articulation,” presented at the University of Iowa for a conference titled Performing Indigeneity: Historic and Contemporary Displays of Indigeneity in Public Spaces (May 2009); “Courting Culture,” presented at Franklin & Marshall College, Annual Religion in America lecture (April 2009); and “Mahi Speaks: Genealogy, Legal Categories, and the Limits of Articulation,” presented at the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, SUNY Buffalo, for a multi-year conference titled Re-Describing the Sacred/Secular Divide: The Legal Story (April 2009). Recent visitors to campus sponsored by Johnson include: Dana Naone Hall, poet and burial protection expert (spring 2011); Professor Roger Maaka, Eastern Technical Institute (fall 2010); Professor Ku'ualoha Ho'omanawanui, English, University of Hawai'i (spring 2010); Halealoha Ayau, Director of Hui Malama, an organization devoted to Hawaiian repatriation and burial protections (spring 2010 in conjunction with CU Denver Office of Diversity and Inclusion; spring 2008 in conjunction with CU Natural History Museum); Professor James Riding In, American Indian Studies, Arizona State University (spring 2008 in conjunction with CU Natural History Museum); Professor Russell McCutcheon, Religious Studies, University of Alabama (fall 2007, Lester Lecture); Guy Kaulukukui, former Vice President for Cultural Affairs, Bishop Museum (fall 2006); Professor Bruce Lincoln, Divinity School, University of Chicago (spring 2002). CHAIR, MASTERS PROGRAM COMMITTEES 2011 Kenneth Richards, "Bodies of Belief: The Problem of Religion in Navajo Nation v. USFS." 2010 Dominic Martinez, "Polynesian Saints: In-Between the Lived Religion of Polynesian Identities and Mormon Identities." 2009 Mason Auger, "The Lakota Sun Dance and the Symbol of the Enemy." 2009 Jason Purvis, "Having It Both Ways: Cultural Dissonance and the Conflict of Discourse in American Water-Baby Ceremonies." 2008 Seth Schermerhorn, "Regulating Desecration and the San Francisco Peaks: Native American Sacred Land Claims and the Problem of Authenticity." 2008 Eric Schuck, "LIterary Chronotopes as Social Structures: The Brothers Karamazov and Del amor y otros demonios." 2008 David Walsh, “Rez Rhythyms: An Analysis of Contemporary Hopi Reggae.” 2008 Amber Wood, "Sacred Choices: Reproductive Rights and the Politics of Identity Among the Lakota." 2007 Charles Harwood, "Performative Fiction: Articulating Religious Identites." COURSES TAUGHT RLST 2700 American Indian Religious Traditions RLST 6830 Introduction to the Academic Study of Religion RLST 5820 Contemporary Native American Religious Traditions RLST 5820 Past in the Present: Hawai`i RLST 4830 Rites of Passage (Senior Seminar)
Associate Professor and Chair (Ph.D., University of Chicago). He teaches in the areas of indigenous traditions, method and theory in the study of religion, and religion and law. Johnson’s research focuses on contemporary Native American and Native Hawaiian religious life, particularly in legal and political contexts. Repatriation issues (e.g., NAGPRA) are at the center of his current research. His recent publications include Sacred Claims: Repatriation and Living Tradition, “Social Lives of the Dead: Contestations and Continuities in Native Hawaiian Repatriation Contexts,” and “Apache Revelation: Making Religion in the Legal Sphere.” Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2003 Member, Executive Council of the North American Association for the Study of Religion Editorial Board, Religion Compass Faculty Council, Center of the American West.
Sacred Claims: Repatriation and Living Tradition. University of Virginia Press (2007). “Apache Revelation: Making Religion in the Legal Sphere.” In Secularism and Religion-Making, edited by Markus Dressler and Arvind Mandair. Oxford University Press (2011). "Courting Culture: Unexpected Relationships between Religion an Law in Contemporary Hawai'i." In After Secular Law, edited by Winnifred Sullivan, Robert Yelle, and Mateo Taussig. Stanford University Press (2011). “Social Lives of the Dead: Contestations and Continuities in Native Hawaiian Repatriation Contexts.” In Culture and Belonging: Symbolic Landscapes and Contesting Identity in Divided Societies, edited by Marc Ross. The University of Pennsylvania Press (2009). “Authenticity, Invention, Articulation: Theorizing Contemporary Hawaiian Traditions from the Outside.” In Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 20:3 (2008), 243-258. “Narrative Remains: Articulating Indian Identities in the Repatriation Context.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 47:3 (2005), 480-506. “Facing Down The Representation of an Impossibility: Indigenous Responses to a ‘Universal’ Problem in the Repatriation Context.” Culture and Religion 1:6 (2005), 57-78. “Incarcerated Tradition: Native Hawaiian Identities and Religious Practice In Prison Contexts.” In Historicizing Tradition in the Study of Religion, edited by Steven Engler and Gregory Grieve. Walter de Gruyter (2005), 195-210. “Naturally There: Discourses of Permanence in the Repatriation Context.” History of Religions 44:1 (2004), 36-55. “Ancestors Before Us: Manifestations of Tradition in a Hawaiian Dispute.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 71:2 (2003), 327-346. “Tradition, Authority and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.” Religion 32 (2002), 355-381.