Loriliai Biernacki
Associate Professor
Religious Studies

Office: HUMN 278

Research Interests: 

Hinduism, Religion and Science, Tantra, Gender, Panentheism

Primary Teaching Areas and Opportunities for Student Supervision

  • Hinduism
  • Tantra
  • Gender Studies
  • Religion and Science
  • Asian Religions in America


Loriliai Biernacki (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests include Hinduism, the interface between religion and science, and gender. Her first book, Renowned Goddess of Desire: Women, Sex and Speech in Tantra (Oxford, 2007) won the Kayden Award in 2008. She is co-editor of God’s Body: Panentheism across World Religions coming out with Oxford University Press in 2013. She is currently working on a study of the 11th century Indian philosopher Abhinavagupta that addresses notions of selfhood, body and cosmology. She is also currently working on the interstices between religion, science and panentheism.

Loriliai Biernacki grew up in the deep rural South, in Louisiana , imbibing the hot humid summers full of lazy afternoons swimming in the creeks amidst the local alligators. How she made it to study on the East coast is a wonder, since neither she, nor anyone she knew, actually realized that it was possible to go to any other college than LSU or Southeastern University in Hammond, Louisiana until her senior year in high school when a mysterious recruiter for Princeton offered her the opportunity to skip out on a math test. She received her Bachelor's degree in English from Princeton University, where she studied creative writing, with an emphasis in poetry. She still enjoys poetry and once received honorable mention in a national poetry contest for a poem on her take on Indian philosophy, titled "Dvaita." Emboldened by the relish of Indian food, with such a wondrous plethora of vegetarian variety, her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania brought her to new and foreign shores as she studied the 11th century Indian Tantric thinker Abhinavagupta. 
Apart from her study of Indian religions with an emphasis on Tantra, her favorite superhero is Max Guevara, that is, after Che Guevara. She hopes one day to penetrate Abhinavagupta's arcane philosophy well enough to get a clue about the fabulous siddhis Tantra promises. She is currently deeply engaged in Abhinavagupta’s ideas of cosmology and the body with a study and translation of one of his as yet untranslated texts.

Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D., Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 2000


  • Assistant Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder (1999-2006)
  • Associate Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder (2007-present)

Selected Publications

Books (Peer-reviewed):

  • Co-Editor: God’s Body: Panentheism Across the World’s Religious Traditions Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • The Renowned Goddess of Desire: Women, Sex and Speech in Tantra, Oxford University Press, 2007. Winner of the Kayden Book Award, 2008

Peer Reviewed Articles:

  • “Words and Word-bodies: Writing the Religious Body,” in Words. Religious Language Matters, Hemel, Ernst van den, and Asja Szafraniec, Eds., New York: Fordham University Press, forthcoming, 2014 (in press).
  • “The Paranormal Body.” Paranthropology 5:1, (2014), 81-92.
  • “Miming Manu: Authority and Mimicry in a Tantric Context,” Journal of South Asian Studies, 36:4 (2014) 644-660.
  • "Abhinavagupta's Theogrammatical Topography of the One and the Many," in Divine Multiplicities: Trinities and Diversities, Chris Boesel, Ed., New York: Fordham Press, 2014, 85-105.
  • “Panentheism Outside the Box” in God’s Body: Panentheism Across the World’s Religious Traditions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, 1-17.
  • “Panentheism and Hindu Tantra: Abhinavagupta’s Grammatical Cosmology” in God’s Body: Panentheism Across the World’s Religious Traditions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, 161-176.
  • “The Yoginī and the Tantric Sex Rite, or How to Keep a Secret” in ‘Yoginī’ in South Asia: Interdisciplinary Approaches. Istvan Keul, Ed. New York: Routledge Press, 2013, 213-225.
  • "Real Men Say No: Representations of Masculinity in Hinduism" in English Language Notes, Fall/Winter 2012, 50:2, 49-62.
  • “Towards A Tantric Nondualist Ethics through Abhinavagupta’s Notion of Rasa” in Oxford Journal of Hindu Studies, 4:3 October 2011, 4:3 October 2011, 258-273.  
  • "The Absent Mother and Bodied Speech: Psychology and Gender in Late Medieval Tantra" in Transformations and Transfer of Tantra in Asia and Beyond, Istvan Keul, Ed., De Gruyter Press, December 2011, 215-238.
  • "Kālī Practice: Revisiting Women's Roles in Tantra" in Woman and Goddess in Hinduism: Reinterpretations and Re-envisionings, ed. Tracy Pintchman and Rita Sherma, Palgrave-McMillan, 2011, pp.121-145.
  • "Wilhelm Halbfass: India and Philology": in Religious Studies Review, 33:2 August 2007, pp. 95–111.
  • "Possession, Absorption and the Transformation of Samāveśa" in Expanding and Merging Horizons: Contributions to South Asian and Cross-cultural Studies in Commemoration of Wilhelm Halbfass, Ed., Karin Preisendanz, Veroffentlichungen zu den Sprachen und KulturenSudasiens series. Wien: Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2007 and Varanasi: Motilal Banarsidass 2007, 491-505.
  • “Sex Talk and Gender Rites: Women and Tantric Sex” in International Journal of Hindu Studies, 10:2 August, 2006, pp. 187–208.
  • "Shree Maa of Kamakkhya" in The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the US, Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 179–202.