Associate Professor of American Religious History
Professor Wenger’s research and teaching interests include the history of Christianity in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States (especially the American West), the cultural history of the categories of religion and secularism, the politics of religious freedom, and the intersections of race and religion in American history. Her book We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (2009) shows how dominant conceptions of religion and religious freedom affected the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico as they sought to protect their religious ceremonies from government suppression, and how that struggle helped reshape mainstream views of religion and the politics of Indian affairs. She is now writing a history of religious freedom as an American ideal, tracing its multiple and shifting deployments throughout U.S. history. Other publications include articles in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, History of Religions, Journal of the Southwest, and Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, along with chapters in several edited volumes. Before joining the YDS faculty, Professor Wenger taught at Arizona State University and was a Bill and Rita Clements Research Fellow at Southern Methodist University’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies. She was recently awarded a Lilly Foundation Research Grant from the Association of Theological Schools.
"To some degree, setting apart certain ceremonies or certain land as 'religious' or 'sacred' creates a new distinction between these spheres of life and others that come to be marked in opposition as 'secular' or 'profane.' As in the dance controversy, the introduction of such terms may change the ways in which Native Americans view their own traditions. However… these concepts have become indigenous ones, and Indians have actively reinterpreted them to fulfill indigenous needs." (265)
Ph.D., Princeton University
M.A., Claremont Graduate University
B.A., Eastern Mennonite University
We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (University of North Carolina Press, 2009)