Faculty Biography - Charles M. Townsend

Faculty Biography - Charles M. Townsend

Charles M. Townsend

Charles M. Townsend

Associate Professor of Humanities and Philosophy

B.A. (Summa Cum Laude) in Religious Studies/Comparative Cultures (double major), Whittier College
M.A. in Religious Studies, University of California, Riverside
Ph.D. in Religious Studies, University of California, Riverside

Personal Statement

Charles M. Townsend teaches courses at Oakton in the areas of World Religions and World Mythologies. Prior to coming to Oakton, he taught a broad array of courses in the Religious Studies departments of both the University of California, Riverside (CA) and Whittier College (Whittier, CA). His teaching and research interests cover a wide variety of topics in the academic study of religion and culture. Some of his specific areas of expertise are Asian religions at ‘home’ and ‘in diaspora’; Sikh Studies; religious diversity and religion, race, and ethnicity in America; 'lived religion' and 'cultural' approaches to the study of religion; new religious movements; sacred sound; and ritual and performance studies.

Charles is passionate about extending the classroom environment into the world beyond the classroom and connecting students with living local communities that practice the religious traditions he discusses in the classroom. He is currently working on two academic book projects: a history and living 'biography' of the Sikh religion's most sacred site and global ritual beating heart, the Harimandir Sahib; and an ethnographic and historical study of transnational Sikhism focused especially on the internationally mobile performers of Gurbani kirtan (musical performance of the hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib, the primary Sikh scripture) and the mass movement to teach young Sikhs outside of India how to perform Sikh sacred music. Most of Charles' academic publications reflect a research specialization in the study of the global Sikh tradition, they include:

(Editor) Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory, Special Issue on “Sikh Texts, Practices, and  Performances”, Vol. 10, No. 3 (December). Routledge Periodicals, Taylor and Francis Group, 2014.

“'Keeping the Faith Alive': Teaching Sikh Kirtan in America” in Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory, Vol. 10, No. 3 (December), 355-354. Routledge Periodicals, Taylor and Francis Group, 2014.

“Introduction: Engaging Sikh Texts, Practices, and Performances” in Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory, Vol. 10, No. 3 (December), 285-298. Routledge Periodicals, Taylor and Francis Group, 2014.

“The Darbar Sahib” in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Singh and Fenech, eds. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

“'Performance' and 'Lived Religion' Approaches as New Ways of 'Re-Imagining' Sikh Studies” in Re-Imagining South Asian Religions: Essays in Honour of Professors Harold G. Coward and Ronald W. Neufeldt. Numen Book Series: Studies in the History of Religions. Singh and Hawley, eds. Boston, MA and Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Publications, 2013.

Gurbani Kirtan and the Performance of Sikh Identity in California” in Sikhism in Global Context. Edited by Pashaura Singh. New York, Oxford, and New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011.