Donovan Schaefer

Donovan Schaefer

Associate Professor of Religious Studies


226 Cohen Hall


Donovan Schaefer joined the Department of Religious Studies in 2017, after spending three years as a lecturer at the University of Oxford. He earned his B.A. in the interdisciplinary Religion, Literature, and the Arts program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His master’s and doctoral degrees are from the Religion program at Syracuse University. After completing his PhD, he held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Haverford College.

His research focuses on the role of embodiment and feeling in religion, science, material culture, and formations of the secular. His first book, Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power (Duke 2015) challenged the notion that religion is inextricably linked to language and belief, proposing instead that it is primarily driven by affects. His follow-up volume The Evolution of Affect Theory: The Humanities, the Sciences, and the Study of Power  (Cambridge 2019) looked at the history of engagement between affect theory and the life sciences.

His most recent book, Wild Experiment: Feeling Science and Secularism after Darwin (Duke 2022) explored the intersections between affect theory, science, and critical approaches to the secular. Wild Experiment won the Ludwik Fleck Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) and the International Society for Science and Religion book prize in 2023.

In addition to his appointment in Religious Studies, he is Core Faculty in the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and a member of the graduate group in Comparative Literature.


PhD, Syracuse University
M.A., Syracuse University
B.A., University of British Columbia

Research Interests

Theories of Embodiment, Affect, and Emotion

Material Culture Studies

Religion and Power

Science and Religion

Secularism Studies

Courses Taught

Sacred Stuff: Religious Bodies, Places, and Things

Science and Religion

Religion and Evolution

Affect Theory and Power

Theory and Method in the Study of Religion

Religion and Cinema

Selected Publications

Core Faculty, Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies

Member of the Graduate Group, Comparative Literature.

CV (file)