Clara Schoonmaker

Clara Schoonmaker

PhD Student Critique, Image, and Politics

514 Hall of Languages



Clara’s research explores how members of New Religious Movements negotiate the American religious landscape. She examines how definitions of religion and religious pluralism are articulated on an institutional level -specifically through such mechanisms as the American legal system- as well as on the ground in daily interactions between members of mainstream and minority religions. She is interested in how the particular construction of these concepts forecloses possibilities of social recognition and political rights for religious practitioners whose structures of belief and practice do not map onto a framework which is historically conditioned by the legacy of Christianity in America. For her dissertation project she plans to conduct ethnographic research on Neopagan communities in order to demonstrate how members’ of marginalized religious groups struggles to become established modes of American religiosity complicate the narrative of American religious pluralism. She is interested in how marginalized religious groups work to challenge and broaden these oftentimes limited conceptions of religion in America.

(B.A., Michigan State University, Interdisciplinary Humanities: Religion, Philosophy, History, 2012; M.A. Religion, Syracuse University, 2015).