By Joseph Rojas-Burke

Colleen McDannell: Professor of History and Sterling M. McMurrin Professor of Religious Studies

How religion functions in modern society is one of the most important questions asked in the humanities, and Colleen McDannell has given us path-breaking answers. Her first book, “The Christian Home in Victorian America,” and the highly regarded “Material Christianity” look beyond the conventional focus on church and clergy.

By considering family bibles, needlework and home furnishings, and even cemeteries she uses the home and family to understand religious practice and history. Her attentiveness to everyday life, which scholars have often dismissed, allow her to more fully reveal the role of women as agents in American religious history. In “Heaven: A History,” McDannell and her co-author broke new ground by analyzing popular representations of the afterlife along with the intellectual speculations of elites.  A Guggenheim Fellowship supported her research on photography, religion and the New Deal.  “McDannell’s resourcefulness in conceiving of new sources for the study of American religion has made her a model for other scholars,” says an admiring colleague.

McDannell earned her B.A. at the University of Colorado, M.A. at the University of Denver, and Ph.D. at Temple University. She joined the University of Utah faculty in 1989 as Sterling M. McMurrin Chair in Religious Studies and was named full professor in 1996.


Joseph Rojas-Burke is a communication specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email him at joe.rojas@utah.edu.