Biography: Dr. Holly Walters is a cultural anthropologist and lecturer in anthropology and religion at Wellesley College. She received her PhD from Brandeis University. Her ethnographic work focuses on Shaligram (sacred ammonite) practice in Nepal, in India, and among the global South Asian Diaspora. She is the author of Shaligram Pilgrimage in the Nepal Himalayas (Amsterdam University Press, 2020) as well as a second upcoming book on Shaligram interpretive practice due out in 2023. She also has multiple article publications on ritual and divine personhood in South Asia discussing topics such as the language of fossil folklores, deity darshan, digital religion, and robot ritual performance.
Follow her on Twitter @Manigarm.
- PhD, Anthropology, 2013-2018 Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Dissertation Title: Shaligram: Sacred Stones, Ritual Practices, and the Politics of Mobility in Nepal.“
- Master of Arts, Anthropology, 2011-2013 Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.
- Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology; Certificate: Archaeology, 2001-2004 University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI.
Mustang and Kathmandu, Nepal: June – August 2015, June 2016 – April 2017
- 16 months of ethnographic/participant-observation fieldwork in Nepal supported by the Fulbright IIE Dissertation Research Grant.
- Worked primarily with Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims, and local Mustangi Bon shamans, in relation to Shaligram pilgrimage, ritual practices, spiritual ideals, and both textual and oral religious traditions.
Mayapur and Kolkata, India: June-August 2012
- Ethnographic study on ritual practices among Vaishnava/Krishna devotees in Mayapur and Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
- This project was supported by grants from the Brandeis Department of Anthropology and the Brandeis Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. (Preliminary work was presented to the Society for Religious Anthropology in November 2012 during the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in San Francisco)
Programme for Belize Rio Bravo Project: Chawak but-o-ob, Orange Walk, Belize; June-July 2005
- Archaeological survey of water control features and residential terraces.
- Excavation and stone-by-stone mapping of Mayan house structures in relation to religious structures, such as a temple and ball court. (This research has been published in the Occasional Publication series by the University of Texas. It also appears as part of several papers of the 2006 Society for American Archaeology Symposium regarding the site of Chawak But-o-ob.)
Lecturer in Anthropology: Wellesley College, Department of Anthropology; 2019-Present
– Courses: Introduction to Anthropology (ANTH 101), Advanced Anthropological Theory (ANTH 301), Ethnography in/of South Asia (ANTH/SAS 237), Divine Madness – Culture and Mental Illness (ANTH/REL 236), The Anthropology of Religion (ANTH/REL 233)
Lecturer: Babson College, Department of History and Society; 2019
– Courses: Culture and Mental Illness
Lecturer: Brandeis University, Department of Anthropology, 2016
– Courses: Culture and Mental Illness, The Anthropology of Religion
Teaching Fellow: Brandeis University, Department of Anthropology; 2012 – 2015, 2018-2019
– Courses: Post-Colonial Feminism, Culture and Mental Illness, Global Pandemics, Linguistic Anthropology, Psychological Anthropology, Myth and Ritual, Queer Anthropology, Museums and Public Memory, Communication and Media
Open Access copies of most of my publications can be found at: https://wellesley.academia.edu/HollyWalters
Walters, Holly. Shaligram Pilgrimage in the Nepal Himalayas. (2020). Amsterdam University Press. New Mobilities in Asia Ethnographic Series.
- (Order Link: https://www.aup.nl/en/book/9789463721721/shaligram-pilgrimage-in-the-nepal-himalayas)
- Read the TOC and Chapter 1 HERE
- Read Chapter 3: Picked up Pieces HERE
- Read Chapter 4: A Mirror to Our Being HERE
- Read Chapter 5: A Bridge to Everywhere HERE
- Read Chapter 6: Turning to Stone HERE
- Read Chapter 8: Ashes and Immortality HERE
Walters, Holly. Outward Spirals: Shaligram Interpretive Traditions. TLS Press. (In Press, March 2024).
Walters, Holly. “But What Is It Really? The Problem of Science, Pseudoscience, and Religion in Fossil Folklores.” (In Press, 2024). In Addressing Pseudo-Archaeology: A Guide for Teachers and Professionals. Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.
Walters, Holly. “Fear Itself: Vampires as Moral Panics.” (2021) in Monstrous Males/Fatal Females: Gender, Supernatural Beings, and the Liminality of Death, Rebecca Gibson and Jay VanderVeen, eds., Lexington Books.
Walters, Holly, Simon MacKenzie, Donna Yates, and Diana Berzina. “What a Fossil Wants: Rationality, Object Agency, and the More-Than-Human Construction of the Legal Subject.” The Journal of Art Crime. ARCA. (Under Review)
Walters, Holly. “Etched in Stone: Shaligrams as Object-Texts.” Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. Taylor and Francis. Oxfordshire, UK. (In Press, 2024).
Walters, Holly. “Cornerstones: Shaligrams as Kin.” The Journal of Religion. University of Chicago Press. Volume 102: 1. Jan. 2022.
Walters, Holly and Hannah Gould. “Bad Buddhists, Good Robots: Techno-Salvationist Designs for Nirvana.” Journal of Global Buddhism, Special Issue on Bad Buddhism. November 2020.
Walters, Holly. “The Things We Believe: Feminism and Anthropology in the #MeToo Era.” Feminist Anthropology. Issue 1.1 The F Word: Anthropology’s Feminisms. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. April 2020.
Walters, Holly. “I Am Not This Body: Persons, Bodies, and Boundaries in Vaishnava Ritual Practice.” Sagar: A South Asia Research Journal. University of Texas at Austin. December 2018.
Walters, Holly. “Playing God: Participant Frameworks in the Ras Lilas of Krishna.” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Volume 28, Issue 2-3. University of Toronto Press. Fall 2016.
Guides and Seminar Materials:
Hanes, Amy and Holly Walters. 2018. “A Long Journey Home: Supporting Students in the Field.” Online. Retrieved from: https://metooanthro.org
Walters, Holly and Kersten Bergstrom. 2019. “A Long Journey Home: Faculty Guide.” Online. Retrieved from: https://metooanthro.org
Walters, Holly. 2022. “Hear #MeToo in India by Pallavi Guha.” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. Taylor and Francis.
ANTH/SAS 237: The Ethnography in/of South Asia
ANTH 301: Advanced Anthropological Theory – The Canon in Conversation
ANTH 101: Introduction to Anthropology
ANTH 236: Divine Madness/Culture and Mental Illness
ANTH 233/REL 233: The Anthropology of Religion (COVID version)
ANTH 233/REL 233: The Anthropology of Religion (Full course)
Fellowships and Awards:
- Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation Writing Year Fellowship, 2017-2018
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
- Fulbright IIE Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, 2016-2017
Fulbright U.S. Student Program
- Robert A. Manners Prize, 2016
Honoring a significant piece of scholarly writing for “Playing God: Participant Frameworks in the Ras Lilas of Krishna.”
- Brandeis Outstanding Teaching Fellows Award, 2016
- Mellon Foundation Pre-Dissertation Exploratory Grant, 2015
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Brandeis University
- Brandeis-India Fellowship Research Grant, 2015
Department of South Asian Studies, Brandeis University
“Shaligrams are Becoming Rarer Due to Climate Change.” Associated Press (AP) News, The Conversation, Kalpana Jain, Ed. August 2023
“Bad Buddhists, Good Robots.” Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Frederick Ranallo-Higgins, Ed. May, 2023
“Robots are Performing Hindu Rituals.” Associated Press (AP) News, The Conversation, Kalpana Jain, Ed. March, 2023
“Shaligrams in the Presses.” New Books Network interview with Dr. Raj Balkaran. 2022.
The #MeToo Anthro Collective
A Long Journey Home: Supporting Students in the Field – Task Force founder and Working Member, 2015 – 2022
The Fieldwork Initiative with #MeToo Anthro Interview – 2020
#MeToo Anthropology and the Case Against Harvard (SAPIENS.org) – 2022
G20 Interfaith Working Group on Science, Technology, and Infrastructure – Working Member, 2021
The Familiar Strange Anthropology Blog, Contributing Writer
2018 – Present
- Living Fossils
- MeToo Anthropology
- Fluid Masculinity: The Case of Krishna
- On Being Declared Missing in the Himalayas
- A Tale of Two Manuscripts
- Shaligram Stone in an Ammonite World
- Balancing Acts: An Ethnographer’s Reflections on the Study of Religion
- The Fallible and the Untrustworthy: Writing Culture as the Unreliable Narrator
- Introducing Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective – Textbook Review
- Mission by Mail: Evangelism in a Pandemic
- Boob Boxes: Post-Mastectomy Prosthetics and the Artifice of Breast Cancer
- My Divine Pet Rock: Notes on Gender and Authority in Anthropology
- Breath-Taking: Magic and Experience in the Himalayas
- Bring Me The Head of Norman Vincent Peale: Self Care and the American Obsession with the Power of Positive Thinking
- A Trinket, A Trifle, and a Novel New Disciple: Fandoms and Consecrated Commodities
- A Nation of Mini-Me’s: Why White Nationalists Need to “Save the Children”
- The Way By: Reflections on Novel Writing in Anthropology
- Ad-Hoc Block: Dystopian Worlds and the War for Advertising
- Victorian Pseudoscience on a Netflix Budget: “Ancient Apocalypse” and the Paradox of Science Communication Online
- Teaching from the Textbooks: An Archaeology of the Current Historical Moment
- A Better Way to Namaste
- Diversity According to Whiteness
The Geek Anthropologist – Contributing Writer
- Choosing Your Own Adventure: My Life as A Teenage Dungeon Master and How it Prepared Me to Become an Anthropologist
Podcasts and Other Interviews
Invited Lectures (Selected):
On a Robot and a Prayer. – September 2021
The Religion Lab. University of Virginia.
Shaligram Traditions and Interpretive Practices – March 2020
Invited talk and Shaligram interpretive workshop for the Satsang Center (Hindu Community Center) – Boston, MA.
Fossil Folklores of the Himalayas – April 2018
Invited talk and 2-day lecture series by the Anthropology and Folklore Departments of Northwest College in Wyoming.
The History and Interpretive Traditions of Shaligram Practice in India and Nepal – April 2017
Invited and sponsored by the Hindu Cultural Society of London to conduct a 3-day seminar on Shaligram practices for the Hindu community and Diaspora of England.
Lecture Recording Day 1
Lecture Recording Day 2
Conference Presentations (Selected):
Presenter, 7th International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots. Virtual. Nov 2022.
Paper title: “Godly Robots: Automating Adoration Through Robot Ritual Performance.”
Roundtable Presenter, American Anthropological Association (AAA), Seattle, WA, Nov 2022.
Roundtable title: “Risks and Harms of Fieldwork and Fieldworkers in Anthropology.”
Roundtable Organizer and Moderator, American Anthropological Association (AAA), Vancouver, BC. Nov 2019
Roundtable title: Consent and Vulnerability in Anthropological Practice
Workshop Director, Alt-Sex Conference, New York City, NY May 2019
Workshop title: Queer Identity and Activism in South Asia
Panel Chair and Presenter, American Anthropological Association (AAA), Washington D. C. Nov 2014
Paper title: “Matters of Pride: The Construction of Race in White Power Rhetoric“
Panel Chair and Presenter, American Anthropological Association (AAA), Chicago, IL Nov 2013
Paper title: “I Am Not This Body: Persons, Bodies, and Boundaries in Vaishnava Ritual Practice”
Presenter, American Anthropological Association (AAA), San Francisco, CA Nov 2012
Paper title: “Divine Husband, Divine Lover: Sensuality, Subjectivity, and Sacred Space Among the Krishna Devotees of Sri Mayapur“
Presenter, NEAA-GBAC Conference, Boston, MA March 2012
Paper title: “Father Knows Best: Personhood and Power in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)
Complete CV available for download at: https://wellesley.academia.edu/HollyWalters/CurriculumVitae