David J. Howlett, Historian of Religion in America


A specialist in American religions, I teach at Smith College and have served as a professor at Kenyon College, Skidmore College, and Bowdoin College. My research asks how religious minorities participate in the construction of centers and peripheries, manage internal dissent and difference, and develop strategies to distinguish themselves from and proffer critique of more powerful groups. These interests have led me to conduct ethnographic research in the US, India, and the Philippines, as well as more traditional archival research.

Beyond research and teaching, I serve on the boards of two journals and the steering committee for the Global Mormon Studies network, a group that brings together scholars from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. I am also the president-elect of the Mormon History Association and have been the program chair or a conference committee member for many Mormon studies conferences. I also recently ended a term on the vestry of my local Episcopal parish and volunteer as one of the official church historians for Community of Christ.

My younger self never imagined I would do any of this. As an undergraduate, I attended the University of Central Missouri on a full-tuition scholarship and graduated as a certified high school social studies instructor. After graduation, I worked as a substitute teacher and attended graduate school at night to earn a masters degree in history at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. There, I met mentors who believed in my potential as a professor. Six years after earning my MA, I graduated with a PhD in religious studies (American religious history) from The University of Iowa and took my first job at Kenyon College.

Currently, I reside with my spouse, the Rev. Anna Woofenden, and our young daughter in Easthampton, Massachusetts. We are overjoyed to be parents to a toddler and grateful for the circles of care that surround us.