Carter Higgins

Carter Higgins
  • Lecturer
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences, Religious Studies

Contact Info

Bailey Hall, Room 303J
1440 Jayhawk Blvd.
Lawrence, KS 66045


Ph.D. in Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture , Cornell University, 2016
M.A. in Asian Studies , Cornell University, 2010
B.A. in Religion, Wake Forest University, 2007


Carter Hawthorne Higgins is an interdisciplinary scholar of Hinduism and globally connected social changes in 20th and 21st-century North India and Nepal. His current research interests lie at the intersection of pilgrimage, religiocharitable development, and the bureaucratic management of devotional sites in India. He has conducted nineteen months of fieldwork in Rajasthan, India, and eight months in Kathmandu, Nepal, predominantly exploring temple networks and lay communities associated with the Nath Sampraday, whose forebears once served as the foremost lineages of heterodox Shaiva ascetics in northern South Asia. He is particularly fascinated by the ways in which socioeconomic and political shifts on interpenetrating local, regional, national, and global scales are registered in devotional subjectivity and changing senses and articulations of inheritance and belonging.  


Building on research supported by the Social Science Research Council and other grants, Carter Higgins’s first book manuscript, entitled Saintly Investments: Pilgrimage, Development, and Contemporary Hinduism in India, offers a close-range ethnographic analysis of the intersection of developmental charity and Hinduization in a pluralistic religious milieu—a milieu which is marked by a focus on divine miracles, the bureaucratization of religion, ongoing market reforms, and the welfare and historiographic strategies of actors associated with the Hindu nationalist movement. The project works outward from eleven months of fieldwork at the popular but little-studied pilgrimage site of Gogameri, Rajasthan, where Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh pilgrims—especially from the lower strata of North Indian society—worship at the architecturally Islamic tomb of the oral-epic hero-deity, Gogaji, and the politically influential monastic temple of the medieval yogi, Gorakhnath. Told through the perspectives of pilgrimage priests, the religiocharitable trusts of pilgrims, and low-level bureaucrats in the Rajasthan government, the project illustrates the decentralized, multiply motivated, and sometimes conflictual ways in which Gogameri is being delinked from older epic narratives and commemorative ritual practices—which now strike many as partially and illegitimately Islamic—and tied instead to broader configurations of contemporary Hinduism.  

Research interests:

  • Religion in contemporary India and Nepal
  • Hinduism
  • Religion, economy, governance, and politics
  • Charity, religious philanthropy, and their transformations in liberalizing economies
  • Gurus, ascetics, and their relationships with devotional publics


At KU, Carter Higgins has taught courses in the Department of Religious Studies on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Yoga and Meditation as well as a directed reading on Religion, Colonialism, and Nationalism in India. He has also taught a first-year seminar in the Honors Program on Global India at Home and Abroad. Prior to coming to KU, he taught courses on Hinduism; Religion in South Asia; Ethnographic Methods in Religious Studies; Religion and Globalization; Religion, Science, and Technology; and Magic, Science, and Religion.  

Teaching interests:

  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • Yoga and Meditation
  • Global India
  • Religion in India and South Asia
  • Religion, Colonialism, & Nationalism in India & South Asia

Selected Publications

“The Evocative Partnership of a Monastic Nāth Temple in Contemporary Rajasthan,” in The Power of Nāth Yogīs: Yogic Charisma, Political Influence and Social Authority, edited by Daniela Bevilacqua and Eloisa Stuparich, “Religion and Society in Asia” series (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press), pp. 249-279. 


“Hindu Bakaph? Charitable Development and Trust Sovereignty in ‘Neoliberal’ India.” The Muslim World. Special Issue: “Muslim Endowments in Asia: Waqf, Charity and Circulations.” Vol. 18 (Oct.): 652-675. 


“Ritual and Recognition in India.” Journal of Ritual Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2: 1-12. 

Awards & Honors

International Dissertation Research Fellowship, awarded by the Social Science Research Council (2012-2013) 


Junior Fellowship, American Institute of Indian Studies (2012-2013; declined)  


American Academy of Religion