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Robert Orsi

Professor of Religious Studies

Ph.D., Yale, 1983


Geographic Field(s):  American History, Since 1900

Thematic Field(s):  Religious History; Urban History

Principal Research Interest(s):  U.S. Religious, Social, Cultural, Urban


Robert A. Orsi (Ph.D., Yale, 1983) is the first holder of the Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies in the Religion Department; he holds a joint appointment in History. Before coming to Northwestern, he taught at at Fordham University at Lincoln Center from 1981 to 1988, at Indiana University from 1988 to 2001, and at Harvard Divinity School from 2001 to 2007. He was president of the American Academy of Religion in 2002-03. He studies American Catholicism in both historical and ethnographic perspective, and he is widely recognized also for his work on theory and method for the study of religion.

His first book, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950 (Yale, 1985, 2nd ed. 2002), received the John Gilmary Shea Prize from the American Catholic Historical Association and the Jesuit National Book Award. This was followed by Thank You, Saint Jude: Women’s Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes (Yale, 1996), which won the Merle Curti Award in American Social History from the Organization of American Historians, and has been the subject of symposia at Yale, Princeton, the American Academy of Religions, and the Association for the Sociology of Religion.Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them(Princeton, 2004) received an Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion and has been the focus of symposia at Fordham, Princeton, and the American Academy of Religion. Orsi has also edited Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape (Indiana, 1999).

He is currently at work on The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies and on a social and cultural history of 20th-century Catholic childhoods in the United States, to be published by Harvard University Press.