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Book: On the Subject of Religion

Chapter: Response: Drugs, Dog Chow, and Dharma

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.41082


This response uses three examples of private funding in the field of religious studies to examine the role such funding has played and continues to play in the field. First, the Lilly Endowment, funded through the wealth of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly Company, has played a central funding role in the subfield of American religious history. Second, the Danforth Foundation, whose funds are rooted in the Ralston Purina animal food company, funded the founding of dozens of religious studies departments in the 1960s and 70s. Lastly, the Dharma Civilization Foundation attempted to fund two endowed chairs in Hindu Studies at the University of California at Irvine. In 2016 Their $3 million gift was returned by the university after faculty and graduate students protested and accused the DCF of being a right-wing Hindu nationalist group. These three examples show how private funding has always been central to the field of religious studies, how funders and scholars have a variety of interests behind their funding and funding requests, and how their have always been limits to what sorts of funding is possible within religious studies.

Chapter Contributors

  • Michael Altman ( - maltman) 'University of Alabama'