School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies

Dr Rick Weiss

Senior Lecturer
School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies

Phone: 04 463 6726
Location: Room 205, 14 Kelburn Parade, Kelburn Campus

Dr Rick Weiss


PhD (Chicago)

Research specialties

Rick specialises in South Asian religious cultures and history. His current research examines religious change in 19th century India, with attention to new expressions of Hinduism. This research focuses specifically on Ramalinga Adigal and Arumuga Navalar, two key figures in Tamil Shaivism. Rick has written a book on the intersection of healing, science, and community in the defence of siddha medicine, a traditional medical system of South India. His next project will focus on the impact of print technology on religion in colonial India.

Current research projects

Rick's research interests focus on:

  • Tamil Hinduism
  • religion and colonialism
  • healing systems
  • South Asian religion

Marsden grant

For my Marsden-funded research (2011 - 2013), I will examine important projects of Hindu religious innovation in nineteenth-century South India. These projects entailed re-imagining caste, gender, ritual practices, and sources of authority. My principal aim is to consider the impact of colonial and missionary forces on the ways that Hindus reconceived their traditions at the beginning of the modern era. By emphasising non-elite responses to colonialism, this research will challenge prevailing scholarly narratives of the development of contemporary Hinduism.

Selected publications


  • Recipes for Immortality: Healing, Religion, and Community in South India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Journal articles:

  • "Religion and the Emergence of Print in Colonial India: Arumuga Navalar's Publishing Project." Indian Economic and Social History Review (53.40: Forthcoming.
  • Accounting for Religious Change: Ramalinga's Transformation of Hindu Giving in Nineteenth-Century India." History of Religions (56.1): 108-138.
  • Print, Religion and Canon in colonial India: The Publication of Ramalinga Adigal's Tiruvarutpa." Modern Asian Studies (49.3): 650-677.
  • Print, Religion, and Canon in Colonial India: The Publication of Ramalinga Adigal's Tiruvarutpa." Modern Asian Studies, Firstview Article, 2014 28 pages.
  • "The Limits of Inventing Tradition: The Dravidian Movement in South India." In Tradition as a Resource: Invention, Innovation, Inheritance. A Special Issue of the Australian Religion Studies Review 20.1: 59-75. 2007.
  • "The Global Guru: Sai Baba and the Miracle of the Modern." In New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 7.2 (2005): 5-19.

Chapter in edited volume:

  • "Divorcing Ayurveda: Siddha Medicine and the Quest for Uniqueness." In Modern and Global Ayurveda: Pluralism and Paradigms, edited by Dagmar Wujastyk and Frederick M. Smith, 77-99. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008.
  • "The Autonomy of Tradition: Creating Space for Indian Medicine." In Historicizing Tradition (Religion and Society 43), edited by Gregory Grieve and Steven Engler, 175-194. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2005.
  • "Illuminating the Half-life of Tradition: Legitimation, Agency and Counter-Hegemonies." With Gregory Grieve. In Historicizing "Tradition" in the Study of Religion (Religion and Society 43), edited by Steven Engler and Gregory P. Grieve, 1-15. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2005.

Click here to see full list of publications  by Rick Weiss.

Administrative responsibilities

  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Academic Leave Committee
  • Academic library liaison
  • Asian Studies Institute Executive Board