Michael Allen headshot
MA

Michael S. Allen

Assistant Professor
Unit: College of Arts and Sciences
Department: Department of Religious Studies
Office location and address
1540 Jefferson Park Ave
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
Education
PhD, Harvard University
MTS, Harvard Divinity School
BA, University of South Carolina
Biography

Michael S. Allen works on philosophy, religion, and ecology in South Asia, drawing on both Sanskrit and early Hindi sources. He specializes in the intellectual history of Vedānta, with wider interests in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions. He is currently working on a book titled The Most Influential Book in India: The Ocean of Inquiry and the History of Advaita Vedanta, focusing on the magnum opus of the North Indian monk Niścaldās (ca. 1791 - 1863). He is also working on a project examining the relationship between theory and practice in classical Indian philosophy, with an eye to applying the insights of Indian philosophers to contemporary environmental concerns: how does one bridge the gap between merely theoretical knowledge and a deeper, transformative knowledge? In both his teaching and research, Allen is committed to exploring ways in which South Asian perspectives, taken seriously on their own terms, can inform contemporary understandings of human beings and our place in the world.

Allen previously taught in the Harvard College Writing Program and in the Religion Department at Hampden-Sydney College. He is currently a Mellon Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities and Global Cultures, and co-chairs the Indian and Chinese Religions Compared unit at the American Academy of Religion. He has published in the Journal of Hindu Studies, the International Journal of Hindu Studies, the Journal of Vaishnava Studies, and Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy.

RELG 1040: Introduction to Eastern Religious Traditions
Credits: 3
Introduces various aspects of the religious traditions of India, China, and Japan.
RELH 2090: Hinduism
Credits: 3
Surveys the Hindu religious heritage from pre-history to the 17th century; includes the Jain and Sikh protestant movements.
RELH 3105: Hinduism and Ecology
Credits: 3
This course will explore Hindu views of the relationship between human, natural, and divine worlds, as well as the work of contemporary environmentalists in India. We will read texts both classical and modern (from the Bhagavad Gita to the writings of Gandhi), and will consider case studies of Hindu responses to issues such as wildlife conservation, pollution, deforestation, and industrial agriculture.
RELG 3416: Sustainability and Asceticism
Credits: 3
To what extent does the pursuit of sustainability require restraining or retraining our desires? How can people be encouraged to consume less, or in less destructive ways, when cultures of consumption prove resistant to change? This seminar will explore these questions from the perspective of South Asian traditions (Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain). We will consider classical sources as well as contemporary debates about sustainable development.
RELG 3559: New Course in Religious Studies
Credits: 3
This course provides the opportunity to offer a new course in the subject of Religious Studies.
RELH 3559: New Course in Hinduism
Credits: 3
This course provides the opportunity to offer a new course in the subject of Hinduism.
RELH 5173: The History of Yoga
Credits: 3
As yoga has risen to global prominence, the scholarly study of yoga has flourished. This course offers an introduction to this scholarship, as well as an overview of the theory and practice of yoga from its ancient past to the present day. The course will focus primarily on historically Hindu traditions, though some attention will devoted to parallel traditions from Buddhism and Jainism.
RELH 5450: Hindu-Buddhist Debates
Credits: 3
This course examines philosophical debates of Hindu and Buddhist authors from the time of the founding of Buddhism to the medieval period. Primary sources in translation and secondary, scholarly sources are examined in this course. Prerequisite: Significant prior exposure to Hinduism and/or Buddhism.
RELH 5559: New Course in Hinduism
Credits: 3
This course provides the opportunity to offer a new course in the subject of Hinduism.
RELS 8500: Topics for Supervised Study and Research
Credits: 1–6
This topical course provides Master's and Doctoral students in Religious Studies an opportunity for advanced coursework in selected, established areas of the department's curriculum.
RELH 8743: Tutorial in Sanskrit: Philosophy
Credits: 3
This tutorial constitutes a reading course in Sanskrit, the classical language of India. Students will read the original texts and translate them into English, analyzing and interpreting the materials in light of the Indian tradition of commentary and exegesis and in light of contemporary scholarly and other analyses of the relevant subject matter: philosophical literature.
RELH 8744: Hinduism and Ecology
Credits: 3
This tutorial offers an advanced introduction to Hinduism and ecology for graduate students working on religion and environment. The course will explore Hindu views of the relationship between human, natural, and divine worlds, as well as the work of contemporary environmentalists in India. At the end of the course, students will submit an original research project contributing to existing scholarship in the field.
RELS 8995: Research
Credits: 1–12
Systematic readings in a selected topic under detailed supervision.
RELS 8998: Non-Topical Research, Preparation for Research
Credits: 1–12
For master's research, taken before a thesis director has been selected.
RELS 8999: Non-Topical Research
Credits: 1–12
For master's thesis, taken under the supervision of a thesis director.
RELS 9998: Non-Topical Research, Preparation for Doctoral Research
Credits: 1–12
For doctoral research, taken before a dissertation director has been selected.
RELS 9999: Non-Topical Research
Credits: 1–12
For doctoral dissertation, taken under the supervision of a dissertation director.