People

Kenny Paul Smith

Kenny Paul Smith

Instructor of Religious Studies

Ph.D.: Emory University, Graduate Division of Religion, American Religious Cultures

Phone: 225-578-2942
Email: kennysmith@lsu.edu
Office: 117-B Prescott Hall
Website: https://emory.academia.edu/KennySmith

Biography

Prior to coming to LSU, Kenny earned B.A.s in English and Philosophy and M.A.s in Philosophy and Religious Studies at Georgia State University (Atlanta), where he also served as a Visiting Instructor of Religious Studies and Philosophy for several years. He completed his doctoral dissertation, “The Contemporary American Magical Landscape,” at Emory University (also in Atlanta), while serving as an Instructor of Religious Studies at LSU. He worked as an associate editor at the Bulletin for the Study of Religion (Equinox Press), and has contributed essays to popular sites such as Religion Dispatches.  

Areas of Interest

His research hopes to open up new and interesting ways of thinking about religion in contemporary America, and has evolved along two related trajectories: the study of new and alternative religious movements (see, for instance, his ethnographic study of a large and flourishing Wiccan community in metro-Atlanta); and deriving innovative interpretive and comparative frameworks for use in the study of religion and culture. His forthcoming dissertation, for instance, reads the broader culture through the lens of “magic,” arguing that, in so far as we think in terms of an American religious landscape, much the same grounds exist for thinking in terms of an American magical landscape, one discernible in popular entertainment, alternative medicine, self-help philosophies, new age spiritualities, and even the motivational writings of evangelical minister-authors such as Rick Warren, Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen.

Courses Offered

  • Religions of the World
  • American Religions
  • Indigenous Religions
  • Harry Potter and Magic
  • Religion and Sports
  • New Religious Movements
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Judaism, Christianity and Islam
  • Asian Religions
  • Introduction to the Study of Religion (i.e., Comparative Theory)

Awards and Honors

  • Doctoral Fellowship (2010-2015), Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University
  • Timothy Renick Award (2010), Department of Religious Studies, Georgia State University
  • Graduate Studies Scholarship (2008-2010), Department of Religious Studies, Georgia State University
  • Nominated for Outstanding Honors Faculty Award, Department of Religious Studies (2005), Georgia State University
  • Graduate Studies Scholarship (1996-1999), Department of Philosophy, Georgia State University

Selected Publications

  • “You’ve Been Wonderful Neighbors: Key Factors in the Successful Integration of a Wiccan Coven into a Suburban Community in the Southeastern United States,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 12, No. 1, August 2008, pp. 103-115
  • BOOK REVIEW: James R. Lewis, Violence in New Religious Movements, Practical Matters, May 2012
  • BOOK REVIEW: Randall Styers, Making Magic: Religion, Magic, and Science in the Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Volume 41, Number 2, April 2012, pp. 36-78
  • BOOK REVIEW: Allison P. Coudert, Religion, Magic, and Science in Early Modern Europe and America (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2011), Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Volume 41, Number 2, April 2012, pp. 37-8
  • BOOK REVIEW: Courtney Bender, The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Volume 41, Number 2, April 2012, pp. 39-40