Distinguished Scholar of Mormon Studies Visits UCSB

Spencer Fluhman will join the Department of Religious Studies for winter and spring terms, 2020.

The Department of Religious Studies at UCSB is happy to announce that J. Spencer Fluhman has been appointed as Visiting Professor of Mormon Studies, in a two-year initiative funded by the Sorensen family. The Mormon Studies Initiative at UCSB will support student and faculty work, visiting professorships, programming, and guest lectures in religious studies over a two-year period, from Fall 2019 through Spring 2021. Fluhman is the first visiting professor brought to UCSB through this initiative, and he will be in residence from January through July, 2020.

Spencer Fluhman, executive director of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute and associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, will teach two courses at UCSB during his appointment. The first, offered Winter 2020, is an upper-division undergraduate course on “Religious Biography in America.” The second, offered Spring 2020, is a mixed undergraduate/graduate research seminar on “Mormonism and Identity in the Pacific World.” Fluhman will also conduct his own research during his time at UCSB. He is currently working on a biography of Latter-day Saint apostle James E. Talmage, as well as a study of religion, colonialism, and indigeneity in Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Democratic Republic of Tonga. Fluhman’s first book, ‘A Peculiar People’: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America, won a best-book award from the Mormon History Association, and it is widely considered the go-to study of anti-Mormon discourse in 19th-century America.

Fluhman anticipates a productive relationship between the Department of Religious Studies at UCSB and the Maxwell Institute at BYU during and after his residence in Santa Barbara. “It’s about cross-pollination,” Fluhman said. “Taking what’s exciting at one institution and having it be meaningful for another institution. These partnerships help us think collaboratively across space.”

UCSB’s faculty and students also look forward to Fluhman’s appointment. “Few people have done more to render Mormon studies a seriously interdisciplinary endeavor in and for the modern academy as Professor Fluhman,” says David Walker, associate professor of religious studies. “He is the perfect person to kick off the Mormon Studies Initiative at UCSB, working in collaboration with Ann Taves, myself, and other scholars of American religions to re-imagine what Mormon studies might look like, and how it might work with and alongside other subfields in religious studies, in a leading department such as this.” Professors Walker and Taves have published extensively in the field of Mormon studies, and thus Fluhman’s arrival—and the Mormon Studies Initiative overall—will extend and deepen an important subfield in religious studies at UCSB. “This initiative will enable us to extend the department’s work to support innovative scholars in the field of Mormon studies and American religions, while simultaneously making UC Santa Barbara the programmatic center for an emerging network of scholars in the field,” says Walker.

In addition to his teaching and research, Professor Fluhman will work with Professors Walker, Taves, and other members of the Mormon Studies Initiative Committee to plan conferences, guest lectures, and research projects at UCSB. 

Welcome, Professor Fluhman!