I am a professor of Religious Studies and an American Studies faculty affiliate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I teach, research, and write about contemporary North American religions and cultures. Specifically, I’ve focused on religion and class, mass media representations of religion, Third Wave Evangelicalism and Neoliberalism, religious and economic conceptions of agency, supernatural bricolage, paranormal beliefs and practices, and new religious movements. I’ve written various journal articles, book chapters, and several books: American Possessions: Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States (2015), Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies (2007), and Making the American Religious Fringe: Exotics, Subversives, and Journalists, 1955-93 (2004). I am also co-editor of Religion and Class in America: Culture, History, and Politics (2009).
I was the first in my rural, working-class, Indiana family to attend college and I continue to be interested in examining how social class both constrains and enables us in ways that we are not always consciously aware of. Outside of my academic work world, I have spent most of my life writing, playing, and enjoying music. I have sang and played guitar and bass in several punk and post-punk bands, including The Nids, Eleneki, Nat Turner, Moe/w, and Consumption Casualties.
Research and Teaching Interests
My approach to studying religion is multidisciplinary and my research and teaching interests focus on social theory, ethnography, methods for the academic study of religions, the primary materials of American religions, and the cultural history of the study of religion in the United States. Three broad questions drive my work. First, I am interested in examining how religion in different contexts creates, maintains, or tears down boundaries and identities. Second, I am interested in how religion both enables and constrains our conceptions of the world. Third, I am fascinated by how religion itself is defined—by academics, journalists, and practitioners—and how such definitions work in social and cultural arenas to mark the status of different individuals and groups.
Current Book Project: The Work Class Does: The Neglected, Overwhelming, Power of Socioeconomic Location. Co-authoring with Allison Hurst.
Sean McCloud, “From the Horrors of Human Tragedy and Social Reproduction to the Comfort of a Demonic Cult: Agency in the Film Hereditary.” In Representing Religion in Film, edited by Tenzan Eaghll and Rebekka King. New York: Bloomsbury, 2022.
Sean McCloud, “Class, Religion, and Music: Concepts and Questions.” In The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music and Social Class, edited by Ian Peddie. London: Bloomsbury, 2020. 251-271.
Sean McCloud. “The Ghosts of the Past are the Demons of the Present: Evangelical Third Wave Deliverance as a Gothic Therapeutic.” In Spirit Possession and Communication in Religious and Cultural Contexts, edited by Caroline Blyth. New York: Routledge Press, 2020. 57-73.
“Everything Blended: Engaging Combinations, Appropriations, Bricolage, and Syncretisms in Our Teaching and Research.” Implicit Religion. 21:4 (2018). 362-382.
“Conjuring Spirits in a Neoliberal Era: Ghost Reality Television, Third Wave Spiritual Warfare, and Haunting Pasts.” In Religion and Reality TV: Faith in Late Capitalism, edited by Mara Einstein and Diane Winston. New York: Routledge, 2018. 137-149.
“Religions are Belief Systems.” In Stereotyping Religion: Critiquing Clichés, edited by Craig Martin and Brad Stoddard. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. 11-22.
“Blessing the Rich, Damning the Poor, and Forgetting the Social: Divine Apologetics for Class Inequality and the Study of Religion in a Neoliberal Age.” In Religion, Equalities, and Inequalities, edited by Dawn Llewellyn and Sonya Sharma. New York: Routledge, 2016. 15-25.
“Class as a Force of Habit: The Social World Embodied in Scholarship.” In Working in Class: Recognizing How Social Class Shapes Our Academic Work, edited by Allison L. Hurst and Sandi Kawecka Nenga. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016. 13-22.
American Possessions: Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
“Mapping the Spatial Limbos of Spiritual Warfare: Haunted Houses, Defiled Land, and Horrors of History.” Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief 9:2 (June 2013): 166-185.
“The Possibilities of Change in a World of Constraint: Individual and Social Transformation in the Work of Pierre Bourdieu.” Bulletin for the Study of Religion 41:1 (February 2012): 2-8.
Religion and Class in America: Culture, History, and Politics. Co-edited with William Mirola. Boston: Brill, 2009.
“Putting Some Class into Religious Studies: Resurrecting an Important Concept.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 75:4 (Dec. 2007): 840-862.
Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
“Liminal Subjectivities and Religious Change: Circumscribing Giddens for the Study of Contemporary American Religion.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 22:3 (Oct. 2007): 295-309.
Making the American Religious Fringe: Exotics, Subversives, and Journalists, 1955-1993. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
“Popular Culture Fandoms, the Boundaries of Religious Studies, and the Project of the Self.” Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal 4:2 (Nov. 2003): 187-206.
Recent Undergraduate and Graduate Courses
Religion in the Contemporary United States
Approaches to the Academic Study of Religions
New Religions and Cult Controversies
Religion and Popular Culture
Joining and Leaving Religions
Religion and American Culture
What is Identity?
Ghosts, Demons, Fear, and Conspiracy in American Culture