ACADEMIC CV

 
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With formal training in English, History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, 
I'm a mythologist at heart.

I make sense of mythological stories, mostly from ancient India. Making sense of stories is a way of life for me!  I love mining them for insight into what it means to be human, and how to live a fulfilling life.   

My doctoral research was on myths of the Indian Great Goddess, Durga, soon to be published:
The Goddess and The King .

 


EDUCATION
 

2015     Ph.D., Religious Studies, University of Calgary. Thesis: “Mother of Power, Mother of Kings: Reading Royal Ideology in the Devī Māhātmya.” Supervisor: E. Rohlman. Examiner: G. Bailey (La Trobe University).

2012     Academic Year Sanskrit Language Program,  American Institute of Indian Studies, Pune, India

2010    MA, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto, Department of South Asian Studies Collaborative Program. Thesis: “Violence and Nonviolence in the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa: The Dance of War and Peace.” Supervisor: Ajay K. Rao.

2007    Honours, BA (With Distinction), University of Toronto. Major: Comparative Religion; Minors: English, History, South Asian Studies.


Publications

BOOKS

2018    Balkaran, Raj. The Goddess and The King in Indian Myth: Ring Composition, Royal Power, and The Dharmic Double Helix. Routledge Hindu Studies Series, Ed. Gavin Flood. 

2019    The Glory of the Sun: Discovering the Sūrya Māhātmya
Manuscript in preparation.

2020    Mapping Mārkaṇḍeya: The Multi-Millennia Saga of an Ancient India Sage.
Manuscript in preparation;  collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Rohlman. 
Excerpts presented at the 2018 World Sanskrit Conference (Vancouver).

JOURNAL ARTICLES

2018    Balkaran, Raj. “The Sarus’ Sorrow: Voicing Nonviolence in the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa.” In Journal of Vaishnava Studies 26.2: 143-161. 

2018     Balkaran, Raj. “The Safeguard of Sovereignty.” In Papers from the 16th World Sanskrit Conference Proceedings. Delhi: DK Publishers, p. 67-95..

2017     Balkaran, Raj. “Joseph’s Journey: Uncovering Israel’s Unconscious.” In Journal of Genius and Eminence 2.2: 96-104, Special Volume: “The Hero’s Journey: A Tribute to Joseph Campbell and his 30th Anniversary of Death.” 

2017     Balkaran, Raj. The Essence of Avatāra: Probing Preservation in The Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa.” In Journal of Vaishnava Studies 26.1: 25. 

2012    Balkaran, Raj and Walter Dorn. “Violence in the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa: Just War Criteria Prefigured in an Ancient Indian Epic.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 80.3: 1-32. 

2010    Dorn, A.W., R. Balkaran, S. Feldman, and S. Gucciardi. “The Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions. Part II: Religions of Indic Origin (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism)”. Journal of Defense Research and Development Canada 2010.034: 172. 

BOOK CHAPTERS

2018     Balkaran, Raj. “The Splendour of The Sun” In Nine Nights of the Goddess, edited by Hillary Rodrigues, Moumita Sen and Caleb Simmons. State University of New York Press, pp. 23-38. 

2018    Balkaran, Raj. “The Story of Saṃjñā, Mother of Manu” In Gender and Indian Philosophy, edited by Veena R. Howard. Bloomsbury Publishing. In review. 


PEDAGOGY PROJECT

2018    Balkaran, Raj. “Telling Tales: Harnessing the Power of Storytelling in the Hindu Studies Clasroom and Beyond". Religious Studies News, American Academy of Religion. (June 2018.)


RESEARCH EXPERIENCE

2014 –2016 - Research Collaborator, University of Oslo. “Navarātri, Navarātra and Durgāpūjā in South Asia and Beyond.” Research Group Coordinator: Dr. Ute Hüsken.

2013 - Research Assistant, University of Calgary. “Textual Processes: Narrative Design, Communal Identity, and Authorship in the Inter-textual Dialectics of the Sanskrit Purāṇas.” Principal Investigator: Dr. Elizabeth Rohlman, SSHRC Insight Grant.

2012 - Research Fellow, American Institute of Indian Studies. Field Research: Goddess Festival; Live Storytelling Culture.

2010 - Research Fellow, International School of Jain Studies. Field Research:  Asceticism; Ethics of Violence.

2008-2009 - Research Assistant, University of Toronto. Supervisor: Dr. Arti Dhand, Dept for the Study of Religion.

2007-2010 - Research Assistant, Canadian Forces College.  “Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions.”  Principle Investigator: Dr. Walter Dorn.
 

Conference Presentations

2018    “The Goddess and The King” Parliament of World Religions (Toronto, Canada), November 1-7. Submitted. 

2018    “Suffering and Sovereignty: Parallel Frames in the Bhagavad Gītā and Devī Māhātmya,” Madison Conference on South Asia (Madison, WI), October. Submitted. 

2018    “Birdcalls across Itihāsa: How Birds in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa answer an Epic Riddle.” World Sanskrit Conference (Vancouver, Canada), July 9-13. Accepted. 

2017    “How the Goddess Teaches Hinduism: Decoding Divergent Boons.” American Academy of Religion Annual Conference (Boston, MA), Nov 18.

2016    “The Sound of the Sarus: Cultural Reverberations in the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa.”
American Academy of Religion Annual Conference (San Antonio, TX), Nov 20. 

2016     “The Makings of Māhātmya: The Greatness of Sūrya in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa” Annual Conference on South Asia (Dept. of South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Oct 23. 

2015     “The Making of a Manu: Unpacking the Interplay between Devī Māhātmya and Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa.” Annual Conference on South Asia (Dept. of South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Oct 22-25. 

2015     “The Splendour of the Sun: Illumining the Passage between Devī Māhātmya and Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa in Light of Navarātra Ritual Timing.” University of Oslo IKOS Conference (Fransk-Norsk Senter for Humanoria og Samfunnsvitenskap, Paris) Aug 20. 

2015     “The Safeguard of Sovereignty: Focusing the Frame of the Devī Māhātmya.” World Sanskrit Conference (Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand), June. 

2014    “Framing the Goddess: Telling Tales with Telling Subtales from the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa.” American Academy of Religion PNW Regional Conference (University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada), May 11.

2014    “Gandhi, the Goddess, and India's Ascetic-King: In Response to Veena R. Howard's Gandhi's Ascetic Activism.”  American Academy of Religion PNW Regional Conference (University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada), May 11.

2013     “The Merchant, The Margins, and the Measure of Mokṣa: Defending Royal Power in the Devī Māhātmya.” American Academy of Religion PNW Regional Conference (Seattle University, Seattle, Washington, USA), May 4.

2013     “Power, Periphery and the Greatness of the Goddess: Moving from ‘Sacred’ to ‘Secular’ in the Devī Māhātmya.” Annual Graduate Student Symposium (Dept. of Religious Studies, University of Calgary, Canada), Feb 1.

2012     “Kings in Exile: The ‘Cutting Edge’ of Peripheral Violence.” American Academy of Religion PNW Regional Conference (Concordia University, Portland, Oregon, USA), May 10.

2009     “Just Warfare in the Jain Context.” ISSJS Research Colloquium (International School for Jain Studies, Delhi, India), July 11.

Service to Profession


POSITIONS HELD

2018-               World Sanskrit Conference Purana Section Co-Convener
2018-               Podcast Host, Hindu Studies Channel, New Books Network
2018-               Academic Outreach Committee, Parliament of World Religions
2016-               Ambassador, American Academy of Religion
2012-2014       Graduate Student Committee Member, American Academy of Religion
2012-2014       Regional Student Director, American Academy of Religion
2013-2014       Chair, Graduate Student Roundtables Committee, AAR
2013                Student Liaison, Numata Chair Search Committee, UofC
2011-2012       Vice-President, Departmental Graduate Association m UofC

STUDENT FORMATION PRESENTATIONS

2017    “Educational Entrepreneurship: Monetizing Your Expertise through Digital Teaching” Graduate Student Roundtable Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Antonio, USA), November 18. 

2016    “Valuing Your Work, Working Your Values” Graduate Student Roundtable Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Antonio, USA), November 21.

2015    “Dealing with The Dossier: A Proactive Approach to Documenting Your Teaching.” Graduate Student Roundtable Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Atlanta, USA), November 21.

2014    “Managing Your Thesis: Tools Towards Empowerment.” Graduate Student Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Diego, USA), November 23.

2013    “How to Thrive in Graduate Studies: The Tips You Won't Find In Your Departmental Handbook.” Graduate Student Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Baltimore, USA), November 23.

Conference Panels/Events Organized

2018         Panel: "India's Goddess Traditions: Narrative, Worship, Empowerment," Parliament of World Religions, Toronto.
2018         Panel: "Tales Within Tales: The Function of Frame Stories in South Asian Narrative," Madison Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI.
2017         World Storytelling Day Revival Committee
2017         Teaching Hinduism Workshop, AAR Annual Meeting, Boston.
2016        Madison Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI. Panel: “What’s a Māhātmya? Querying Genre in          Text Traditions.”
2016        AAR Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX. Panel: “Sounding the Sacred: Sound and Text in Hindu Traditions.”
2015          “Religion and Narrative” Conference Organizer, University of Calgary
2014        AAR Annual Meeting, San Diego. Special Topics Forum: “Graduate Training and Scholarly Formation”
2014        AAR Annual Meeting, San Diego. Event: University of Calgary Reception
2014         PNW Regional AAR Conference, Calgary. Panel: “History, Philosophy, and Sanskrit Literature”
2014        PNW Regional AAR Conference, Calgary. Panel: “Book Review: Veena Howard's Gandhi's Ascetic Activism”
2013-2014      “Religious Literacy, Diversity and Transformation Week”. Steering Committee, University of Calgary
2013        AAR Annual Meeting, Baltimore. Roundtable: “Grant-Writing 101: Crafting a Successful Proposal”

Language Competency      

English (native speaker); Sanskrit (reading, translating); French (reading, translating, speaking)

Research Interests    

Narrative and Religion; Narrative Design; Ring Composition; Sanskrit Texts; World Mythology; Ethics of Violence; Indian Goddess Traditions; Kingship; Asceticism. 

Competitive Grants

2012-2015       SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship $ 105,000
2015                UofC RELS Graduate Studies Scholarship - $ 4,000
2013                UofC Faculty of Graduate Studies Scholarship - $ 1,500
2012                SSHRC Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement - $ 6,000
2011                Alberta Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship - $ 10,000
2011                UofC Faculty Entrance Scholarship - $ 3,000
2009                ISSJS Research Scholarship - $ 5,000
2006                UofT Regents In-Course Scholarship - $ 2,000
2000                UofT Bloor Lands Admission Scholarship  - $ 3,000


TEACHING EXPERIENCE

 

UNIVERSITY TEACHING EXPERIENCE

2010-present    University of Toronto: Course Instructor, School of Continuing Studies
 “Myth and Meaning: Telling Tales” 
“The Bhagavad Gita and Beyond”
“Wisdom Traditions”
“Myths of Middle-earth”
“Goddesses around the Globe”
“Religion, Science Fiction, and Fantasy”
“Myth and Modernity”
“Approaches to Meaning, East and West”

2015-        University of Toronto
Guest Lecturer, Department for the Study of Religion
RLG310: The Ramayana
RLG246: Karma and Dharma in Indic Traditions
RLG205: Introduction to South Asian Religions
RLG100: Introduction to World Religions

2017    Ryerson University: Course Instructor, Department of Philosophy
    “World Religions” 

2017   Ryerson University: Course Instructor
The Chang School of Continuing Education
        “World Religions” 

2014        University of Calgary
Course Instructor, Department of Religious Studies
RELS 307: “Popular Hinduism”

2011-2014    University of Calgary
Guest Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies
RELS 205: The Nature of Religion
RELS 201: World Religions – Western (2 classes; 1 online)
RELS 203: World Religions – Eastern  (4 classes)
RELS 347: Scripture and Religions (2 classes)
RELS 303: Intro to Hinduism (4 classes)
RELS 307: Popular Hinduism (4 classes)
GRST 309: Comparative Mythology
RELS 451 Seminar: Hindu Narrative Literature (2 classes)

2011-2013    University of Calgary
Teaching Assistant, Religious Studies
2013     RELS 203: World Religions
2012     RELS 203: World Religions
2011      RELS 307: Popular Hinduism

2007-2009    Nipissing University
Teaching Assistant, Department of Religions and Cultures
2009     RLCT 1025: Introduction to World Religions
2008     RLCT 1025: Introduction to World Religions
2008     RLCT 1025: Introduction to World Religions
2007     RLCT 1025: Introduction to World Religions 

2007-2010    University of Toronto
Teaching Assistant, Department for the Study of Religion
2010     RLG 206:  Introduction to the Buddhism
2009    RLG 206:  Introduction to the Buddhism
2008     RLG 205:  Introduction to South Asian Religions
2007      RLG100:  Introduction to World Religions

Community Teaching EXPERIENCE

2016- Instructor, Power of Myth, Toronto
            “Faces of Power.” (6-week course)    
            “Effective Leadership.” (4-week course)      
            “Own Your Story” (4-week course)       
            “Balancing Relationships” (4-week course)      
            “Awakening Power” (4-week course)

2015 - Instructor, Kasyapa Institute, Toronto
            “Myths of the Mother.” (4-week course)    
            “Human Nature in the Indian Epics.” (8-week course)
            “Ancient Tales for Modern Times.” (4-week course)

2011 - Instructor, Wonderworks, Toronto
            “Faces of Fertility: Goddesses and Water Worship” (6-week course).

2010 - Instructor, Renaissance, Toronto
           “Encountering the Māhāvidyās: Visions and Revisions of the Feminine Divine” (12-week course).

Pedagogical Training

2013                Instructional Skills Workshop, Teaching and Learning Centre, Calgary

Teaching Interests   

Storytelling and Narrative Texts; Comparative Mythology; World Religions; Religion and Sci-Fi/Fantasy; Goddess Traditions; Literary Studies; Personal Growth. 

EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION
2017-               Community Manager, Mirasee
2016-               Owner and Operator, Power of Myth (digital academy), Toronto
2015                Director (full-time: 8 months), Kasyapa Institute, Toronto
2012                Network Manager, S.A.V.I. Research Network (full-time: 4 months), University of Toronto.
2010-2011       Financial Officer (full-time: 13 months), University of Toronto.
1999-2003       Office Assistant (half-time), Toronto District School Board.
 


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT 

 

INTERVIEWS

2018   Erraticus (hosted by Jeffrey Howard). "Lead with the Destination, Not the Engine".April 17, 
2016    CBC Ideas, “Generation Mars” (hosted by Stephen Humphrey), June 7. Scheduled to air Oct 20, 2016.
2016    ThatChannel, "Liquid Lunch" Show (hosted by Hugh Reilly) .Sept 16, 2016.
2015    The Nikki Clarke Show, Nov 3.
2014    “Good Morning Calgary” Radio Interview, RED FM (106.7 FM), January 28.
2011    “Sacred Storytelling.” Blog Interview: Shivers Up The Spine, Aug 18.
2011    “Tales of India.”  Video Interview. Toronto Body Mind, Jul 27.
2011    “Raj Yoga” by Jeff Wiebe. The Lethbridge Journal (Vol. 4, Issue No. 5.), Mar 3.

INVITED PRESENTATIONS

2017    “Educational Entrepreneurship: Monetizing Your Expertise through Digital Teaching” Graduate Student Roundtable Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Antonio, USA), November 19. 
2017   "The Entrepreneur's Hero's Journey." LIFT: Mirasee Online Coursebuilders Conference, San Diego, CA. June 16.
2016    “Valuing Your Work, Working Your Values” Graduate Student Roundtable Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Antonio, USA), November 21.
2015    “Dealing with The Dossier: A Proactive Approach to Documenting Your Teaching.” Graduate Student Roundtable Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Atlanta, USA), November 21.
2014    “Managing Your Thesis: Tools Towards Empowerment.” Graduate Student Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Diego, USA), November 23.
2013    “How to Thrive in Graduate Studies: The Tips You Won't Find In Your Departmental Handbook.” Graduate Student Presentation (American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Baltimore, USA), November 23.
2013    “Seeing through Elephant Eyes.” Teachers’ Meet, Akhanda, Toronto, August 4.
2013    “How Can We All Get Along?” Interfaith Panel, Faith and Spirituality Center, University of Calgary, April 4.
2012    “The Slaying of Madhu and Kaitabha.” Navacandi Yaga, American Institute of Indian Studies, Pune, October, October 27.
2012    “Kartikeya’s Lament.” Teachers’ Meet, Akhanda, Toronto, August 12.
2012    “The Churning of the Ocean.” Graduation Keynote, Sānanda, Toronto, June 24.
2011    “Lakshmi: Abundance Incarnate.” Holiday Fundraiser, Sānanda, Toronto, Dec 22.
2011    “Stories of the Sacred Feminine.” Wonderworks, Toronto, Dec 16.
2011    “Uncovering the Unconscious.” Insite Yoga, Toronto, Dec 11.
2011    “Demons of the Unconscious II.” Open House, 7th Chakra, Calgary, Dec 4.
2011    “The Goddess and the Bible II.” Edgemont Bible Study, Calgary, Dec 3.
2011    “The Goddess and The Demons.” Yoga Rituals, Lethbridge, Nov 26.
2011    “The Goddess and the Bible I.” Edgemont Bible Study, Calgary, Nov 5.
2011    “Demons of the Unconscious I.” Open House, 7th Chakra, Calgary, Oct 29.
2011    “The Ferocious Feminine.” Centre for Women’s Studies in Education. OISE, University of Toronto, October 14.
2011    “The Goddess and the Saboteur.” Yoga Rituals, Lethbridge, Oct 8.
2011    “Tales of Power.” Keynote Address, YCT Annual Meet, Toronto, Aug 21.
2011    “Healing Archetypes of the Sacred Feminine.” Medical Practitioner Meet, Spirituality and Healthcare Network, Toronto, Jun 1.
2010    “Ganesha and the Goddess.” Holiday Fundraiser, Sānanda, Toronto, Dec 29.
2010    “Divine Decapitation.” Renaissance Yoga and Āyurveda, Toronto, Sept 19.
2010    “Living Purana.” Keynote Address, YCT Annual Meet, Toronto, Aug 22.
2010    “The Fierce Feminine: Visions and Revisions from Ancient India.” Wonderworks, Toronto, Nov 26.
2010    “The Significance of Storytelling to Yoga Philosophy.” YCT, Toronto, Aug 20.
2010    “Installing Deities.” Yoga Rituals, Lethbridge, June 9.
2010    “Durga: Principle of Power.” Yoga Rituals, Lethbridge, June 7.
2010    “India’s Feminine Divine.” Yoga Rituals, Lethbridge, May 3.
2010    “Hinduism’s Great Goddess.” YTT, Yoga Plus, Toronto, Apr 18.
2010    “Divine Engendering: Gender and India’s Feminine Divine.” Supporting Our Youth Series, Sherbourne Health Centre, Toronto, Mar 31.