Skip to main content area Skip to institutional navigation Skip to sub-navigation
Skip to main content

Tracy Coleman


I am a scholar of Hinduism and its traditions of bhakti (devotion), especially Krishna-bhakti in the Sanskrit epics and purāṇas, and my teaching and research address issues of women, men, and gender in religion and society. My current book manuscript -- a study of Krishna's relationships with women in the Harivaṃśa, the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa -- reconsiders the prevalent claim that bhakti empowers women in social and religious life. My study demonstrates to the contrary that despite the democratic potential of various devotional movements in which women are sometimes glorified, bhakti often functions as a conservative historical process upholding the traditional patriarchal order. By situating the development of bhakti within a larger cultural discourse on dharma (truth, duty, proper behavior), the book explores Krishna's sensuous relationships with women in contrast to the Buddha's ascetic renunciation of familial attachments and thus shows how competing conceptions of dharma were linked to heroic male figures as embodiments of truth and authority in socio-religious life. The eventual book will thereby provide a brief comparative history of gender and salvation in South Asian religions and offer a new interpretation of bhakti that holds relevance for the study of religion and social change in other cultures.


Early Indian Buddhism
Women, Men, and Gender in Religion
Bhakti Literature
Krishna Traditions
Feminisms in Religion

Regular Classes

RE 160 Hinduism
RE 200 Women in Hinduism: Sītā
RE 352 Holy Men, Manly Men: Gods, Buddhas & Gurus in South Asia
RE 357 Women in Hinduism & Buddhism
RE 362 Bhakti: Devotion in South Asia
RE 363 Devi: Goddesses of India
RE 405 Thesis Preparation
RE 406 Senior Thesis


  • RE357 – Women in Hinduism and Buddhism
  • RE160 – Hinduism


    Ph.D., Brown University, 2001
    M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School, 1993
    M.A., Middlebury College (Paris), 1990
    B.A., Rockford College, 1988, Phi Beta Kappa

    Papers & Publications

    Tracy Coleman