Elayne Oliphant

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Religious Studies
Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Chicago; M.A. Political Economy, Carleton University; B.A. International Development Studies, Trent University

Arts and Science Office Address:
726 Broadway, Suite 554 New York, NY 10003
Phone: 212-998-7651
Fax: 212-995-4827

External Affiliation: American Academy of Religion, American Anthropological Association, American Ethnological Society, Society for Cultural Anthropology, Society for the Anthropology of Religion, Council for European Studies, French Historical Society

Fellowships/Honors: Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities, Brown University; Social Science Research Council, International Dissertation Research Fellowship; Social Science Research Council, Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship; Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Doctoral Fellowship.


Selected Publications

Forthcoming. "Circulations of the Sacred: Contemporary Arts as 'Cultural' Catholicism in 21st Century Paris." In Global Secularism in a Post-Secular Age. Edited by Michael Rectenwald, et al. Berlin: De Greuters.

2015 "Beyond Blasphemy or Devotion: Art, the Secular, and Catholicism in Paris." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 21 (2): 352-373

2012 "The Crucifix as a Symbol of Secular Europe: The Surprising Semiotics of the European Court of Human Rights." Anthropology Today 28 (2): 10-12

2007 "Voices and Apparitions in Jules Bastien-Lepage's Joan of Arc." In Looking and Listening in Nineteenth-Century France. Edited by Martha Ward and Anne Leonard. Exhibition Catalogue. Chicago: Smart Museum of Art.

Current Projects

My research explores the privilege of Christianity in France and Europe. I rethink the evolutionary tale of religious to secular by examining the ongoing (and ever-transforming) dominance of Christian signs and symbols in the public sphere. From its ubiquity in the cityscape to its self-evident place in the cultural and artistic spaces of Paris, I demonstrate how Christianity is experienced and presented as a sign of secular Europe. I have published essays exploring the privileged circulation of Christian signs in contemporary art exhibits, museum displays, and European Court of Human Rights rulings. I am currently completing my first book entitled Signs of an Unmarked Faith: Contemporary Art and Secular Catholicism in 21st Century Paris. My current research projects include: an examination of the significant role played by real estate, insurance, and financial industries maintaining the power and privilege of Christian heritage space throughout France; and a study of the effects of the closure of nine Catholic churches in Manhattan, both on the cityscape and for the city's Catholic population.

My interest in the intermingling of the religious and secular in urban and aesthetic forms extends to contemporary artistic practices that call into question the narratives that underlie claims to privilege. In the spring of 2015 I organized an exhibition entitled, "The Art of Invisibility." The display brought together the work of seven contemporary artists who explore the complex linkages between the religious and the secular in their work.