Caleb Simmons

Caleb Simmons, Executive Director of Online Education, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Faculty Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program at the University of Arizona

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023,

7:00-8:00 pm,

ASA Koffler Great Room, and Zoom

                                                            Note special time!

Songs about gods and goddesses typically fall into the layperson’s definition of “myth.” However, in this talk, Caleb Simmons will discuss how religious folksongs do so much more than just tell a story about gods, goddesses, and demons. They help make sense of complex modern physical and social worlds, empowering marginalized people to create social change. 

This talk will focus primarily on Simmons’s recent book about South Indian folksongs, Singing the Goddess into Place. He will examine Chamundi of the Hill, a collection of songs that tells the stories of the gods and goddesses of the region around the city of Mysore in southern Karnataka. He will show how the ballad actively transforms the region into a land where gods and goddesses live, embedding these deities within the social worlds of their devotees and remapping southern Karnataka into sacred geography connected through networks of devotion and pilgrimage. In order to bring this material closer to home, Simmons will draw from his personal experience growing up in the rural south in a Pentecostal family with a traveling band. Simmons will show parallels between these two seemingly different traditions to reveal how folksongs across religious traditions reflect local realities and call for social change.

Dr. Caleb Simmons (Ph.D. in Religion, University of Florida) is the Executive Director of Online Education and the Faculty Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program at UA. He specializes in religion in South Asia, especially Hinduism, and digital and online learning. He has recently been named a Center for University Education Scholarship (CUES) Distinguished Fellow for his research on online pedagogy. He is the author of several books, including Devotional Sovereignty: Kingship and Religion in India (Oxford University Press, 2020) and Singing the Goddess into Place: Locality, Myth, and Social Change in Chamundi of the Hill, a Kannada Folk Ballad (SUNY Press 2022), and editor of Nine Nights of the Goddess: The Navarātri Festival in South Asia (SUNY Press 2018)/\.

Compiled and edited by Pamela Hennessy, Academy Village Volunteer

You can connect to Zoom either by using the following URL: or by opening a browser to and typing in Meeting ID: 954 5651 1620 and Passcode: 85747 

Jan 18: “Singing the Goddess: Folksongs and Religion from the US to India”