Robert A. Orsi is a professor of religion and the Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University. He is interested in the development of religion as a subject of inquiry from early modernity to the present and in questions of method and theory in religious studies. His scholarship draws on history, ethnography, and psychological theories of imagination and intersubjectivity to study religious practices. His most recent book is History and Presence (Belknap Press, 2016).
At Radcliffe, Orsi is studying the efforts of adult survivors of clerical sexual abuse to remake their lives and religious identities over time. The project spans three periods: childhood in American Catholic parishes in the 1930s–1970s; the years of silence (1960s–1970s), when survivors kept their abuse secret while contending with its consequences; and 1980–present, when the extent of the abuse of children by Catholic priests broke into international consciousness. Based on years of ethnographic work with survivors, Orsi will look at how survivors resist and unsettle reigning accounts of psychological flourishing and religious and secular healing.
Orsi received his PhD from Yale University. His work has been supported by such organizations as the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, and the Whiting Foundation, and his books have won such awards as the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Award. Orsi is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and past president of the American Academy of Religion.