Sundari Johansen Hurwitt core faculty in the Women's Spirituality online MA and PhD at CIIS Sundari Johansen Hurwitt

Core Faculty
Women's Spirituality
School of Consciousness and Transformation (SCT)

PhD and MA, California Institute of Integral Studies

Sundari Johansen Hurwitt, PhD, specializes in gender, the body, ritual, power, and secrecy in religion. While her interest in these themes encompasses a variety of religious traditions, her research work currently focuses on ritual studies in South Asia, especially Hinduism, Śāktism (goddess-focused Hindu traditions) and Tantra in India. A practitioner and scholar, Dr. Johansen comparatively explores representations of the young female in the Tantric literature of Bengal and the Northeast as well as in the living Tantric traditions of Northeast India, using extensive textual research and in-depth ethnographic fieldwork. Her dissertation, “The Voracious Virgin: The Concept and Worship of the Kumārī in Kaula Tantrism” (CIIS, 2019) is the first comprehensive study of the kumārī (pre-menarche virgin girls worshipped as goddesses) in India. She is particularly interested in representations of gender and the body in late medieval and early modern Tantric texts, the development of Tantrism in Bengal and the northeast, and in continuities and differences between textual and modern living traditions. Her work is deeply rooted in post-colonial and decolonial, transnational, feminist, and integrative philosophies, as well as exploration of non-Western philosophical and theoretical traditions. Dr. Johansen is a strong proponent of integral feminist pedagogies and research methods and interested in furthering the development of immersive, cooperative, and collaborative educational models in online education.

During her dissertation fieldwork in Assam, Dr. Johansen assisted in the development of a library and digital archive with the Foundation for History and Heritage Studies at Kāmākhyā Dhām in Guwahati, which was established to preserve endangered manuscripts and other documentation from the local community at the Kāmākhyā temple complex. Part of this work included video and audio documentation of local women’s devotional music, as well as assistance with digital restoration of archival materials.

Dr. Johansen received an MA and PhD in Philosophy and Religion with a concentration in Asian and Comparative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Her research has received support from the American Institute of Indian Studies.

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