William Samuel Chavez

Religions in North America, Religion and Popular Culture, Religion and Folklore.
HHSB 3075
Office Hours:
M, 10-12 (MES 45); T, 9-11 (RGST 90WC); and by appt.
Time Period: FALL 2022


William Chavez is an Engaging Humanities Graduate Fellow and PhD candidate, researching religious practice, discourse, and media. While his master’s thesis functions as a cross-cultural survey of historical and ethnographic data, his dissertation presents an anthropological and discursive examination of exorcism in the United States, specifically within contemporary practice and media, from the Satanic Panic (1980-1993) to its aftermath (the current era).


Academic History

PhD, Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2022.
Dissertation: “Modern Practice, Archaic Ritual: Exorcism in the United States”

MA, Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2018.
Master’s Thesis: “
The Game of Exorcism: A Spatial Analysis of Religious Practice

BA, Religion, University of Rochester, 2013.
Honors Thesis: “KOSMIC KOMBAT! The Myths and Practices of Vigilante Exorcism in Contemporary American Culture”

BS, Mathematics, University of Rochester, 2013.



“‘What If We Were Savage?Mad Max Transmedia as Speculative Anthropology,” w/ Shyam K. Sriram. Journal of Religion and Popular Culture (in press). Preview 1. Preview 2.

Modern Practice, Archaic Ritual: Catholic Exorcism in America. Religions 12:811 (2021), 1-27.

‘He Who Laughs Last!’ Terrorists, Nihilists, and Jokers, w/ Luke McCracken. Journal of Religion & Film 25:1 (2021), 1-61


Under Review

Media Sensationalism: True Case Files’ along the Folklore-Popular Culture Continuum. Reel Demonology: Ed and Lorraine Warren and The Conjuring Universe (2022), Edited by Todd K. Platts (under review).

Lankester Merrin, Abraham Van Helsing, and the Traditions of Kosmic Kombat in Popular Christian Media. Revenant. Special Edition on The Exorcist: Studies on Possession, Influence, and Society (2022) (under review).

“Post-Christianity and Esotericism: A Study of a Satanic Exorcist.” Living Folk Religions, Edited by Sravana Borkataky-Varma and Aaron Ullrey (London: Routledge, 2022) (under review).

Old Stories, New Victims: Possession of Men in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985) and Demon (2015).Journal of the American Academy of Religion (2022) (under review).


Working Papers

“Black Being in Games: Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield as a Narrative Runner.’”

“Black Unbeing: Racial Anxieties in Afro-Surrealist Expression.”

Essence’ of a Franchise: The Creative Matrix of Friday the 13th Media.

“‘Choose Your Destiny!’ Approaching Mortal Kombat Gaming Culture as Religion,” w/ Jeremy Hanes.


Future Projects

Mad Max is No Longer Satire: Donald Trump and Hypermasculine Politics, w/ Shyam K. Sriram.

Approaching Hispanic Horror as Surrealist Satire: Invader Zim, Juan de los Muertos, and Los Espookys.

Exorcism in Video Games: A Study of Ludology.

Contemporary Catholic Theologies: An Investigation of the Preternatural.


Writings for the Public

The Penguin Book of Exorcisms, Edited by Joseph P. Laycock (New York: Penguin Books, 2020). Reading Religion (forthcoming).

Demonic Possession and Lived Religion in Later Medieval Europe, by Sari Katajala-Peltomaa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020). Religion (January 6, 2022).

The Social Scientific Study of Exorcism in Christianity, Edited by Giuseppe Giordan and Adam Possamai (New York: Springer, 2020). Reading Religion (September 1, 2021).

Speak of the Devil: How the Satanic Temple is Changing the Way We Talk about Religion, by Joseph P. Laycock (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020). Reading Religion (March 23, 2021).

The Philosophy of Death Reader: Cross-Cultural Readings on Immortality and the Afterlife, Edited by Markar Melkonian (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019). Reading Religion (June 30, 2020).

Consecration Rituals in South Asia, Edited by István Keul (Boston: Brill, 2017). Reading Religion (March 4, 2020).

Sociology of Exorcism in Late Modernity, by Giuseppe Giordan and Adam Possamai (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Reading Religion (September 19, 2018).

Teaching Religion: A Response to Douglas Brooks.” The Religious Studies Project (May 5, 2017).


Courses Taught

MES 45: Intro. to Middle East Studies
RS 147: Religion and the American Experience
RS 12: Religious Approaches to Death 

RS 113: Religion and Film 
RS 6: Islam and Modernity


HIST 9 / INT 137TH: Historical Methods / Learning to Think Historically
RS 12: Religious Approaches to Death (5 Quarters)

CLASS 40: Greek Mythology (2 Quarters)
RS 13: Religion and Popular Culture
RS 62: Dark Goddesses / Black Madonnas 

ASAM 71: Intro. to Asian American Religions
MES 45: Intro. to Middle East Studies
RS 20 / RS 162E: Indian Civilizations
RS 21: Zen Buddhism 
RS 80B: Religion & Western Civilization II: Medieval 
RS 1: Intro. to the Study of Religion 


RS 113: Religion and Film (3 Quarters)
RS 193B: Religion and Healing in a Comparative Perspective (2 Quarters)
RS 155: Religion and the Impact of Vietnam 
RS 116A: The New Testament and Early Christianity