Leona Anderson

Professor Emeritus; Sessional Lecturer
PhD (McMaster University)

E-mail: leona.anderson@uregina.ca

Research interests

  • Sanskrit
  • Religion in India, Cuba, and China
  • Ritual and Iconography
  • Gender
  • Popular Culture

My research interests include Sanskrit literature, classical and popular religions of India, Hindu ritual and iconography, South Asian Art History, Popular Religious Movements, Cultural Studies, Ritual Studies, Gender Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, New Religions in North America, History of India, Visual Culture, popular deities in China and their ritual worship (particularly Guanyin), and popular religions, popular deities, and ritual expressions in Cuba (particularly those of Santería and Espiritismo.

My current research focuses on popular visual culture in three very different locations: 1) India: I am working on a video documentary on the Ashtavinayakas near Pune. 2) Ritual images and ritual image worship in popular Cuban religion. I am writing an essay on the image of la Virgen de Regla in Havana and making documentary videotapes on the Orishas of Cuba, Espiritismo in Havana and the ritual worship of San Lazaro. 3) Popular religious images in Yunnan and their ritual worship. I am writing an essay in collaboration with Guoxian Xie on an image of Guanyin in Dali, Yunnan, China. There is a gender component in each of these projects.

Books/documentary films

  • 2008   Director and Producer.  The Orishas of Cuba, DVD Documentary (17mins) .  Cumander Productions
  • 2004   Co-editor and contributor (with Pam Dickey-Young), Women in World Religions. Oxford University press. (NEW EDITION FORTHCOMING IN 2010)
  • 1998   Director and Producer.  The Ganesh Festival.  A documentary of theHindu Festival of Ganesh in Pune, India.   51 mins. Colour videodocumentary  (DVD) (Anderson/Will/Anderson). Re-edited: 2006
  • 1994   The Vasantotsava: Indian Spring Festival, Texts and Contexts. New Delhi:DK Printworld.
  • 1993   Director and Producer. The Ganesh Festival:  A documentary of the Hindu Festival of Ganesh in Pune, India.   51 mins. Colour video documentary  (VHS) (Anderson/Will Anderson)
  • 1992   Director and Producer.  Kumbh Mela. Color, 15 mins.  VHS(Anderson/Will/Anderson).  A documentary of the Kumbh Mela festival in Trimbakesvar, India.  Selected for previewing in the category of short documentary at the Ohio International Film Festival, Athens University, Athens, Ohio.


  • 2005  Essay: "Religion in Saskatchewan"   (with Bryan Hillis and Margaret Sanche) in Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.  Regina, Canadian Plains Research Center, 2005. (12 pages)
  • 2005   Entry: "Hinduism in India" and "Islam in India" in Thomas Riggs, Editor.  Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices.  Farmington Hills, Michigan Thomson Gale, 2005.  (ISBN 0787693847)
  • 2004   Co-author (with Dr. Femida Handy.  Volunteering by Immigrants in Ethnic Congregations in Canada: A Stepping Stone to Integration?  Knowledge Development Centre, Canada Volunteerism Initiative. (28 pages)
  • 2003   Journal article:  "The Elephant-Headed God in Hinduism."  Translated into Chinese by Guoxian Xie.  in Studies in National Art.  No.6.  25-30
  • 2003   Review of Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara (editors), Pilgrims, Patrons,and Place: Localizing Sanctity in Asian Religions.  UBC Press, 2003. Studies in Religion. 32/4, 518-9
  • 2003   Paper: "Cash Back?  Notions of Return on Philanthropic investments in Maharashtra."  10th Conference on Maharashtra Studies, Pune, India
  • 2002   "Images and Image Worship," Annual meeting of the European Association of Modern Asian Studies, Heidelberg,
  • 2000   Paper: "When Too Much is Too Much: An Analysis of excessive Gift Giving in Sanskrit Literature" at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion.  Boston, 1999
  • 2000   Paper: "Awakening God: the Power of Images in South Asia" at the meeting of the International Association of the History of Religions conference in Durban, South Africa.
  • 1998   Chapter: "Contextualizing Philanthropy in South Asia: a Textual Analysis of Sanskrit Sources" in Philanthropy in the World's Traditions.  Edited by Warren F. Ilchman, Stanley N. Katz and Edward L. Queen II.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press.  pp. 57-78.
  • 1997   Paper:  "Relocating the Sacred in a Modern Indian City: the Case of the Ganesh Festival in Pune" at the International Society for the Sociology of Religion Conference "Religion: the City and Beyond" at Toulouse, France.
  • 1997   Chapter:  "Generosity Among Saints, Generosity Among Kings: Situating Philanthropy in South Asia" in Philanthropy and  Cultural Context. Edited by Soma Hewa and Philo Hove.  Lanham, Maryland. University of Americas Press, 1997.  pp.185-202.
  • 1995   Paper: "The Popular Worship of Svayambhu Ganesha in Maharastra" XVII International Congress of History of Religions, Mexico City, August 5-12.
  • 1994   Paper: "Generosity Among Saints, Generosity Among Kings: Situating Philanthropy in South Asia" Philanthropy and Cultural Context Conference, Rockefeller Archive Center, Tarrytown, New York, Nov. 3-4.
  • 1993  Journal article: "Shifting focus of the Stories of Vidyaranya: A Study in the Construction of Biographies from Late Medieval India" translated into Spanishas "Cambios de perspective en las historia de Vidyaranya" for Papeles de laIndia.  XXII (3), 1993, pp. 24-34; and into French as Le déplacementdu centre d'intérêt dans les récits sur Vidyaranya in Rencontre Avec L'Inde,22/1-2 (1993), pp. 5-21.
  • 1992   Paper: "Incarnations of Svayambhu  Ganesha in Maharashtra: the case of the Astavinayakas," Fifth International Conference on Maharashtra: Culture and Society, SNDT University, Bombay, India. Dec. 29-31.
  • 1992   Paper: "The Head Bone's Connected to the Neck Bone or Is It?" subtitled : "The Head of Ganesha" Sociological Research Colloquium, Department of Sociology,Delhi University. Oct. 30.
  • 1992  Journal article:  "The Head Bone's Connected to the Neck Bone or isit?  Ganesha and Wilfred Cantwell Smith" in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion.  4 (1,2), pp. 81-96.
  • 1990   Paper:  "Political Implications of the Biographies of Vidyaranya," Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, New Orleans.
  • 1990   Paper: "Pilgrimage in the Gita Mahatmya"  Annual Meeting of the CSSR/SCER, the Learned Societies, University of Victoria.
  • 1989   Paper:  "Stories of Kumarapala," Annual Meeting of the CSSR/SCER, the Learned Societies, Université Laval.
  • 1988   Paper: "Stories of Vidyaranya: A Study of the Shifting Focus in Biographies from Late Medieval India," 12th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Zagreb, 1988.