Catherine Benton

Catherine Benton

Associate Professor of Religion, Emerita



South Asian Religion, Hindu and Buddhist Story Literature, Sanskrit Story Literature, Intercultural Education


Religious Story Literature
Sufi Traditions in South and West Asia
Intercultural Communications Issues
Experiential Education


PhD    Columbia University
MA      Columbia University
MPhil  Columbia University
MA      School for International Training
TESL  Certificate school for International Training
BA      Southern Illinois University
Teaching Certification Southern Illinois University

Courses Taught

Religion 110:  Religious Values in Cultural Context
Religion/Islamic Studies 213: Introduction to Islam
Religion/Asian Studies 214:  Introduction to Hinduism
Religion/Asian Studies 215:  Introduction to Buddhism
Religion/Asian Studies 216:  Introduction to Chinese Religion
Religion/Asian Studies/Islamic Studies 225: Islamic Mysticism
Religion/Asian Studies 245:  Religion and Film:  Asia and America
Religion/Asian Studies 276:  Female Religious Images in Asia
Religion/Asian Studies 300:  Approaches to the Study of Religion
Religion/Asian Studies 316:  Walking to Heaven: Pilgrimage in Asia
Religion/Asian Studies 318:  Contemporary Buddhism and Social Engagement

Employment History

College undergraduate

Asian Religious Traditions and Literatures, History of Religions, Cross-cultural Studies

LAKE FOREST COLLEGE, 1987 to present.  Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Assistant Professor in the Humanities, Asian Religious Traditions and Literatures:  Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Daoism

  • Chair, Religion Department (2010-present)
  • Chair, Islamic World Studies Program (2010-2012, 2016)
  • Chair, Asian Studies Program (2005-2008)

ASIANetwork Faculty Enhancement Program in India. Co-director and Designer. Academic study in India for liberal arts professors. (Summers 2011 and 2014)

ASSOCIATED COLLEGES OF THE MIDWEST India Studies Program, Faculty Director of undergraduate study abroad program in Pune, India. (1993, 2001, 2008)

BELOIT COLLEGE, Visiting Assistant Professor in Asian Religions. (1995-2000)

BARAT COLLEGE, Visiting Lecturer in Asian Religions. (1996-2000)

BARNARD COLLEGE, Teaching Assistant, Theodore H. Gaster, Folklore.  (1981-1984)

LEHMAN COLLEGE, CUNY, Writing; advanced English as a Second Language. (1981-1987)

HUNTER COLLEGE, CUNY, World Religions. (1982)

SCHOOL FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAINING, Ahmedabad, India, Academic Director.  Intercultural communication; guided student research. (1982)

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, American Language Program, English as a Second Language (ESL); beginning and advanced levels. (1980-1982) 

LaGUARDIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, CUNY, Beginning and intermediate ESL. (1978-1979)

Adult and Secondary Education

Cushing Academy, Summer ESL Program for secondary school students.  Taught advanced English as college preparation; students from the Middle East, Japan, and Latin America.(1978)

United Migrant Opportunity Service, Madison, Wisconsin.  Developed an educational program for Mexican farmworkers and taught language skills. (1977)

Tanzanian Christian Conference Centre, Dodoma, Tanzania.  Devised curriculum and materials for teaching advanced English to Tanzanian adults. (1973-1974)

Dodoma Secondary School, Dodoma, Tanzania.  Developed an English literature syllabus, based on the works of African writers. (1973-1974)


Asian Studies, Religion and International Business

ASIANetwork Development Committee, Co-Chair (2000-present)

Carthage College, Religion Program, External Reviewer (2014)

ASIANetwork Faculty enhancement Program in Vietnam.  Evaluator and Assessor. Academic study in Vietnam for liberal arts professors. (Summer 2013)

Hobart and William Smith College Asian Studies Program, External Reviewer, (2013)

Illinois Wesleyan University, Asian Studies Program. External Reviewer. (2012)

Furman University, Asian Studies, External Reviewer. (2012)

Maryville College Asian Studies Program.  External Reviewer. (2010)

University of San Diego Asian Studies Program.  External Reviewer. (2009)

North Central College East Asian Studies Program.  External Reviewer.  (2009)

Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) Japan Studies Program.  External Reviewer.  (2008)

ACM India Studies Program, Pune India.  External Reviewer and Hiring Consultant.  (2007-2008)

Beloit College Religion Department.  External Reviewer. (2006)

ASIANetwork, Board of Directors, (1997-2000)

ASIANetwork Development Team,  Secure funding for ASIANetwork programs from foundations and others.  ASIANetwork is a national consortium of over 170 liberal arts colleges and universities. (2000-2012)

ASIANetwork, Consultancy Program.  Reviewer for liberal arts and undergraduate Asian Studies programs.  (2003 to present)

Best Practices In International Education Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM)—Great Lakes Consortial Association(GLCA)—Associated Colleges of the South (ACS), “Global Partners Task Force on Best Practices in International Education”. (2002 to 2005)

PAX, Program of Academic Exchange.  Asian and Islamic cultures orientation. (2002-2003)

De Paul University,  Experientially-based intercultural training in preparation for study in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America (1999- 2005)

Motorola University, Center for Culture And Technology.  Training and development programs for managers working in China, India, and Turkey. (1995-1997)

International Orientation Resources.  Training programs for India, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. (1995-2004)

Kalamazoo College Religion Department.  External reviewer. (1992)

UNICEF India.  Field Officer, Education and Health in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. (1975-1976)

Academic Awards

Lake Forest College Summer Research Grant, (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

Keynote Speaker, Edgewood College Student Research and Creative Inquiry Symposium,“Listening to the Stories of Muslim Women in India”(2015)

Distinguished Service Award, ASIANetwork. (2012)

Huntington Fellowship, Huntington Research Library, San Marino, California.  Twentieth century Vedanta Society of Southern California and India; writings of Christopher Isherwood. (2012)

Hotchkiss Fellowship, Lake Forest College.  Research with Muslim women in Khuldabad, Maharashtra, India. (2009)

Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Assistant Professorship in the Humanities.  Lake Forest College. (2007-2010)

Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) Global Partners Award.  CIEE seminar At the Crossroads: Politics, Religion and Culture in Turkey:  field study in central Turkey and lectures in Ankara at Bilkent University and Middle East Technical University. (2004)

ASIANetwork Freeman Faculty-Student Research Award.  Research in Maharashtra, India, on the music and devotional practices of a Hindu Jyotirlinga Temple and a Sufi Shrine. (2002)

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar, Literature of Islamic Mysticism, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (1999)

Lake Forest College Summer Research Award.  Research and translation of Sanskrit story literature texts gathered in India. (1988-1992)

Columbia University Graduate Study Awards:

  • Research Associate, Southern Asian Institute, Columbia University. (1983 -1986)
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Religion, Columbia University. (1980-1984)
  • National Defense Foreign Language Award (Hindi-Urdu). (1978-80)
Professional Organizations

American Academy of Religion
Association for Asian Studies
ASIANetwork Board of Directors 1997-2000, Development Committee 2000-2010
ACM India Studies, Faculty Advisory Board, 1988-present 


Research languages:  Sanskrit, Hindi, French
Additional languages studied:  Farsi, Tamil, Swahili

Cultures (locations of research and employment

Europe:  1971
Tanzania:  1973-74
India:  1975-1976, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1993, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014
Israel: 1980-82
Turkey:  1995, 2004
Bangladesh: 1998
China:  2002, 2006, 2007
Thailand:  2007
Vietnam: 2013
Japan: 2014 

Recent Publications


God of Desire: Tales of Kamadeva in Sanskrit Story Literature. Albany: SUNY Press, 2006.


“Through a Buddhist Lens: Hermann Hess’s Siddhartha, Teaching Religion and Literature . Vol. , AAR (American Academy of Religion). teaching Religious Studies Series, Oxford University Press. (Forthcoming 2016)

Review of Dharma by Alf Hiltebeitel for Education About Asia, Vol. 16, No. 2, Fall 2011.

“Behind the Veil in Khuldabad, India:  Women, Earthen Floors, and Blue Tooth Technology,” ASIANetwork Journal. Fall 2009.

“’Daughters of Wisdom’ Film Review”, Asian Educational Media Service, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Fall 2009.   

“A Virtual Village”, review of an interactive educational website, Asian Educational Media Service, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, 2007.

“Religious Sites in Maharashtra:  Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, and Muslim”, academic photography collection with accompanying metadata, published on the IDEAS (Image Database to Enhance Asian Studies) website, 2005.

“History of the ASIANetwork Development Team:  2000-2005,” ASIANetwork Exchange 12, no. 3 (Spring 2005).

Web Article: “Treasures of Ellora and Khuldabad:  Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jain Shrines,” photographs, commentary, and music recorded in India, January 2003. (2003).

Film Reviews for Asian Educational Media Service:  “Salaam Shalom:  the Jews of India” (Fall 2001); “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana” (Winter 2002).

Articles for the Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion, “Boundaries” and “Egg” New York:  Macmillan, 1999.

“Bangladeshi Business Culture:  Doing Business Internationally and Regionally,” Motorola University, 1997.

“Teaching Indian Buddhism with Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha — or Not?,” Education About Asia (Winter 1997).

Review of Family, Gender, and Population in the Middle East: Policies in Context for The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (Winter 1997).

“Many Contradictions:  Women and Islamists in Turkey,” The Muslim World 86, no. 2 (April 1996): 106-129.

“Potential Effects of Implementing Motorola’s Corporate Culture in Turkey,” Motorola University, January 1995.

“The Impact of Turkish Business Culture on Technology Transfer,” Motorola University, February 1996.

Invited Lectures and Presented Papers
  • Teaching the Undergraduate World Religions Course, University of Chicago Divinity School lecture series: Craft of Teaching in the Academic Study of religion, October 2015.
  • Religious Lives of Muslim Women in a 14th Century Indian Village, edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin, April, 2015.
  • Religion and Globalization in South India, ASIANetwork Annual Conference, Chicago, 2014.
  • Religious Sites in North India and American Liberal Arts Colleges. ASIANetwork Annual Conference, Chicago, 2011.
  • Islam in Asia:  in Education About Asia.  ASIANetwork Annual Conference, Atlanta, 2010.
  • Caught between the Dargah and the Tablighi Jamaat:  Muslim Women in Khuldabad.  ASIANetwork Annual Conference, Chicago, 2009.
  • Behind Veils and Walls:  Religious Practice of Muslim women in Khuldabad, Lake Forest College Faculty Presentation, 2009.
  • Chinese Religious Traditions:  Confucianism and Daoism, Faith-to-Faith Adult Education, Crystal Lake, IL, 2009.
  • Meeting the Indian Kamadeva:  Desire as a Spiritual Path, North Shore Unitarian Church, Bannockburn, IL, 2008.
  • Building Ties to the Spiritual Homeland:  the Construction of Sacred Space by an Indian-American Community in Chicago.  Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs, Washington University, St. Louis, 2007.
  • Women in Afghanistan, History and Current Realities, Lake Forest Women’s Book Group, presentation for discussion of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, 2007.
  • Discussant for International Conference on Religion, Culture, and Peacebuilding, Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2007.
  • Stories of the Indian Kamadeva:  Desire as a Spiritual Path, Prairie Circle Unitarian Church, 2007.
  • Valuing Experiential Education within the Liberal Arts, Sesquicentennial Academic Festival, 2007.
  • Using Images to Teach Asia, Image Database to Enhance Asian Studies (IDEAS), ASIANetwork National Conference, 2006.
  • Web Publishing in Two Models:  CONNEXIONS at Rice University and NITLE’s Arab Culture and Civilization, ASIANetwork Board Meeting, 2006.
  • History of Islam, presentation for discussion of Islam:  What non-Muslims Should Know by John Kaltner, for the Lake Forest Women’s Book Club, 2005.
  • Women and Islam, contextualizing the discussion of Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi for Lake Forest Women’s Book Club, 2005
  • Walking Tour of Devon, LFC Alumni Chicago Connections Series, 2005.
  • Gods Who are Demons and Demons Who are Gods, Prairie Crossing Unitarian Church, 2005.
  • Crossing Cultures, ACM Workshop on Teaching and Learning across the Liberal Arts, 2005.
  • Cross-cultural Issues in Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Lake Forest Women’s Book Club, 2004.
  • Cultural Values and History of Thailand, PAX Annual Meeting, 2003.
  • Treasures of Ellora and Khuldabad, website presentation of student-faculty research in India during January 2003, ASIANetwork  Annual Meeting, 2003.
  • Culture and History of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Morocco, PAX Annual Meeting, 2002.
  • Orienting Undergraduates to Study in India, 2002 ASIANetwork Annual Conference, 2002.
  • Buddhism in China, Lake Forest College, 2001. 
  • Asian Cinema in Asian Studies, ASIANetwork Annual Conference, 2001.
  • Understanding the Faith of Islam, Woodlands Academy, 2001. 
  • Cross-cultural Training for Study Abroad Students ASIANetwork Conference, 2000. 
  • Going Home Again: Bringing Research in Asia into the Classroom, ASIANetwork Annual Conference, 1999.
  • Buddhism in a Troubled World, Women’s Board Lecture, Lake Forest College, 1999.
  • Story of the Prophet Muhammad, Lake Forest Friends Meeting, 1999.
  • Confucianism as a Foundation of Chinese Values, Lake Forest College, 1999.
  • The Dalai Lama as Bodhisattva,Tulku, and Statesman, Lake Forest Friends Meeting, 1998.
  • An American Zen Priest Responds to ‘The Way of Alan Watts’”, ASIANetwork Annual Meeting, 1998. 
  • Asian Cultures and Traditions in America, North Shore Series on International Issues, 1997.
  • Abu Kasem’s Slippers and the Law of Karma, Gita Ashram of the Americas, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, 1997.
  • Pedagogically Speaking:  Indian Religion through Story Literature, ASIANetwork Annual Conference, 1996.
  • Perspectives on ‘Culture Shock’. Lake Forest College, 1996.
  • Origins of the Islamic Religious Tradition, Motorola University, 1995.
  • History and Religions of China, International Orientation Resources, 1995.
  • Multiple Religious Traditions of India, International Orientation Resources, 1995.
  • Stories of Lust and Laughter: the Indian God Kamadeva,Carthage College, 1994. 
  • Hanuman in the Thai narration of the Ra-ma Story, the Ramakien, American Academy of Religion National Conference, 1992.
  • Indian Gurus and the Contemporary American Religious Scene, Perspectives on Global Issues Series, Lake Forest College, 1992.
  • Knowledge, Power, and Authority within the Indian Tradition, Lake Forest College, 1992.
  • Buddhist Perspectives on Death, Barat College, 1992. 
  • Major Concepts in Indian Puranic and Upanisadic Texts, Barat College, 1991. 
  • Death and the Process of Dying in Buddhist Texts, Barat College, 1990.
  • An Historical Glimpse of Islam, First Presbyterian Church, Highland Park, 1990.
  • Manjusri-Vajrananga: a god of desire in Bodhisattva Clothing, American Academy of Religion National Conference, 1989.
Current Research Interests
  • Oral histories of Muslim women in Khuldabad, Maharashtra, India, an historically important Sufi pilgrimage center in western India (in progress, field research in India, 2009-2011).
  • Crossing cultural boundaries in the transmission of Hindu teaching and practice by Ramakrishna Order nuns and monks to 20th century American Ramakrishna-Vivekananda monks, nuns, and laypersons: the Vendanta practice of Christopher Isherwood.
  • First year in the life of a Hindu Temple in suburban Chicago; how rituals, symbols, and iconography are maintained and adapted
  • Religious sites in Turkey, China, and Thailand:  photography and analysis for web publication through IDEAS [Image Database to Enhance Asian Studies] (in progress)
  • Work with ground-breaking Thai Buddhist nuns practicing under the leadership of Sister Dhammananda to explore the issues of religious women In Thailand
  • Nineteenth century British Sanskritists in Maharashtra and their publications of Indian story literature
  • Intercultural communications issues in study abroad and business contexts