Religious Studies
Headshot of Tom Patton

Thomas Patton

Job Title
Wold Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian Religions
Lamont House 202

Areas of expertise

My teaching and research are attentive to religion in Asia, particularly focusing on historical and anthropological interests engaging Buddhist phenomena in relation to cultural contexts, issues of gender and class, and politics. Before coming to Union College, I spent ten years teaching Asian religions at the City University of Hong Kong. Over the past two decades I have immersed myself in Asian religions in various capacities: As an ordained Buddhist monk in Myanmar; a student of Hinduism in India; and a researcher of Taoism and Confucianism in China, to name just a few. My current research project is on lived religion in Asia, specifically examining local cults of saints and peoples' relationships with them, shrines, material and visual objects, and other manifestations of religious devotion.


“Balinese Concepts of Letters in a Burmese Context.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 2022.

“Medicine Wizards of Myanmar: Four Facebook Posts.” In Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology
of Modern and Contemporary Sources, ed. Pierce Salguero. Columbia University Press, 2019.

The Buddha’s Wizards: Magic, Protection, and Healing in Burmese Buddhism. New York:
Columbia University Press, 2018.

“Phantasmagorical Buddhism: Imagination’s Role in the Creation of Burmese Buddhism.”
Religions. 9 (12), pp 414-428. 2018.

“Buddhist Salvation Armies as Vanguards of the Sasana: Sorcerer Societies of Burma’s Liberation
Era.” Journal of Asian Studies. 74 (2), pp 205-219. 2016.

“The Wizard King’s Granddaughters: Burmese Buddhist Female Mediums, Healers, and
Dreamers.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 84 (2), pp 430-465. 2016.

Additional Media

2021 interviewed for the podcast, The Unconventionals, about research, recent book, and thoughts on life and religion.


2020. Interview for, and book featured in, an article in the Economist: “Magic Spells are Booming Business in Myanmar”:

2019. Interviewed for the podcast “Myanmar Musings” about new book and research.

Academic credentials

Ph.D. Cornell University; M.T.S. Harvard Divinity School; B.A. Manhattan College