Sara A. Swenson

Assistant Professor
Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor, Religion

Sara Ann Swenson researches contemporary Buddhism in Vietnam. Her current work examines rising trends of Buddhist volunteerism in Vietnam’s fastest growing urban area, Ho Chi Minh City. Drawing on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2015 and 2019, she explores how lay and monastic Buddhist charity workers coped with experiences of urban alienation by framing altruism as an intersubjective act that benefits all beings. Her scholarship shows how Buddhist practices fundamentally inform and drive a shift toward grassroots social service programming in Vietnam amid increasing economic privatization.

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Swenson's research has been published in The Journal of Global Buddhism, The Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Political Theology, and the Journal of Theology & Sexuality. Her work has been funded through the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship; Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA); and The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Buddhist Studies, awarded through the American Council of Learned Societies.

Swenson completed her Ph.D. in Religion from Syracuse University in 2021. She holds an M.Phil. in Religion (Syracuse University, 2016), a Certificate of Advanced Study in Women’s and Gender Studies (Syracuse University, 2015), an M.A. in Comparative Religion (Iliff School of Theology, 2012), and a B.A. in English (University of Minnesota Duluth, 2009). Her research informs her teaching on subjects of comparative religion and religions of Southeast Asia.

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B.A. University of Minnesota-Duluth
M.A. Iliff School of Theology
M.A.. Syracuse University
Ph.D. Syracuse University