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Catherine Wessinger

Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions


Ph.D., History of Religions, University of Iowa, 1985


  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Religious Studies
  • Center for Editing and Publishing


  • Asia
  • Gender Issues
  • Religion
  • Women's Studies


Dr. Catherine Wessinger is the Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions at Loyola University New Orleans. She is co-director of the Loyola Himalaya Adventure: Summer Study in Dharamsala, India program. She is director of the Religion and Media Minor.  Her primary research and teaching areas are women in religions, new religious movements, religion and media, and Tibetan and Indian religions. Her articles in journals and chapters in edited books include history of religions and theoretical treatments of women and religion, millennialism, new religious movements, and religion and violence.

Since 2000 Dr. Wessinger has served as co-general editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions published by University of California Press. 

Dr. Wessinger is editor of the Women in Religions series at New York University Press.

She is co-director of the Women in the World’s Religions and Spirituality Project, which is part of the World Religions and Spirituality Project online encyclopedia and archive.

Dr. Wessinger has published ten books. She is the author of Annie Besant and Progressive Millennialism (1988); and How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate (2000). She is editor of Women's Leadership in Marginal Religions: Explorations Outside the Mainstream (1993); Religious Institutions and Women's Leadership: New Roles Inside the Mainstream (1996); Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases (2000); and Oxford Handbook of Millennialism (2011). Her oral history project with surviving Branch Davidians produced three autobiographies, which she edited: Memories of the Branch Davidians: Autobiography of David Koresh's Mother, by Bonnie Haldeman (2007); When They Were Mine: Memoirs of a Branch Davidian Wife and Mother, by Sheila Martin (2009); A Journey to Waco: Autobiography of a Branch Davidian, by Clive Doyle with Catherine Wessinger and Matthew D. Wittmer.  This oral history project has continued on her YouTube channel. Her most recent book is Theory of Women in Religions (2020)

She is currently writing a book on the Branch Davidian-Federal Agents Conflict for the Cambridge Elements Series on Religion and Violence and writing a book on Women in New Religious Movements for the Cambridge Elements Series on New Religious Movements.

Recent Publications

  • Theory of Women in Religions. New York: New York University Press, 2020.
  • “The FBI’s ‘Cult War’ against the Branch Davidians.” In The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11, ed. Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman, 203-43. Oakland: University of California Press, 2017.
  • “Millennialism.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements, ed. George D. Chryssides and Benjamin E. Zeller, 133-48. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
  • “Apocalypse and Violence.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, ed. John J. Collins, 422-40. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • “The Second Generation Leaders of the Theosophical Society (Adyar).” In Brill Handbook of the Theosophical Current, ed. Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein, 33-50. Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion series. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Classes Taught

  • Religions of the World
  • Cults and Religions (Honors)
  • Contemporary Issues and Conflicts in World Religions (Honors)
  • Women in World Religions
  • Tibetan and Indian Religions
  • Women in Christianity
  • Women in Religions and Cultures
  • Hindu Paths to God
  • Buddhism
  • Religions of Asia
  • Religion and Media
  • Religion, Media and Culture
  • New Religions and Media
  • Religious Responses to Disaster
  • Millennium Seminar
  • Fundamentals of Conflict and Peace (team-taught)
  • New Orleans Religions: Before and After Katrina (First-Year Experience seminar)