Anthony Petro

Anthony Petro headshotAnthony Petro is an assistant professor in Boston University's Department of Religion and in the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program. He earned his PhD from Princeton University. His teaching and research interests include religion and culture in the United States; religion, medicine, and public health; and gender and sexuality studies. His first book, After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion (Oxford University Press, 2015), examines the history of U.S. American religious responses to the HIV/AIDS crisis and their role in the promotion of a national moral discourse on sex. He has published essays on a number of topics, including histories of Catholic sexual abuse, critical disability studies and religion, the religious politics of camp, and approaches to studying race, gender, and sexuality in North American religion.

Petro is currently developing two projects that engage questions about religion and secularism, the cultural politics of morality, and religious formations of bodies in the modern U.S. The first, called Provoking Religion: Sex, Art, and the Sacred in the Modern United States (under contract with Oxford University Press), traces heated debates over sex, art, and religion to reveal competing genealogies of the sacred and the secular in the modern U.S., especially during the heyday of the culture wars. It explores how a range of feminist and queer artists have engaged religious themes and rituals in their work, spanning from Judy Chicago’s 1979 “The Dinner Party” to the controversy surrounding David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in the Belly as part of 2010’s “Hide/Seek” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. Provoking Religion asks how this archive of visual and performance art helps us to rethink key categories in the study of religion and in gender and sexuality studies.

A second project looks at the history of religious engagements with health and disability policy in the U.S. since the 1950s. It demonstrates how religious leaders and activists have shaped cultural understandings of health and moral citizenship through debates about topics such as alcoholism, end of life care, disability rights, vaccination, abortion, and the war on drugs.

In addition to teaching in the Department of Religion, Petro also serves as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and as the Co-Chair for the Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality at MIT.