Skip to main content

Shira E. Schwartz

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Shira E. Schwartz is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, specializing in late antique rabbinic and contemporary Orthodox and ex-Orthodox Judaism, comparative forms of religious exit and queer/trans religious lives.  A comparatist by training, Schwartz’s interdisciplinary research combines textual, phenomenological and bioethnographic methods to explore how gender/sex and sexuality are constructed in minoritized ethnoreligious worlds and their educational institutions. Crossing the humanities with the social and biomedical sciences, Schwartz works across these methods to follow different kinds of religious and gendered crossers, highlighting the role of space in shaping the body and linking educational and biomedical environments as sites of religious and biomaterial reproduction.

Schwartz’s research has been awarded support by the Association for Jewish Studies, Network for Research in Jewish Education, Jewish Orthodoxies Research Fellowship, and Humanities Without Walls, among others. Schwartz has previously served as a visiting scholar in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University in the Concentration for Education and Jewish Studies, and as a fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Schwartz has also completed Salivary Bioscience Training at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research at the University of California, Irvine and is developing a new method for conducting hormonal ethnography. Schwartz has organized numerous workshops, conference panels, collaborative projects and special publications, including “Unorthodox Media,” an @theTable series on Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life in Feminist Studies in Religion, 2022. 

Schwartz’s undergraduate teaching focuses on course offerings across the above topics, as well as in American Judaism, and religion and media, with particular relevance to the interdisciplinary concentrations of Religion, Sexuality and Gender, and Religion Health and Medicine. Through these courses, students are encouraged to explore ideas and follow their interests across a wide range of sources, modalities and time periods, and to become more conscious learners both in and out of the classroom. Schwartz holds a BA from Yeshiva University, an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Davis, and a PhD in Comparative Literature and graduate certificate in Judaic Studies from the University of Michigan. Before coming to Northwestern, Schwartz served as the inaugural Phyllis Backer Professor of Jewish Studies at Syracuse University. 

Schwartz’s current research projects include Yeshiva Quirls: A Textual Ethnography of Jewish Reproduction, Evanjudaism, and Religion as Hormone.

Professor Schwartz will be teaching REL 101-7 First-Year College Seminar in Fall 2023. For Professor Schwartz's other courses, see our 2023-24 Course Schedule.

Selected Works


“Unorthodox Media,” @theTable, Feminist Studies in Religion, January, 2022.
“The Unorthodox Choice,” @theTable, Feminist Studies in Religion, January, 2022.