Winnifred Sullivan joined IU Bloomington in 2012 as provost professor in the Department of Religious Studies. She is also the founding director of the Center for Religion and the Human, affiliated professor of law in the Maurer School of Law, and an affiliated faculty member in the Islamic Studies Program. Sullivan earned a B.A. in theatre arts from Cornell University (1971), a J.D. from the University of Chicago (1976), and a Ph.D. in history of religions/history of Christianity from the University of Chicago (1993). After receiving her Ph.D., she began her academic career at Washington and Lee University (Lexington, Virginia) in the Department of Religion as an assistant professor (1994-2000). She moved first to the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she was dean of students and a senior lecturer in anthropology and sociology of religion (2000-2005). She then moved to The State University of New York as associate professor of law (2006-2010) and professor of law (2010-2012) in the University at Buffalo Law School before ending up at IU in 2012.
Sullivan is interested in religion as a broad and complex social and cultural phenomenon that both generates law and is regulated by law. Her particular research focus is in understanding the phenomenology of religion under the modern rule of law. Her training in the academic study of religion is in two fields, American religious history and the comparative study of religion. She focuses on the intersection of religion and law in the U.S. within a broader comparative field, both theoretically and cross-culturally. Within legal studies, her work falls broadly within socio-legal and critical legal studies.
Sullivan has authored numerous books, journal articles, reviews, blogs, and other publications. Her latest book is titled, Church State Corporation: Construing Religion in U.S. Law (University of Chicago Press, 2020). At IU, she teaches courses on Christmas, Politics of Religious Freedom, and Interpreting Religions. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020, and has received many other honors and awards throughout her career.