Stunning An address in honor of the Religious Studies Majors 2021 Jennifer Knust Late last summer, a little hermit thrush hit the kitchen window of our family’s cabin in Maine and, stunned, fell to the forest floor. I wasn’t there. I was here in Durham, hoping I could figure out how to teach in the middle of a pandemic, in the face of a national and global disaster where so much had been exposed and so much misery and injustice made transparently… read more about Stunning: Prof. Jennifer Knust Addresses Religious Studies Commencement Ceremony »

Duke honored the altruism of Duke staff member Anika Lucas and students John Amodeo and Tatayana Richardson on Friday with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.  The award recognizes one graduating senior and members of the faculty, staff or graduate student body from Duke University or Duke University Health System for outstanding commitment to service.  Provost Sally Kornbluth and Leslie Parkins, assistant vice president and director for civic engagement, honored the recipients during a virtual ceremony on… read more about 2021 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Honors Generous Spirits »

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of first-person essays by members of the Duke community reflecting on a year living with COVID-19. “Interrupting angels.” Who knew such things were ever imagined? In my teaching and research in the area of Jewish magic and mysticism, I’ve become acquainted with all sorts of angels. Angels of wrath and of mercy. Angels of esoteric knowledge and crafty deceit. Angels for each nation, and angels for every mood. The angel of rain, of the sea, and of destiny. I think of such… read more about Professor, Interrupted »

Duke senior Tatayana Richardson will deliver a sermon on God helping people find peace in turbulent times as part of Duke Chapel’s online worship service at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 21. Richardson, a double major in religion and African American studies, has been selected to be this year’s Duke Chapel student preacher. She will work with chapel ministers and Divinity School faculty members to refine the sermon she submitted. “As someone thinking about ordination, preaching a sermon has always been something that I have… read more about Senior’s Duke Chapel Sermon March 21 to Seek God Amid Suffering »

When Elizabeth Schrader signed up for a free short-course in the summer of 2019, the doctoral candidate in religion had no idea it would have an immediate impact on her scholarship. Two years earlier, Schrader published an article arguing that early Christian copyists may have altered the Gospel of John to minimize the role of Mary Magdalene. This was an important finding, but it wasn’t getting the attention in scholarly circles that she’d hoped for. “Although my work had appeared in a prestigious journal (the Harvard… read more about What I Got Out of the Duke Graduate Academy »

      By Anisha Reddy March 1, 2021 | 3:15am EST   Joseph Winters, Alexander F. Hehmeyer associate professor of religious studies and African and African American studies, is the author of “Hope Draped in Black: Race, Melancholy, and the Agony of Progress”. In the book, Winters explores the Black literary and aesthetic tradition of exploring loss and anguish to challenge beliefs of America’s sustained racial progress.  The Chronicle spoke to Winters about problematic… read more about Q&A: Prof. Joseph Winters discusses balance between hope and melancholy in Black literature »

This month, we present a collection of 10 Duke-authored books detailing the history of Black life in America. While this is not a comprehensive list of all Duke scholarship on Black history, it is intended to be an introduction to the multifaceted work of Duke scholars in public policy, history, documentary studies, religious studies, African and African-American studies, cultural anthropology, sociology, art, art history, and visual studies.  These books, along with many others, are available at Duke… read more about 10 Duke-Authored Books on Black History »

Though fascinated with the land of their tradition’s birth, virtually no Japanese Buddhists visited the Indian subcontinent before the nineteenth century. In the richly illustrated Seeking Śākyamuni: South Asia in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism (U Chicago Press, 2019), Richard M. Jaffe reveals the experiences of the first Japanese Buddhists who traveled to South Asia in search of Buddhist knowledge beginning in 1873. Analyzing the impact of these voyages on Japanese conceptions of Buddhism… read more about Seeking Sakyamuni: South Asia in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism »

As part of its event series tgiFHI, the Franklin Humanities Institute is conducting interviews with its faculty speakers in order to familiarize broader audiences with the diversity of research approaches in the humanities, arts, and interpretive social sciences at Duke University. Dr. Laura Lieber is Professor of Religious Studies, Classical Studies, German Studies, and Divinity, and director of the Duke Center for Jewish Studies. In this edited and condensed interview, she describes why she's interested in the… read more about Meet Your Humanities Faculty: Laura Lieber »

By Tatayana Richardson January 25, 2021 | 12:00am EST         Welcome, folks, to the Biden Administration.  That's right: we are just shy of a week into the administration, and Biden has begun furiously working to correct course for the disarray that has been the past four years. And as the nation begins to move past the insurrection of January 6, 2021, it has brought with it several phrases… “This not what America is about” “The American dream has been shattered” “The nation… read more about How do we get it right? »

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress, Four years ago, after the election results were announced, I wrote two biblical quotations in Hebrew on my office door, so that I would see them daily, be reminded of their truth, and be spurred to action. The first was from Deuteronomy 16:20, which should be translated as: “After justice, after justice, must you chase (tzedek tzedek tirdof).” Most English translations miss how emphatic this command is. It repeats “justice” twice—as… read more about Value & Voice: Letter 4 »

Marc Z. Brettler, the Bernice and Morton Lerner Distinguished Professor in Judaic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies, co-authored a response to a New York Times op-ed about the "forgotten radicalism of Jesus Christ." Brettler and his colleagues argue that, in fact, Jesus' "social justice interests come right out of Judaism." Read their article at the Daily Beast. read more about What the New York Times Gets Wrong About Jesus »

“This calligraphic piece, Heaven’s Roof, juxtaposes two meditations, from two religious traditions and in two different languages, both on the wonders of creation and the God who, like an architect, designed and created our cosmic home. The inspiration for this piece came to me recently when I took a workshop in runes, an ancient writing system used in Germanic languages such as Old Norse and Old English. I thought back to a poem I studied in college, ‘Caedmon’s Hymn,’ a beautiful hymn from the earliest Christian… read more about Jonathan Homrighausen ’23: Heaven’s Roof »

During Yom Kippur, Jews traditionally read the entirety of the Book of Jonah from the Hebrew Bible. Known as the Day of Atonement, the holiday -- the holiest day in Judaism -- is dedicated to repentance, and the Book of Jonah is a fitting reading. It tells of God sparing the city of Nineveh, known for its wickedness, when the people repent for their sins. The New Testament includes references to Jonah as well, but not primarily as a story of repentance. For Christians, Jonah’s three days and nights in the belly of the fish… read more about Learning From the Bible’s Many Meanings »

William A. Darity (Samuel DuBois Cook Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Economics and African and African American Studies), Malachi Hacohen (Professor of History) and Adam Hollowell (Adjunct Instructor of Education) co-wrote an article for Inside Higher Ed about Duke's new inequality studies minor, arguing that students, professors and administrators need a deeper understanding of how human disparities have developed, why they persist and how they evolve over time. read more about The Importance of Inequality Studies »

This month we offer a collection of Duke-authored books that explore historical and current aspects of faith, spirituality and religious culture in society.  These books along with many others are available at the Duke University Libraries, the Gothic Bookshop or the Regulator Bookshop.   The Bible With and Without Jesus by Marc Zvi Brettler What It's About: Professor Marc Z. Brettler and co-author Amy-Jill Levine take readers on a guided… read more about Eight Duke Books on Religion and Spirituality »

By Tatayana Richardson November 16, 2020 | 12:00am EST               “Question: Why did God make Jesus white, when the majority of peoples in the world are non-white?  Answer: The color of Jesus’ skin is of little or no consequence. The whiteness or blackness of one’s skin is a biological quality which has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the personality. The significance of Jesus lay, not in His color, but in His unique God-consciousness and His… read more about News flash...Jesus wasn't white » By the 6th century CE, Christianity was a religion of empire that produced significant codices of imperial law, many of which regulated Jewish practice. Even so, however, Christian polemics against Jewish “legalism” and the perceived burden of the Mosaic-Pharisaic law were commonplace. According to foundational Christian writings, Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection had brought freedom from that burden to humanity, and ongoing Jewish adherence to Jewish law (what… read more about Law as Love-Song »

Professor Leela Prasad has a new book. Read more here. The Audacious Raconteur Sovereignty and Storytelling in Colonial India Leela Prasad Can a subject be sovereign in a hegemony?   Can creativity be reined in by forces of empire? The Audacious Raconteur argues that even the most hegemonic circumstances cannot suppress "audacious raconteurs": skilled storytellers who fashion narrative spaces that allow themselves to remain sovereign and beyond subjugation.   Engaging history,… read more about Leela Prasad publishes The Audacious Raconteur »

Religion and Humor in the Time of Pandemic   Is it necessarily irreligious to poke fun of religion? What might be the utility of such humor? Professor David Morgan led a group of engaged Duke students in considering these questions and more as he moderated the inaugural installment of a new discussion series, Exploring Self and Community in Dark Times. The sessions are open to first- and second-year students who are interested in examining the global crisis of COVID… read more about Religion and Humor in the Time of Pandemic »

Here are recently published and forthcoming books by Duke authors, from September and October:   Marc Zvi Brettler, co-author: “The Bible With and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently” Annotated Edition (HarperOne, Oct. 27, 2020) Avshalom Caspi and Terrie E. Moffitt, co-authors: “The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life” (Harvard University Press) Samuel Fury Childs Daly: “A History of the Republic of Biafra: Law, Crime,… read more about New Great Reads from Duke Authors »

Faculty in the Department of Religious Studies express their support for and solidarity with #ScholarStrike, a call for a general strike of 48 hours on September 8 and 9 to take a collective stand against police brutality and extrajudicial violence in the United States. Faculty and students will be engaging in teach-in events and each of us will take time on September 8-9 to reflect seriously on the issues raised from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Additional information about #ScholarStrike can be found in… read more about Religious Studies Faculty Support #ScholarStrike »

A hearty welcome to Professor Anna Sun! Anna Sun is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University. She earned her Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton and her B.A from Berkeley. Sun is a scholar of Confucianism in particular and of contemporary Chinese religious life in general. Her research interests include the 19th century production of knowledge about Chinese religions; the development of Global Confucianisms in the 21st century; comparative ritual theory; and theoretical and methodological issues underlying… read more about Duke Welcomes Dr. Anna Sun »

Link to article: Seeking Śākyamuni: South Asia in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism July 27, 2020 Author Conversations Series, Summer 2020 Speaker and Author: Richard Jaffe, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, Duke University; Director of the Asia Pacific Studies Institute at Duke University Discussants: Charles Hallisey, Yehan Numata Senior… read more about Seeking Sakyamuni: South Asia in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism »

Mark Goodacre is a big fan of Doctor Who—maybe even an obsessive fan. The kind of fan who has friends who host their own Doctor Who podcasts. When they started, Goodacre probably couldn’t have told you they would inspire him to offer his New Testament scholarship in a new medium. Not only is that just what happened, but the experience led down even stranger roads, like an investigation into the history of a joke about dentures and an email explaining that his voice was a cure for anxiety. Goodacre, the Frances Hill… read more about A Comforting Voice on the New Testament »