Center for the Study of World Religions

The Center for the Study of World Religions has particular interest in the historical and contemporary interrelationships among religions, and the theological, philosophical, comparative, political, and ethical challenges facing religious communities and those who study them today. It primarily engages the academic community, beginning with the faculty, students, and staff of Harvard Divinity School, and then the wider scholarly community, but also welcomes religious practitioners, policymakers, and the wider public that is interested in religion.

Sub-Collections

Below is a list of in-print works in this collection, presented in series order or publication order as applicable.

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Cover: The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles: Harvard Divinity School Studies

The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles: Harvard Divinity School Studies

Bovon, François
Brock, Ann Graham
Matthews, Christopher R.

This collection provides a rich, multilayered analysis of a long-neglected branch of early Christian apocryphal literature that examines the relationship between tradition and redaction, uses of language, and the fluid border between literary criticism and motif analysis.

Cover: Ancestors in Post-Contact Religion: Roots, Ruptures, and Modernity's Memory

Ancestors in Post-Contact Religion: Roots, Ruptures, and Modernity's Memory

Friesen, Steven J.

The phenomenon of ancestors is common to all humans, but while prominent in most indigenous traditions, it has been suppressed in western cultures. This volume articulates crucial issues in the study of post-contact religion through the themes of the ancestral ordering of the world, intense personal attachments to forebears, and the catastrophes of colonization.

Cover: Experiences of Place

Experiences of Place

MacDonald, Mary N.

Place and orientation are important aspects of human experience. The distinguished contributors to this volume invite us to reflect on the significance of places, real and imagined, in the religious traditions they study and on how places are known, imagined, remembered, and struggled for.

Cover: Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds

Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds

Tucker, Mary Evelyn
Williams, Duncan Ryūken

In this book, 20 religionists and environmentalists examine Buddhism’s understanding of life’s web. In noting the cultural diversity of Buddhism, they highlight aspects of the tradition that may help formulate an effective environmental ethics, citing examples from Asia and the U.S. of socially engaged Buddhist projects to protect the environment.

Cover: Confucianism and Ecology: The Interrelation of Heaven, Earth, and Humans

Confucianism and Ecology: The Interrelation of Heaven, Earth, and Humans

Tucker, Mary Evelyn
Berthrong, John

These 16 essays address the ecological crisis and the question of Confucianism from three perspectives: the historical describes the tradition’s views of nature, social ethics, and cosmology; a dialogical approach links Confucianism to other traditions; an examination of engaged Confucianism looks at its involvement in concrete ecological issues.

Cover: Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and Humans

Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and Humans

Hessel, Dieter T.
Ruether, Rosemary Radford

What can Christianity as a tradition contribute to the struggle to secure the future well-being of the earth community? This collaborative volume, the third in the series on religions of the world and the environment, explores problematic themes that contribute to ecological neglect or abuse and offer constructive insight into and responsive imperatives for ecologically just and socially responsible living.

Cover: Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water

Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water

Chapple, Christopher Key
Tucker, Mary Evelyn

This fourth volume in the series exploring religions and the environment investigates the role of the multifaceted Hindu tradition in the development of greater ecological awareness in India. The twenty-two contributors ask how traditional concepts of nature in the classical texts might inspire or impede an eco-friendly attitude among modern Hindus, and they describe some grassroots approaches to environmental protection.

Cover: Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape

Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape

Girardot, N. J.
Miller, James
Liu, Xiaogan

The authors consider the intersection of Daoism and ecology, looking at the theoretical and historical implications associated with a Daoist approach to the environment. They also analyze perspectives found in Daoist religious texts and within the larger Chinese cultural context in order to delineate key issues found in the classical texts.

Cover: Indigenous Traditions and Ecology: The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community

Indigenous Traditions and Ecology: The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community

Grim, John A.

The authors, a diverse group of indigenous and non-native scholars and environmental activists, address urgent questions facing indigenous communities as they struggle with threats to their own sovereignty, increased market and media globalization, and the conservation of endangered bioregions.

Cover: Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life

Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life

Chapple, Christopher Key

The twenty-five-hundred-year-old tradition of Jainism, which emphasizes nonviolence as the only true path leading to liberation, offers a worldview seemingly compatible with the goals of environmental activism. But can Jainism adopt a sociocentric environmentalism without compromising its own ascetic principles and spiritual tradition? The voices in this volume reflect the dynamic nature of the Jain faith and its willingness to engage in discussion on a modern social issue.

Cover: Judaism and Ecology: Created World and Revealed Word

Judaism and Ecology: Created World and Revealed Word

Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava

Jewish ecological discourse has shown that Judaism harbors deep concern for the well-being of the natural world. However, the movement has not articulated a Jewish theology of nature, nor has it submitted the sources of Judaism to a systematic, philosophical examination. This volume intends to contribute to the nascent discourse on Judaism and ecology by clarifying diverse conceptions of nature in Jewish thought and by using the insights of Judaism to formulate a constructive Jewish theology of nature.

Cover: Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust

Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust

Foltz, Richard C.
Denny, Frederick M.
Baharuddin, Azizan

The articulation of an Islamic environmental ethic in contemporary terms is all the more urgent because Western-style conservation efforts do not fit all cultural and philosophical traditions. This volume outlines the Islamic view of the cosmic order and reviews the ways an Islamic world view can be interpreted, reassessed, and applied to such environmental problems as pollution and water scarcity.

Cover: Ecology and the Environment: Perspectives from the Humanities

Ecology and the Environment: Perspectives from the Humanities

Swearer, Donald K.

Seven major scholars discuss the perspectives that the fields of literature, history, religion, philosophy, environmental ethics, and anthropology bring to the natural environment and our place in it. The book represents a continuation of the Center for the Study of World Religions’ highly regarded Religions of the World and Ecology series.

Cover: Ecologies of Human Flourishing

Ecologies of Human Flourishing

Swearer, Donald K.
McGarry, Susan Lloyd

In this volume, prominent Buddhist scholar Donald Swearer posits that the future requires a radical shift toward living in recognition of the interdependence of all life forms and the consequent ethic of communality and a life style of moderation or “enoughness” that flows from that recognition, which he calls “an ecology of human flourishing.”

Cover: Rethinking the Human

Rethinking the Human

Molina, J. Michelle
Swearer, Donald K.

Cover: Religion and Nationalism in Iraq: A Comparative Perspective

Religion and Nationalism in Iraq: A Comparative Perspective

Little, David
Swearer, Donald K.

This volume provides a comparative consideration of attempts to manage and resolve nationalist conflicts in Bosnia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan—with two prominent thinkers examining each case—and examines how lessons from those situations might inform similar efforts in Iraq.

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Jacket: Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self, by Julie Sedivy, from Harvard University Press

Lost in Translation: Reclaiming Lost Language

In Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self, Julie Sedivy sets out to understand the science of language loss and the potential for renewal. Sedivy takes on the psychological and social world of multilingualism, exploring the human brain’s capacity to learn—and forget—languages at various stages of life. She argues that the struggle to remain connected to an ancestral language and culture is a site of common ground: people from all backgrounds can recognize the crucial role of language in forming a sense of self.