With Four Key Appointments, Faculty Is Taking a New Shape

A significant number of new appointments to the Faculty of Divinity have been made this spring, with the prospect of several others being made in the near future. Those already announced are Francis X. Clooney, Amy Hollywood, Baber Johansen, and Michael D. Jackson, all of whom will start at HDS on July 1, 2005.

Clooney, one of the world’s leading comparative-theology scholars, will become the Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology.

A Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Society of Jesus, he is currently professor of comparative theology at Boston College, where he has taught since 1984. His primary area of scholarship has been Hindu-Christian studies, and he is the author of many articles and books in that area. His book Divine Mother, Blessed Mother: Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary has recently been published by Oxford University Press.

“The Parkman Professorship was established in 1814 and is one of the Divinity School’s most venerable chairs,” Dean William A. Graham said in announcing the appointment. “The last incumbent was John Braisted Carman, and it is gratifying that HDS has been able to attract yet another acclaimed scholar whose work naturally flows between theology and the comparative history of religion.”

Clooney, whose doctorate is from the University of Chicago, in South Asian languages and civilizations, said: “Today’s world is witnessing great changes in the study of religion and religions, as the great faith traditions revive and renew themselves, while contemporary pluralism creates unprecedented challenges and possibilities for all believers. Needed more than ever are theologians who are conversant in their own traditions yet willing to cross boundaries and learn from the faith and practice of people of diverse faiths.

Harvard offers unparalleled resources for the study of classical and living traditions, and it will be exciting to work in so diverse and creative a community of colleagues and students.”

Hollywood, who will be inaugural Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Studies, is a historian of Christian thought who specializes in mysticism, with strong interests in feminist theory, psychoanalysis, and continental philosophy.

She comes to HDS from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she has been professor of theology and the history of Christianity. In the 1999–2000 academic year, while a professor at Dartmouth College, she was a Women’s Studies in Religion Program Research Associate at HDS. Her book Sensible Ecstasy: Mysticism, Sexual Difference, and the Demands of History was published by the University of Chicago in 2001, and she is currently writing about memory, mourning, and Christian mysticism.

“Little seems more important today—although certainly many things are as important—as understanding the role religion plays in human life,” said Hollywood, whose doctorate is from Chicago.

“The question is how to move from that rather vague assertion to the concrete details of empirical and theoretical research in the study of religion. That work is ongoing at Harvard, and I look forward to sharing in the collaborative enterprise.”

Dean Graham, in announcing Hollywood’s appointment, said: “This chair has been endowed by two remarkably generous and dedicated supporters of the Divinity School and Harvard University, Elizabeth and Ernest Monrad, and they are very pleased to know that such a creative scholar as Amy will assume this title.”

Johansen—one of the world’s most eminent scholars of Islamic studies and a leading specialist, in particular, on topics of Muslim law—will be Professor of Islamic Religious Studies. “To attract an Islamic scholar of such experience, scope, and influence is an extremely important step for Harvard Divinity School at this time,” said Graham. “We look forward to Professor Johansen’s immediate contribution as we adjust and enhance our curriculum for a new era in the School’s life.”

Since 1995, Johansen has been on the faculty of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. For most of his career, he taught undergraduate and graduate students as a professor in the Institute of Islamic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, where he received his PhD. He is the author of numerous articles and books, most recently Contingency in a Sacred Law: Legal and Ethical Norms in the Muslim Fiqh (Brill), and he has received many honors around the world.

“This appointment gives me the chance to cooperate with some of the leading scholars in fields closely related to Islamic religious studies and to use the resources of what may be the finest Occidental library on Islam,” Johansen said.

In addition to these three permanent appointments, Jackson, an acclaimed anthropologist most recently on the faculty at the Institute of Anthropology of the University of Copenhagen, has accepted a five-year post as Visiting Professor of World Religions. “We are extremely lucky to have attracted Professor Jackson to the Divinity School,” said the Dean. “We believe he will be the kind of colleague who will naturally engage in inter-faculty work across the University, especially helping HDS to fashion even stronger ties with the social-science departments.”

Jackson, whose doctorate is from Cambridge University, was College Professor at Indiana University from 1988–1996, and he taught earlier in his native New Zealand and in Australia. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Sierra Leone and Aboriginal Australia, and is the author of many works on anthropology, including the prize-winning Paths Toward a Clearing and At Home in the World, as well as five books of poetry and two novels.

His book In Sierra Leone has just been published in the United States by Duke University Press.

“My goals,” said Jackson, “are to help introduce ethnographic methods to research in religion, to explore ways in which we can update and enlarge our understanding of life worlds and worldviews outside the world’s text-based religions, to demonstrate the relevance of such intellectual traditions as empiricism, radical empiricism, existentialism, and phenomenology to the study of religion, and build bridges between religious studies and the social sciences.”