Latina/o Religious Studies Scholar to Join HDS Faculty

Constructive theologian and former chemical engineer Mayra Rivera Rivera has been named Assistant Professor of Theology and Latina/o Studies at Harvard Divinity School. She will join the HDS faculty July 1, 2010.

Since 2006, Rivera Rivera has served as Assistant Professor of Theology at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. She also advises doctoral students of the Graduate Theological Union—a consortium of graduate theological seminaries and centers located in the San Francisco Bay area.

"The HDS faculty is very pleased to know that Professor Rivera Rivera will be joining us in 2010," said Dean William A. Graham in announcing the appointment. "Her work as a theologian will give us new strength in Latina/o religious studies and will add to our women's religious and theological studies at HDS. Her ability to engage theoretical and social issues across several fields of study will be an especially welcome addition to our growing capacity for substantive conversations among the numerous fields and disciplines at HDS."

A PhD graduate of Drew University in 2005 in theology and religious studies—with a secondary concentration in women's studies—Rivera Rivera is a transdisciplinary Latina theologian whose scholarship focuses on the intersections between feminist theory and cultural studies. Before entering theological studies, she earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and worked in the engineering field in Puerto Rico for more than a decade.

"I look forward to joining faculty and students at the Divinity School in their journeys of theological inquiry," Rivera Rivera said. "Especially exciting to me is the School's decision to make Latina/o studies an integral part of its theological education—a move that reflects an interest in engaging contemporary cultural and political contexts. I am committed to the transdisciplinary approach that such a study implies."

From 2003 to 2005 she served as a consultation participant for the program "Reading and Teaching the Bible as Asian, Black, and Latino/a Scholars in the United States," funded by the Wabash Center. Her remarkable book, The Touch of Transcendence: A Postcolonial Theology of God (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), explores the relationship between God's otherness and interhuman difference, and presents a compelling example of how her scholarship engages theological constructs to find new ways to transfigure metaphors, bodies, and the space between bodies to affect dominant knowledge and power. 

"She is an exceptionally gifted voice in Latina feminist, liberation, postcolonial, and constructive theology circles," said Susan Abraham, Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies at HDS and member of the faculty search subcommittee. "Her unique gifts as a brilliant scholar and teacher will enhance HDS's offerings across the board. I know from experience that she is a fantastic colleague and friend, and I am thrilled to soon be working more closely with her."