Department of Religious Studies

Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Religious Studies at Brown strives to be a department that manifests our commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Although these terms often serve bureaucratic, institutional aims, for us they represent central and on-going aspirations of the department. We seek to be just in the service of equity, to be intellectually and socially welcoming of people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities, and to be thoughtful in our goal of inclusivity toward the diverse groups and individuals that have traditionally been marginalized and oppressed in the United States and beyond. For us, these commitments entail taking seriously the multiplicity of voices, perspectives, and experiences within our department, our field, and in society at large - even as we acknowledge our shortcomings and histories. We recognize, for example, that historically, Religious Studies as a discipline has been complicit in perpetuating forms of racism, including anti-Black racism. Our field has deep roots in Euro-American culture and even in certain colonial projects. Institutions of higher learning in the U.S., including Brown, have benefitted from settler colonialism, and in our case, currently occupy indigenous land (of Narragansett and Wampanoag peoples) in a University that was built and sustained by wealth derived from the forced labor of enslaved Africans.

testThis colonial history of the United States is reflected in Religious Studies’ predominantly Euro-centric and predominantly White canon of literature; and systemic racism in society at large and in higher education in particular continue to be reflected in the still comparatively limited number of scholars of color in mainstream Religious Studies. In light of this, as a department we are committed to being reflective about how we may more effectively combat anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, given our situation the Northeastern United States. We also strive to eradicate from our practices and culture all other forms of bias, bigotry and intolerance, including all forms of gender- and ability-based discrimination and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We affirm that Black Lives Matter. We also commit to the principle that Indigenous lives, and all other historically marginalized lives, are to be respected for their inherent dignity and humanity.

Departmental Commitment

As a department we come together to commit that we will continually work to achieve: a diverse body of faculty, staff, and students; a curriculum that addresses equity, diversity, and inclusion through its course offerings, texts, and pedagogical approaches; and an ethos of respect, exchange, and hospitality that permeates all curricular and extra-curricular activities of our department. We also recognize that it is our responsibility, as a department, to communicate the importance of Religious Studies to pressing issues that pertain to equity, diversity, and inclusion in our rapidly changing, increasingly interconnected world. Given our field’s interdisciplinarity and global reach, Religious Studies is uniquely situated to address and educate members of the Brown community about legacies and practices of anti-Black racism in American history and society; the history and historiography of anti-Semitism and Orientalism; the development of Islamophobia in the contemporary world; the racialization of religion; anti-Asian racism in both the commodification of Asian religions and in anti-Asian bias in the humanities; religion’s role in the propagation of colonialism, and more. As educators and scholars, we feel more urgently than ever that the study of Religion can and must play a vital role in helping to clarify and confront these persistent trends in society, and in the academy.

Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan

The University has asked all departments to develop a Departmental Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP), a requirement that the Department of Religious Studies sees as a significant opportunity. For some time now, we have been committed to addressing issues pertaining to diversity and inclusion. Especially in recent years, we have been considering how to become a more open, inclusive department that welcomes diverse perspectives and combats all forms of oppressive discrimination. However, while we have expressed our desire to have a diverse body of faculty, staff, and students, and to have a curriculum that addresses diversity and inclusion through its topics and pedagogical approaches, we have never systematically addressed issues of diversity and inclusion, nor have we set concrete goals for ourselves. Hence we see the creation of our departmental DIAP as a chance to help achieve both of those ends. We see the production of the DIAP as a first step in a long, continuous process. In general terms, our goal - as expressed variously in this plan-is to become a model department by pursuing and achieving the following priorities: cultivating a diverse faculty, staff, and student body; sustaining diversity and inclusion via wise mentoring and a supportive departmental culture; and fostering research, courses, and events that critically engage with issues of diversity and inclusion (for example, addressing race, power, and privilege) in the context of the academic study of religion. We understand the University's DIAP to express our ideals, aspirations, and actionable goals, while nonetheless appreciating that our department - as well as different members within our department-will express the spirit of the DIAP in different ways.

Download Religious Studies DIAP