Duke Kunshan University is home to a number of scholars who work on topics related to religion. The Religion+ initiative is designed to connect scholars to each other, to promote study and research into religious issues, and to connect the study of religion and the methods of religious studies to related social, political and cultural fields.

The Religion+ group will be hosting a number of public conversations about religions for the benefit of those in the DKU community who wish to understand more about religion, religions, religious studies, and how these intersect with a broad range of fields and topics.

Project Members

Bryce Beemer became an Assistant Professor of History at Duke Kunshan University in May 2019. He studiescultural exchange in the context of long-distance slavery and warfare in Southeast Asia, Northeast India, and coastal Bengal. His work intersects with the study of religions in several ways. Temple slavery was a common feature of Buddhist institutions in precolonial Southeast Asian where elite monks, libraries, and even sacred Buddha images could own slaves. Moreover, the experience of slavery had transformative effects on the religious practices of slaves as they either converted to the faith or their captors or adapted their religious beliefs to life as captive laborers. In 2014, Dr. Beemerreceived the World History Association’s best dissertation award. His scholarship received support from Fulbright, the Social Science Research Council(SSRC), the Mellon Foundation, and other private funding agencies; and academic awards from the American Historical Association and the Burma Studies Foundation. Prior to joining DKU, Dr. Beemer was an SSRC Transregional Research Fellow for InterAsian Contexts and Connections.

Tyler Carter is an Assistant Professor of Writing & Rhetoric at Duke Kunshan University. His research in comparative rhetoric examines the rhetorics of meditation practices derived from Buddhism (such as mindfulness) and how the language and rhetoric involved in these practices appeal to and shape the experiences of meditators. He is interested in how rhetorics move across cultures and disciplines, and also does research on writing pedagogy.

Amber Griffioen is Visiting Associate Professor of Philosophy at Duke Kunshan University. Her research interests include, among others, philosophy of religion, medieval and early modern philosophy, ethics and practical philosophy, and philosophy of sport. Her current research on religion focuses on such topics as: religious experience, metadisciplinary critiques of philosophy of religion, issues surrounding pregnancy and pregnancy loss in philosophical theology, and medieval Christian and Islamic mysticism. Recent and forthcoming publications include a short monograph on religious experience for the Cambridge Elements series, a co-edited volume entitled Pluralizing Philosophy’s Past, a new entry on Meister Eckhart for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and several articles on pregnancy loss and philosophical theology. She has conducted research stays in Iran (studying comparative mysticism), South Africa (bridging the gap between analytic and continental philosophical theology), and at Kloster Einsiedeln in Switzerland (working with a 15th-century German devotional manuscript).

Hyun Jeong Ha is a political sociologist and an ethnographer who works on how religion as a social institution liberates and/or restricts rights of social minorities. With a geographic focus on Egypt, she has written on how religious Muslim women mobilize to reform conservative Islamic family law and how Christian minorities in Muslim-majority society construct their religious identity and respond to rising sectarian tensions and violence after the 2011 Arab Uprisings. Born and raised in South Korea, she started to conduct field research in Cairo from 2006. She majored in Arabic and Sociology for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, respectively, and earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining DKU, she was a Global Religion Research Initiative postdoctoral research associate at the University of Notre Dame. Her work has appeared in Ethnicand Racial Studies, Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Journal of Peace Research, and Contexts, among others.

Yitzhak Lewis‘s research bridges the fields of literature, religion and social thought in the study of Jewish writing. His specializations are in the literary and intellectual history that connect modern Jewish religious movements to the development of new forms of literary expression. As part of his interest in religion he is also interested in the emergence of the concept of “world religions” together with the emergence of the concept of “world literature,” and the relations between literature and religion in the colonial and post-colonial moments.

James Miller is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Daoism and ecology. He has published six books on topics related to Chinese religions, and over forty research papers. He is Professor of Humanities and Co-Director of the Humanities Research Center at Duke Kunshan University.

Robin Rodd is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose research spans Amazonian cosmology, shamanism, psychoactive plant use, and the political mythologies associated with citizenship and democracy in Latin America and Australia. He is interested broadly in political theology, relationships between medical and religious forms of knowledge, memory, museums and the performance of civil religion, and the phenomenology of visionary experience.

Megan Rogers is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Duke Kunshan University.  A sociologist of religion by training, she focuses primarily on religion in contemporary Chinese society, though she has also published on religion in the United States military.  Her current project focuses on the intersection of social class and religion among educated professionals in urban China.

Tommaso Tesei is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Duke Kunshan University. Before joining DKU he has been a Patricia Crone member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and a Polonsky research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute in Jerusalem. His academic interests mostly center on the emergence of the Islamic movement and faith tradition, and on the consequential establishment of new religious and political authorities in the context of the late antique Near East. He investigates the various aspects of continuity between the societies in the newly established Islamic empire and the societies in the two imperial entities, Byzantine and Sasanian, that previously dominated that geographical area (i.e., roughly the Nile to Oxus region). His forthcoming monograph, entitled the Syriac Legend of Alexander’s Gate (under contract with Oxford University Press), examines a branch of apocalyptic traditions which are fundamental to understand the social and political setting from which the early Islamic community emerged and in which it shaped its identity.

Ben Van Overmeire is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Duke Kunshan University. A comparativist, he examines how premodern Zen Buddhist genres and ideas are understood today, particularly in popular literature. Currently, he is finishing a book manuscript on American Zen autobiography, describing how and why such narratives incorporate koan, Zen riddles revolving around seemingly unsolvable questions such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” He is also interested in how science fiction and detective novels relate to Zen, and how literature can induce transformative experiences

Zairong Xiang is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Associate Director of Art of Duke Kunshan University. He is author of Queer Ancient Way: A Decolonial Exploration (punctum books, 2018). He curated the minor cosmopolitan weekend at the HKW Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2018), and is editor of its catalogue minor cosmopolitan: Thinking Art, Politics and the Universe Together Otherwise (diaphanes 2020). His research intersects feminisms and queer theories, literary and visual studies, philosophical and religious inquiries in their decolonial variants in Spanish, English, Chinese, French, and Nahuatl. As a member of the Hyperimage Group, he has co-curated the 2021 Guangzhou Image Triennial. He is working on two projects, respectively dealing with the concepts of “transdualism” and “counterfeit” in the Global South especially Latin America and China.