Statement on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Religious Studies Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Statement

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.

This 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.

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.