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Diana Eck

Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies & Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Divinity School

Born in Tacoma, Washington, Diana Eck grew up in Bozeman, Montana. She earned a BA in religious studies (Smith College, 1967), an MA in South Asian studies (University of London, 1968), and a PhD in comparative religion (Harvard University, 1976). Eck has been a member of the divinity faculty at Harvard University since 1984. She is presently professor of comparative religion and Indian studies and Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society.

She is also director of the Pluralism Project which studies modern religious diversity in the United States because as she says “The United States is the most religiously diverse nation in the world.” Her Gifford Lectures titled “The Age of Pluralism” and given at the University of Edinburgh in early 2009 focused on that theme.

In 1996 Eck was appointed to a U.S. State Department Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, a twenty-member commission charged with advising the Secretary of State on enhancing and protecting religious freedom in the overall context of human rights. In 1998 she and her partner Dorothy Austin became the first same-sex couple to be named masters of Lowell House one of Harvard’s residence halls.

Among her awards, Professor Eck was recognized by President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1998 for her work on American religious pluralism. In 2002 she received the Martin Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion from the American Academy of Religion. The next year she received the Governor’s Humanities Award from the Montana Council for the Humanities and the Melcher Lifetime Achievement Award from the Unitarian Universalist Association. In 2005-2006 she served as president of the American Academy of Religion and in 2007 Professor Eck was made a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America.

Among her publications are Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India (1981); Banaras: City of Light (1982); Speaking of Faith: Global Perspectives on Women, Religion and Social Change (ed. with Devaki Jain 1985); Devotion Divine: Bhakti Traditions from the Regions of India (ed. with Françoise Mallison 1991); Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (1993); World Religions in Boston: A Guide to Communities and Resources (1994); A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation (2001).

Both Professor Eck and the Pluralism Project can be found on Facebook.

  • Therese Boyd