Religions of Asia

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Religions of Asia

General Description


Religions of Asia specializes in ethnographic and historical approaches to the study of the religions of Asia. Students in this field of specialization focus on Asian traditions in their social, cultural, and historical environments and contexts of exchange. Participants in this concentration use a variety of methodologies to explore specific questions and themes (including gender, diaspora, personhood and identity, place and pilgrimage, religion and the state, transnationalism/globalization, and the cultural and political dynamics of religious modernity) as these intersect, influence, and are influenced by past and present religious formations. Core faculty have particular expertise in the contemporary religious worlds of Japan and Nepal.



All students are required to complete RELI 885, the Religions of Asia Gateway, and to demonstrate proficiency in the language or languages of primary research. Other courses will be selected in consultations between the student and her or his advisor. Students in this specialization are encouraged to collaborate with faculty in other graduate specializations (including Religion and Culture, Islamic Studies, and Religion in the Americas) and at Duke University.



In addition to languages necessary for the student’s primary research, each student is required to be competent in two modern research languages. These languages are commonly French and German, though other research languages may be substituted with the approval of the faculty in the field and the student’s advisor, if appropriate for the student’s specific area of research.


Doctoral Examinations

All Ph.D. candidates are required to pass a set of four Doctoral Examinations. Faculty members, in consultation with the student, will determine the topics of the exams based upon the student’s area of specialization.

Examination areas may include:

  1. Theory and method. This examination focuses on methodological and theoretical issues in an area relevant to the student’s scholarly work, such as historiography, ethnography, or critical area studies.
  2. Basic themes and critical issues in one or more subfield or Asian religious tradition.
  3. History and culture of the student’s sub-specialization (i.e., historical period, ethnographic area and/or religious tradition).
  4. Students will also be required to demonstrate significant familiarity with of one additional tradition, geographic area, or religio-cultural context that is broadly related to the students’ anticipated dissertation research. Significant familiarity is defined for these purposes as familiarity with the history, culture, scholarly discourses on, and current critical issues within scholarship related to that area.



Core Faculty

Associated Faculty


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