Dr. Susan Sered

The Religion, Health, and Healing Initiative (RHHI), under the direction of Dr. Susan Sered, was established in September 2000 in order to further cross-cultural studies of the intersections of healing and religion. The impetus for the initiative was the desire to turn rigorous intellectual attention to the many ways in which religious practices, beliefs, and institutions construct, and are constructed by, experiences of illness, health, and healing cross-culturally.

While the RHHI has run its course, other programs dedicated to the study of religion and healing continue exploring this rich aspect of contemporary culture. The Boston Healing Landscape Project, under the direction of Linda Barnes, is an important source of information on religion and healing in Boston, especially in African Diaspora communities.

During its four-year course, the Religion, Health and Healing Initiative generated several bodies of work.

Religious Healing in Boston: A series of essays exploring ways in which diverse Boston communities draw on religious and spiritual practices and ideas in response to illness and suffering. Highlighting a variety of Boston areas communities, the essays offer windows into the many ways in which members of our society draw upon religious and spiritual resources at times of illness and suffering. The papers originally appeared in three publications edited by Susan Sered and produced by the Center for the Study of World Religions.

  • Religious Healing in Boston: First Findings (2001)
  • Religious Healing in Boston: Reports from the Field (2002)
  • Religious Healing in Boston: Body, Spirit, Community (2004)

The papers also were presented at a series of symposia held each May during 2001-2004. Many people kindly served as discussants and session chairs at the symposia, and their input was crucial in developing the final formulations of these papers. Particular thanks are due to Lawrence Sullivan, Diana Eck, Linda Barnes, Harvey Cox, Courtney Bender, Gary Anderson, William Graham, Nancy Richardson, and Lowell Livezey.

Introductions and Overviews by Susan Sered

These three essays originated as Introductions for each of the published volumes. Taken together, Sered’s essays offer theoretical lenses for thinking about ways in which religion and healing converge in our society, and help frame the papers that highlight particular faith traditions.

See below for more essays from the Religious Healing in Boston project.

  • Religion, Health, and Healing Initiative Resource Guide [.pdf] provides samples of the diversity of religious healing found in Boston today. Two appendices list material on religious healing located in the Pluralism Project office, which is available to scholars, chaplains, and other interested individuals, and give an overview of the RHHI Breast Cancer Research Project.
  • Women Healing Women [.pdf]
  • Religion and Healing in America is a groundbreaking anthology exploring a wide range of religious healing contexts in the United States. Edited by Linda Barnes and Susan Sered, the anthology is published by Oxford University Press. See Table of Contents [.pdf].
  • Uninsured: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity is a study of the experiences of Americans who do not have health insurance. Written by Susan Sered and Rushika Fernandopulle, the book will be published in early 2005 by University of California Press. See Table of Contents [.pdf].

Selected Links and Publications