Dr. Diana Eck

Founder and Director, The Pluralism Project

Diana L. Eck is a native of Montana and has now taught at Harvard since 1976. She is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society at Harvard University. She serves in the Departments of Religion and South Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and is also a member of Faculty of Divinity. For twenty years, Professor Eck was Faculty Dean of Lowell House, one of Harvard’s twelve undergraduate residential Houses. She received her B.A from Smith College (1967) in Religion, her M.A. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1968) in South Asian History, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University (1976) in the Comparative Study of Religion.

Professor Eck’s work on India includes the books  India: A Sacred Geography (Random House, Inc. 2012), Banaras, City of Light (Knopf 1982) and Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India (Anima 1981; Columbia University Press 1996). With Devaki Jain she edited Speaking of Faith: Global Perspectives on Women, Religion, and Social Change, a book which emerged from a jointly planned interfaith women’s conference. With Francoise Mallison, she edited Devotion Divine: Bhakti Traditions from the Regions of India, essays honoring the French Indology scholar Charlotte Vaudeville.
Diana Eck’s book, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (Beacon Press, 1993), studies the question of religious difference in the context of Christian theology and the comparative study of religion. It addresses issues of Christian faith in a world of many faiths and, more broadly, the issues of religious diversity that challenge people of every faith. Encountering God won the 1994 Melcher Book Award of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the 1995 Louisville Grawemeyer Book Award in Religion, given for work that reflects a significant breakthrough in our understanding of religion.
Since 1991, Diana Eck has been heading a research team at Harvard University to explore the new religious diversity of the United States and its meaning for the American pluralist experiment. The Pluralism Project has been documenting the growing presence of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Pagan, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities in the U.S. and their encounter with American Christian, Jewish, and secular traditions. This research project has involved students and professors at Harvard and in a dozen affiliate colleges and universities. In 1994, Diana Eck and the Pluralism Project published World Religions in Boston, A Guide to Communities and Resources. The Pluralism Project’s interactive CD-ROM, On Common Ground: World Religions in America, a multimedia introduction to the world’s religions in the American context, was published in 1997 by Columbia University Press. It has won major awards from Media & Methods, EdPress, and Educom.
Diana Eck’s book, A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation (Harper SanFrancisco 2001) addresses the challenges for the United States of the more complex religious landscape of the post-1965 period of renewed immigration.
In 1996, Diana L. Eck was appointed to a 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, Eck received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Humanities for her work on American religious pluralism. In 2002, she received the American Academy of Religion Martin Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. In 2003, she received the Governor’s Humanities Award from the Montana Council for the Humanities in her home state of Montana. In 2005-06 Diana Eck served as President of the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, she delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh.

Diana’s teaching has taken a turn toward the case-method, using Pluralism Project cases in her General Education course on Ethics and Civics. She also continues to teach courses in religion and South Asian Studies.

Selected Publications and Media Appearances by Dr. Diana Eck

Lectures, Talks, and Media Appearances

“Religious Pluralism and the Humanist Community.” The Humanist Hub in Cambridge, MA, April 2018.

“Models of Interfaith Leadership in an Age of Polarization.” Harvard University, February 2018.

“Pluralism Project @ 25: Diversity and Inclusion in the American Crucible.” Harvard University, September 2016.

“Religious Pluralism.” Harvard Law School, October 2016.

“Religion and Peace: Do Universities have a Role?” Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, November, 2016.

2013 Montana State University Honorary Degree Recipient, Dr. Diana Eck.” Montana State University, May 2013.

Lessons of a Temporary City.” video by Rebecca Byerly for Harvard Business School, article by Katie Koch, The Harvard Gazette, April 4, 2013.

“A Kumbh of Literature.” interview by Angshukanta Chakraborty, Little India, March 20, 2013.

Saving the mother river.” article by Katie Koch, The Harvard Gazette, February 14, 2013.

Mahakumbh mystique attracts academics and students from Harvard University.” article by Praveen Dass, The Times of India, January 20, 2013.

“What Sustains Us.” Aspen Ideas Festival, Summer 2012.

In the Footsteps of Pilgrims.” review by Sudheendra Kulkarni, India Today, June 9, 2012.

Myths about Pluralism.” Diana Eck & Vinoth Ramachandra speak at The Veritas Forum, Harvard University, May 9, 2012.

The Holy Land.” a review by Rachel Dwyer, LiveMint.com, Associated with The Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2012.

“Fascinating Harvard Study on Geo-Cultural Frontiers of India.” article by R. Balashankar, The Organiser, April 23, 2012.

India: A Sacred Geography” by Diana Eck and “Indian Becoming” by Akash Kapur, The Washington Post, April 13, 2012.

India’s spiritual landscape: The heavens and the earth,” The Economist, March 24, 2012.

India’s Sacred Geography.” Harvard Magazine, March-April 2012.

National Forum on Civility and American Democracy, Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, Civility and Culture Session, “Civility in the Face of Organized Hostility.” February 17, 2012.

Vermont Council on the Humanities, Keynote Speaker, Fall Conference, “The Power of Religion: Practical Humanities in a World of Difference.” November 11-12, 2011.

The Veritas Forum at Harvard University, Keynote Address, “Why Tolerance is not Enough: Myths About Pluralism.” March 3, 2011

.Harvard Thinks Big 2010, Ten Professors-Ten Minutes, Diana Eck, “Religion in the Age of Pluralism

The Age of Pluralism.” Gifford Lecture Series, The University of Edinburgh, Spring 2009.

Prospects for Pluralism: Voice and Vision in the Study of Religion.” Presidential Address to the American Academy of Religion (November 2006), published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2007.

"The Turbulent Waters of Religious Pluralism: Civic Challenges? Theological Challenges? What’s the Difference and What’s the Problem?." Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religious Annual Conference, April 2007.

“The Role and Impact of Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election.” a news conference of Religion & Culture: Meeting the Challenge of Pluralism featuring Diana Eck, Welton Gaddy, and Amy Caiazza.

“Q&A with Diana Eck: A look at Charlotte’s diverse religious scene.” The Charlotte Observer, an interview with Diana Eck in advance of her visit to speak at the Families of Abraham exhibit. January 19, 2007.

"Religion and its Role in Global Affairs, Part I.” a conversation with Diana Eck about the ways in which religion unites and divides people throughout the world, broadcast on The World (Public Radio International), December 25, 2006.

On Tariq Ramadan.” Morning Prayers, Appleton Chapel, Harvard University, September 28, 2006.

United States of Religions.” a conversation with Diana Eck about the state of religious pluralism in the U.S. after Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial remarks, broadcast on Here & Now (WGBH), September 20, 2006.

Notes for Talks and Discussions in Indonesia on “A New Religious America: The Challenges of Religious Pluralism." August 22-26, 2005.

“American Religious Pluralism: Civic and Theological Discourse.” working paper for the New Religious Pluralism and Democracy Conference, Georgetown University. April 21-22, 2005.

Baccalaureate Address, Dartmouth College, June 12, 2004.

Keynote Address, MAAS International Conference on Religious Pluralism in Democratic Societies, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 20, 2002.

Keynote Address by Diana Eck at the Religious Pluralism in Democratic Societies Conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 20-21, 2002.

Morning Prayers, The Memorial Church, Harvard University. November 28, 2001.

“Religious Diversity in America,” Cambridge Forum (WGBH Boston), a discussion with Diana Eck and Huston Smith, The First Parish Church in Cambridge. November 1, 2001.

Interview with Diana Eck, interview by Bob Abernethy, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, June 22, 2001.

Chapters and Articles

Interfaith Infrastructure: The Indispensable Value of the Local.” Journal of Interreligious Studies, Issue 24, December, 2018.

Pluralism: Problems and Promise.” Journal of Interreligious Studies, Issue 17, August 2015.

“In Whom. . .” Tikkun. Issue 22 (2), 2010.

Dialogue and the Echo Boom of Terror.” in After Terror: Promoting Dialogue Among Civilizations. edited by Akbar Ahmed and Brian Forst, 2005.

Introduction in Speaking Faith: The Essential Handbook for Religion Communicators. New York, NY: Religion Communicators Council, 2004.

Neighboring Faiths: How will Americans Cope with Increasing Religious Diversity?.” Harvard Magazine, September – October, 1996.

The Challenge of Pluralism.” Nieman Reports, The Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, Vol. XLVII No. 2, Summer, 1993.


India: Sacred Geography. New York: Random House, 2012.

Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to BanarasBoston: Beacon Press, 2003 (1993). Tenth anniversary edition features a new preface

A New Religious America: How a “Christian” Country Became the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2002 (2001). | Read more


"Gandhi in EgyptThe Harvard Crimson, September 19, 2011.

"9/11 and These Ten Years: A Faculty Reflection." The Harvard Crimson, March 2, 2011.

"Interfaith at Ground Zero." The Harvard Crimson, September 17, 2010.

“The Continued Blockade of Tariq Ramadan.” in Politico’s “The Arena,” Politico’s daily debate with policymakers and opinion shapers, April 2009.

Becoming a More Complex ‘We’.” in Tikkun, January 21, 2009.

Letter of Support to Participants of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Researcher Center. January 19, 2008.

The Blockade of Tariq Ramadan.” Harvard University, January 15, 2008.

Shutting Out a Voice for Islam.” The Boston Globe, February 7, 2006.

Why Exclude a Muslim Voice?.” The Boston Globe, September 4, 2004.

"The New Neighbors." Beliefnet, June, 2001.

The Religious Melting Pot in Boston.” The Boston Globe, April 10, 1993.

True Liberty Cherishes Difference.” The Los Angeles Times, Sunday July 5, 1992.

For additional publications and talks by Prof. Diana Eck, please visit her Harvard University faculty website.