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 Russell Kirkland

RUSSELL KIRKLAND is a broadly trained scholar of religion and Asian studies. Dr. Kirkland is currently on leave from the University of Georgia.

Dr. Kirkland is currently working on his English edition of Evgeny Torchinov’s Daoism: A New Perspective (from the Russian Daosizm: Opyt Istoriko-religioznogo Opisaniia).  He has also been contracted with Routledge to produce a 4-volume collection of articles in their series Critical Concepts in Religious Studies:  his collection is calculated both to reflect the latest research and to set new interpretive paradigms for 21st-century Taoist Studies, emphasizing “literati Daoism” throughout Chinese history, and traditions like Quanzhen which undergird the Chinese Taoist Association.


Dr. Kirkland began the study of Chinese at Middlebury College, and earned both his A.B. in Religious Studies and his A.M. in Asian History from Brown University in 1976. He later earned an M.A. in Religious Studies (1982) and his Ph.D. in Chinese language and literature from Indiana University (1986).  

He first taught at the University of Rochester, and went on to teach Asian and Native American religions at the University of Missouri, Oberlin College, Macalester College, and Stanford University.  Before being sidelined by his stroke, Dr. Kirkland taught regular courses on Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Japanese Religions, and Native American Studies.  He serves on the faculty of the Asian Studies Program, the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program, and the Native American Studies program (INAS faculty page).

Dr. Kirkland has published widely since his first scholarly article was published in Novum Testamentum (1977).  He has published studies pertaining to Japan, Korea, and Tibet, as well as Ancient Israel.  But his primary area of research has been China.  


Dr. Kirkland been publishing about Taoism for thirty years, and has presented invited papers in China, Japan, Australia, and across North America.  He is the author of over 30 articles in scholarly journals, including the Journal of the American Academy of Religion; Journal of Medicine, Law, and Ethics; and China Daoism (a publication of the Chinese Taoist Association). 


He has published chapters in 15 books, most recently The Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare.  He has authored numerous entries in reference works, including the Encyclopedia of Bioethics; Encyclopedia of Women and World Religions; and Encyclopedia of Political Theory, as well as the entry on “Dao” and 15 other topics in the Encyclopedia of Taoism.  

Dr. Kirkland has been extremely active in national and international organizations, such as the Association for Asian Studies, American Academy of Religion, and the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions (serving as a member of its board of directors from 1992 to 2005, and vice president from 2005 to 2011).  Dr. Kirkland spent over a decade as Book Review Editor of the Journal of Chinese Religions, and remains an active reviewer for Religious Studies Review, in which he has published over 175 booknotes since 1989.  Since 2000 he has served as the senior editor for North America of Routledge Studies in Taoism

In 2004, Dr. Kirkland published Taoism: The Enduring Tradition (London and New York: Routledge), which was the first major effort to re-evaluate Taoism in terms defined by how centuries of actual Taoists have understood and practiced their own tradition, rather than by Western misconceptions.  It has begun to lead other scholars (and authors of popular textbooks, like Terry Woo’s chapter in Oxtoby’s Religions of the Eastern World) to cease misrepresenting Taoism as just ideas inspired by ancient texts like the Tao-te ching / Daode jing.  Rather, it shows Taoism as an ongoing historical process of related spiritual traditions, which were gradually integrated into a socio-political platform that withstood political winds (even today), and had a place for men and women of all social levels.  It shows the abiding appeal of biospiritual cultivation (a newly coined term that has caught on in the field).  No one can ever again justify explaining Taoism simply in terms of “wuwei” (a term that is not central to actual Taoists).  Taoism: The Enduring Tradition has been translated into Italian, and other publications by Dr. Kirkland have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish as well.

IDr. Kirkland has long been posting (with all necessary permissions) a variety of his scholarly publications, in full-text, on a UGA webpage
(https://faculty.franklin.uga.edu/kirkland), However, technical problems have long delayed updates (some postings still unchanged since 1999)!  That situation is being corrected, and checking periodically for updates should be rewarded by expanded Study Guides (for students and their teachers) and other contributions.

Contact Dr. Kirkland at kirkland@uga.edu

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