About Russell Kirkland

RUSSELL KIRKLAND is a broadly trained scholar of religion and Asian studies.

He 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 has taught Asian and Native American religions, and related subjects, at the University of Rochester, the University of Missouri, Oberlin College, Macalester College, and Stanford University. At UGA, Professor Kirkland’s regular courses cover Confucianism, Taoism, and Japanese Religions; from time to time he also teaches courses on Native American Religions, Buddhism in East Asia, and other topics. He serves on the faculty of the Asian Studies Program, the Medieval Studies Program, the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program, and the Native American Studies program (INAS faculty page)

Professor Kirkland has published widely. His first scholarly article (1977) was in Biblical Studies. He has also published studies pertaining to Japan, Korea, and Tibet. But his primary area of research is China. Professor Kirkland been teaching and writing about Taoism for thirty years, and has presented scholarly papers in China, Japan, and Australia, as well as throughout North America. He is the author of thirty articles in scholarly journals, including such prestigious publications as the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, History of Religions, Numen, Monumenta Serica, and the Journal of Medicine, Law, and Ethics.  He has also authored entries for numerous reference works, including the Encyclopedia of Bioethics, Encyclopedia of Political Theory, Encyclopedia of Women and World Religions, Encyclopedia of Chinese History, and Philosophy of Education: An Encyclopedia, as well as the entry on “Dao” and fifteen other entries in the Encyclopedia of Taoism.  Until retina detachment and other serious eye problems left him visually impaired in 2006, he was 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 (member of its board of directors from 1992 to 2005, and vice president from 2005 to 2011).  Professor Kirkland spent over a decade as Book Review Editor of the Journal of Chinese Religions, and remains a reviewer for Religious Studies Review, in which he has published over 175 reviews since 1989.  Since 2000 he has served as a senior editor of Routledge Studies in Taoism, and since 2007 he has been a co-editor of the Journal of Daoist Studies.  He has also provided peer-reviews of over thirty textbooks and scholarly monographs for major publishers.

Professor Kirkland is currently working to promote a new understanding of Taoism that moves beyond the misunderstandings that plagued the presentations of 20th-century scholars around the world. For instance, his article, “Probing the Anti-Taoist Biasses of Western Sinology: Toward a Globalization of Taoist Studies,” appeared in Evgeny Torchinov, ed., Religioznofilosofskoe nasledie Vostoka v germenevticheskoi perspektive [The Religious and Philosophical Legacy of the East: Hermeneutical Perspectives], published in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2004.

In 2004, Professor Kirkland published Taoism: The Enduring Tradition (London and New York: Routledge). In it, he works to show that, over the centuries of imperial Chinese history, Taoism was a valued and important element of Chinese culture and society, among both the literate classes and the general public. The book is the first major effort to re-evaluate Taoism on terms that are defined with reference to the ways in which centuries of Taoists have understood and practiced their own tradition, rather than simply by how modern Confucians misrepresented it to foreign scholars and the Chinese people alike.  This influential book has been translated into Italian, and other publications by Professor Kirkland have been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.