William D. HartProfessor and Interim Head
Religion, Ethics, and Politics
Ph.D., Princeton University
Areas of Academic Interest:
As a critical theorist of religion, I explore basic questions such as “What is religion?” and “Why are people religious?” My latest book, Black Religion: Malcolm X, Julius Lester, and Jan Willis (2008), explores the spiritual dimensions of Malcolm X’s life: his journey from Christianity to Islam, social parasite to “race man,” and libertine to ascetic. It also explores affinities between Malcolm’s spiritual journey and the journeys of Julius Lester and Jan Willis. I contend that the Muslim, Judaic, and Buddhist commitments of these autobiographers show that the black spiritual imagination—religious, political, and personal—cannot be limited to the Standard Narrative of Black Religion as the Black Church. Furthermore, spirituality cannot be limited to religion. Spirit is excessive. It overflows and encompasses the conventional religious-secular distinction. I am currently working on two projects. The first, Human Sacrifice: Dying and Killing for God and State, explores human sacrifice in religion and statecraft. The second, Slaves, Animals, and Fetuses, analyzes the use of anti-slavery models in the anti-abortion activism of Operation Rescue and the Army of God and in the animal rights activism of the Animal Liberation Front and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.