ACLS is pleased to announce that Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, will deliver the Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture at the 2015 ACLS Annual Meeting. Named for the first chairman of ACLS (1920-26), the Haskins Prize Lecture series is entitled “A Life of Learning” and celebrates scholarly careers of distinctive importance. The lectures are published in the ACLS Occasional Paper series and made available on the ACLS website (see Haskins Prize Lectures).
Wendy Doniger’s research and teaching interests revolve around two basic areas, Hinduism and mythology. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology.
Among over 40 books published under the names of Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Wendy Doniger are 17 interpretive works, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folkore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples' Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended To Be Who She Was; The Hindus: An Alternative History; On Hinduism; and Hinduism, for the Norton Anthology of World Religions (2014). Among her nine translations are three Penguin Classics––Hindu Myths: A Sourcebook, Translated from the Sanskrit; The Rig Veda: An Anthology, 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit; and The Laws of Manu (with Brian K. Smith)—and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar). In progress are The Ring of Truth, And Other Myths of Sex and Jewelry; Resistance to Religion in Ancient India: The Hidden Transcript of the Sciences of Politics and Pleasure (the 2014 Terry Lectures at Yale); and a novel, Horses for Lovers, Dogs for Husbands.
Update March 7, 2014: A recent legal settlement in India mandated that Penguin Books India cease printing Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History and that all copies be removed from Indian book stores. In response to this action, ACLS President Pauline Yu issued this statement: "Just as we were thrilled that Wendy Doniger accepted our invitation to deliver the 2015 Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture, we are dismayed by the measures being taken to deprive readers in India of her acclaimed history of Hinduism. We are past the moment when national borders can be barriers to the free and open study of the world’s cultures."
The board of the American Academy of Religion, which represents nearly 10,000 scholars of religion, adopted a statement in support of academic freedom and Professor Doniger's "right to pursue her scholarship freely and without political interference." The full statement can be read here.
Doniger's own response to the controversy, "Banned in Bangalore," appeared on March 5, 2014, in The New York Times, and another, "India: Censorship by the Batra Brigade," on May 8, 2014 in The New York Review of Books.