The Grammar of Racism: Religious Pluralism and the Birth of the Interdisciplines

The Grammar of Racism: Religious Pluralism and the Birth of the Interdisciplines Abstract This article reframes the history of religious studies by excavating a central context for its formal consolidation as an academic field: university containment of antiracist student movements. It chronicles this process as it occurred at Harvard Divinity School (HDS) between 1960 and 1975. Student activists appealed to liberation theologies in demanding that HDS take direct, redistributive action against racism and militarism. Administrators responded with rejoinders to a practice of cross-cultural encounter, sympathetic dialogue, and pluralism. Decades before the critique of religion entered a mainstream scholarly lexicon, HDS students attacked this discourse as a technology of racial formation, which separated proper civil subjects from extremists lacking discipline. Meanwhile, as pluralism emerged as the preferred approach to the study of religion at Harvard and around the nation, it circumscribed the field’s critical possibilities. No more would religion provide ground for materialist cultural critique; rather it would be a site for the celebration of positive difference. Just as our religious traditions are dynamic, so is the very idea of America. The motto of the republic, E Pluribus Unum, ‘From Many, One,’ is not an accomplished fact but an ideal that Americans must continue to claim. —Diana Eck, A New Religious America (2009, 9) This is the historic period that tried to perfect the motto ‘e pluribus unum’ as a technique of power, as a strategic situation for the U.S. nation-state, for American capital, and for the American academy. —Roderick Ferguson, The Reorder of Things (2012, 29) IN FALL 1969, Harvard Divinity School (HDS) Dean Krister Stendahl asked two of the school’s nine black students (of 270 total) to write a report on “the black experience.” Stendahl hoped that such a document would help the school “break [its] patterns of white concerns, attitudes, and habits” and cultivate “genuine pluralism” (Stendahl 1971: 206). The request came as a response to student protests—petitions, marches, building occupations, and civil disobedience—that had been raging for five years. Six months later Craig Lewis and Dibinga wa Said turned in their product. It opened by observing that Stendahl’s request reiterated white entitlement over black life and knowledge. It then identified an irresoluble gap between what black people and white people were prepared to understand about the pluralism to which the dean aspired. Page after page chronicled examples of black people being lynched, burned, experimented upon, and—in the wake of this violence—condescended by white liberals. “Unless you are black and Jesus,” the authors stressed, “you cannot understand the economic exploitation, social humiliation, political exploitation, and spiritual colonialism of which black people have been and still are victims for some 529 years” (Lewis and Dibinga 1970, 21). The conclusion underlined the point: The white God or Deity of American theology is non-existent. This God is DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! The American white Christ is also DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! Blacks cannot worship a God and a Christ whose purpose is to dehumanize and brutalize them. (Lewis and Dibinga 1970, 33) This was a climactic articulation of a persistent critique of HDS leadership mounted by HDS students. Throughout their tenure at Harvard, activist students sought to expose a link between injunctions to liberal sympathy and institutional investments in whiteness. Their critiques prompted administrative efforts to embrace racial and religious multiculturalism as a core value of the school. But this response was double edged. Well-intentioned though it may have been, it also served as a strategy of containment relative to student protest. Harvard leadership used arguments about liberal encounter and universal sympathy to quiet historical-materialist critiques of their power. Even more alarming, the students alleged, that same leadership suggested that historical-materialist critiques were insufficiently sympathetic and insufficiently pluralist in themselves. The agenda of pluralism and the agenda of racial justice were, at Harvard, irreconcilable. This history of this student activism and the institutional reaction to it elevates our conversation about what Roderick Ferguson has called the “birth of the interdisciplines” and the place of religious studies within it (Ferguson 2012). Just as universities began to establish interdisciplinary women’s studies and black studies programs, the academic study of religion bloomed as a separate discipline from theology in the 1960s (Welch 1971a). A growing literature in cultural studies interprets such interdisciplinary programs as an attempt on the part of liberal universities to contain and confound antiracist and feminist movements of the period (Ahmed 2012; Ferguson 2012; Melamed 2011; Reddy 2011). These analyses, while illuminating, have overlooked the genesis of religious studies programs within an overlapping context. This is a stunning occlusion, especially when we consider the vast number of undergraduate programs initiated during this epoch. A 1971 report on the academic study of religion, sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies and directed by Claude Welch, maps the contours of this growth. Of the 1,311 US colleges and universities surveyed, 67% (865) had a department or program in the study of religion and 44% (577) sponsored an undergraduate major. The universities with religious studies majors had gained their shape after World War II, with 23% of them establishing their present structures between 1941 and 1956, 22% between 1957 and 1964, and 24% between 1965 and 1970. Undergraduate enrollment in religious studies courses had more than doubled between 1955 and 1970. The growth in doctoral programs in the academic study of religion was even sharper, with nearly one-half of the fifty-three PhD programs surveyed reporting founding dates between 1960 and 1970 (Welch 1971b, 3–5). But the glaring statistics were outdone by the substance underlying them. Nonsectarian public universities had seen the sharpest increase in student interest in religious studies courses, even as Catholic and Protestant schools saw relative decreases in student interest—something the religiously affiliated responded to by downplaying older confessional curricula and moving toward the study of world religions. Whether a program was just getting started or revising a longstanding tradition, Welch was certain that the nationwide trend was toward “pluralistic” programs that “seek to deal more inclusively with religious phenomena” (Welch 1971b, 8). If we want a substantial explanation of why religious studies bloomed as a departmental space in the contemporary university, we are left with a handful of histories that celebrate the field as part of a triumph of multiculturalism. In particular, we find accounts of religious studies as a component of the inclusion of more voices in university curricula and an overdue repudiation of white Christian power. One explanation associates the flowering of religious studies programs with the 1963 Supreme Court case Abington v. Schempp, which barred confessional instruction in public schools but affirmed as constitutional its “objective” study (Goff and Vasco 2013; Alexander 1988; Welch 1971a). This decision coincided with a sea change in the nation’s religious demography, as the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act eliminated immigration quotas and opened the door to immigrants from beyond Europe. As one explanation goes, an increase in Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus in college classrooms and beyond prompted universities to engage religious difference in more expansive ways (Eck 2001; Warner 1993; Wilson 1964). A secular study of religion, our “myth of origins” asserts, emerged at the intersection of these two legal causes (Imhoff 2016). This explanation is not entirely wrong, but it remains out of focus relative to the broader political and social contexts of its institutional era. A more promising analysis frames the abolition of confessionally Christian instruction, the end of immigration quotas, and the diversification of university curricula in religious studies and beyond as overlapping facets of a post-1945 project to frame the United States as a benevolent empire (Holbrook 1963; McCutcheon 2004). As dominant political rhetoric constructed the American populace as diverse in composition and cosmopolitan in ethic, global education became a national security interest, and cultural competency became a form of counter-insurgency (Dudziak 2001; McAlister 2005). Universities were a ground zero for this nation-building work, as they both served as a training ground for Cold War area studies programs and produced graduates who in turn would come to shape both foreign and domestic policy. Public and private grants supported programs in Russian studies, Asian studies, and Middle Eastern studies, even as corporations sought to shape race politics closer to home (Geiger 1993; Lucas 1994). The Ford Foundation threw its largesse behind black studies, in what some scholars have analyzed as an attempt by white elites to defuse black student activism (Rooks 2006). Universities often responded to student movements by incorporating diluted forms of their critiques and then claiming inquiry into diversity as central to institutional mission. This response gave early, and ambivalent, support to the first departments of African-American studies and women’s studies (Ferguson 2012; Melamed 2011). A similar process consolidated a discourse of pluralism as a value for the study of religion and, eventually, helped to install religious studies in formal academic departments. Religious studies programs across the country can, of course, testify to the diverse routes they traveled toward institutional sanction: with and without relations to divinity schools, with and without Cold War investments, with and without legal catalysts, with and without connections to nineteenth-century sociology and anthropology of religion.1 Likewise, a language of “religious pluralism” clearly has always held a range of meanings. Just as scholars who chart the history of African American studies and women’s studies do not claim that academic work on African-Americans and women literally began in this period—or that multiculturalism and feminism have singular definitions—the study of religion and its discourses have long and well-worn histories (Welch 1971a; Sharpe 1986; Masuzawa 2005). The study of world religions and history of religions certainly had been well underway for at least a century at church-related institutions and divinity schools, the history of religions program at the University of Chicago being perhaps the most well-known instance. This article is not claiming that the study of religion began in the 1960s, nor that discourses of pluralism have been stable over time. Even less does this article intend its critique as a referendum on the credibility of religious studies as a field or on pluralism as an ideal. Rather, the goal is to expand our understanding of its rapid institutional codification in relation to anticolonial and antiracist movements of this era. By unearthing one specific history among the many histories of religious studies in the mid-twentieth century, I hope to contribute to the tradition of self-critique that is a hallmark of our discipline. Although there exists a rich historiography on the question of the politics and investments of religious studies, scholars have yet to give thorough historical attention to how post-WWII regimes of race intersected with one process by which the study of religion was installed within modern universities. With the conviction that trained specificity is often the best way to crack open broader sets of questions, this article chronicles a process of institutionalization as it occurred at Harvard between 1960 and 1975. During this fifteen-year period, activist students on the political left cited black and Latin American liberation theologies in their demands that the university take direct action against racism and militarism. Administrative faculty responded in kind. They sought, first, to bolster collective commitments to race equity, namely by trying to craft a curriculum that could be more responsive to the needs of black seminarians, hiring the school’s first black tenured faculty member, and announcing its multicultural values. These were substantial interventions in theological education at HDS. And yet they were also ambiguous. Even as pluralism held out a program for institutional improvement, it could simultaneously be mobilized to reform, manage, and discipline student movements. When students demanded basic policy revisions or chose confrontational protest tactics, a discourse of pluralism produced them as outsiders to, even threats to, a shared liberal ethic of sympathy and dialogue. On the lips of administrators, pluralism came to operate as a technology of racial subject formation, which divided good liberal subjects from radicals lacking propriety. By 1975, exhortations to a practice of pluralism had been consolidated in a new Committee for the Study of Religion at HDS. This discourse transposed student interventions into a chastened register. No more would religion provide leverage to materialist and antiracist critique. Rather, it would provide grounds for the celebration of positive difference. HDS had many unique attributes relative to the broader social and intellectual field of religious studies in the mid-twentieth-century United States. It provided professional theological training from within a religiously unaffiliated institution, as opposed to reflecting the denominational commitments of a seminary or the secular mandate of a state university. Its faculty worked to establish a Committee on the Study of Religion most directly out of this divinity school context, and less out of departments of history, anthropology, philosophy, or area studies. It was part of the most visible university in the world, and as such enjoyed an astounding ability not only to attract students, faculty, and funders but also to model theoretical approaches that reverberated beyond the ivy streets of Cambridge. Yet despite all its critical distinctiveness, HDS and its battles in this midcentury moment can be seen reflected across the United States as undergraduate and graduate programs multiplied following WWII (Welch 1971a; Hart 1999; Sharpe 1986). While an exhaustive comparison may be impossible, three examples—two from prominent public universities that established early programs in religion and one from a private church-related college—put some themes into relief. Indiana University, Bloomington claims one of the longest trajectories in the academic study of religion, although its department of religious studies was not officially sanctioned until 1971. From 1910 to 1952, a local Christian pastor taught noncredit-bearing courses to university’s undergraduates at “The Indiana School of Religion.” Indiana was no exception in this regard, since such parallel, nonaccredited, confessional schools were common at public universities during the early twentieth century (Hart 1999, 80–85). But when another pastor took over the Bloomington program in 1953, he convinced the university to enter a limited partnership with the school. Courses taught at the university could now be counted as credit for the separate program in religion, even if religion courses still did not count toward an arts and sciences degree. By 1963—the year of the Abington v. Schempp decision—the popularity of this external program had moved the university to establish an undergraduate minor in comparative religion. The university added a master’s program in 1968 (Imhoff 2017). At all levels, the program focused on religious traditions “through their scripture, thought, and ethics” and “religion in American culture,” which the faculty chair believed presented “advanced problems of universal interest: that is, problems of religion under the conditions of a highly urbanized culture, a pluralist society, and a technological age” (May 1970, 1). Thus, from Christian beginnings that ran parallel to university offerings, Indiana University, Bloomington ultimately authorized a religious studies department anchored in comparative cultures and religious diversity. Around the same time, similar dynamics were at play on the West Coast at another prominent public university: the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). Here, the seed of a religious studies program grew from a 1954 interdisciplinarity committee comprised of faculty from political science, botany, and economics. In 1961, this committee proposed a new major in “Religious Institutions” for “individuals planning post-graduate work or careers in the field of theology.” When the university faculty rejected the proposal, the committee expunged the reference to theology. They reapplied as a program for “students desiring a general education with emphasis upon this aspect of Western civilization and comparative cultures.” The change did the trick. UCSB appointed its first full-time religious studies faculty member in 1963, and by the end of the decade the department had added an MA program, a research institute, and five more ladder faculty (UCSB Religious Studies Department 2017). Other universities in the California state system followed, with eleven of nineteen schools in the California public system establishing departments of religious studies by 1972 (Love 1972). Once again, as seen at Indiana University, the shift was toward a curriculum that promoted a combination of historical study and cross-cultural analysis, as contrasted with theology. We can trace these patterns beyond the public universities most directly affected by Abington v. Schempp. At Wellesley, a private women’s liberal arts college just up the highway from Harvard, the study of religion saw a similar shift in the 1960s—though the history of the program stretched back a century. The formal study of religion at Wellesley began with its 1875 founding, when students were obligated to take a biblical studies course each year. The administration cut the requirement to one class in 1938 and three decades later had eliminated it altogether “in response to changing educational expectations…in the period of cultural transition in America” (Kodera 1982, 40). The department that had supervised this part of the curriculum subsequently changed its name from the “Department of Biblical History, Literature, and Interpretation” to the “Department of Religion and Biblical Studies.” Throughout the 1970s, retiring church history and Bible faculty were replaced with scholars in Catholic studies, American religions, East Asian religions, and South Asian religions. Recalling these changes in 1982, the department chair James Kodera conveyed the goals of the department as not only to “teach the religious foundations of Western civilization at large” but also to expose students to “the religious heritage of the non-western world” and “instill in students an understanding of each religious tradition on its own terms in the pluralistic context and tolerance for the truth claims of cultures other than their own” (Kodera 1982, 41). Once again, an explicitly Christian program had given way to a pedagogy of pluralism implemented as a response to a “cultural transition” gripping the nation. Each of these institutions tells its own story, and additional accounts from large land grant state institutions, small religious colleges, and other private and public institutions should be told and heard for their regional, theological, and ethnographic specificity. But the preponderance of programs in the study of religion does not alter the stunning effect of a certain vocabulary of pluralism. A desire to honor Christian history and the “Western civilization” it shaped, while charting a bold path into a religiously diverse present and future, captures the impulse of numerous religious studies programs as they gained their institutional foothold. I argue that this common pedagogical discourse of pluralism enfolded deviation and forged unity from incommensurability, whether located in the cacophonous voices of campus protestors or among the varied institutions that arrested their attention. We crack pluralism’s code when we encounter it in its most precise moments of installation, where we can ask after its historical consequences and, finally, wonder what might have been different. MAKING MODERN MINISTERS The impulse to overhaul the study of religion at HDS did not appear overnight. It was rooted in decades of latent anxiety about the relevance of theological education for what deans termed a secularizing and chaos-ridden “modern world.” In 1960, HDS Dean Samuel Miller wrote an end-year report to the Harvard University president, reaffirming that the school existed “to train men for the Church” (Miller 1961, 343). But what this training looked like had to change. If “Christian culture” refused to address “new discoveries, disciplines, and attitudes of our time,” it would “succumb to an essentially non-religious one, that is, a sub-pagan culture” (Miller 1961, 344). Divinity schools must turn out a “learned ministry” who could “make plain how the traditional resources of religion in the Bible, in history, in theology elucidate the presence of God in the contemporary world” (Miller 1961, 344). Miller called theological educators to be a reasoned voice against the din of cultural crisis. Miller glossed the specific challenges to the university’s business-as-usual; perhaps he believed them too obvious to list outright. In the previous six months, black freedom movements had gained strength, as sit-ins at white-only establishments swept a Jim Crow South and students planned protests and strikes at their universities. On the opposite coast, Berkeley police had fire-hosed students protesting a May trial of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and national public opinion had begun to turn against US surveillance and intimidation of its citizens. Across the world, anticolonial movements demanded the end of European global dominance, with the Algerian war for independence, boycott and divestment from apartheid South Africa, and Palestinian resistance capturing headlines and inspiring transnational alliances (Lubin 2014; Von Eschen 1997). Meanwhile, US academic departments faced increasing pressure from state and philanthropic funding bodies to articulate their contribution to national security, understood in terms of the formation of patriotic citizens (Rooks 2006; Melamed 2011). When Miller penned his report, white Protestant men comprised the overwhelming majority of students trained at a school that claimed its liberal theological heritage and commitment to a “learned ministry” as a point of pride.2 It is unsurprising that no matter where he looked, Miller perceived fundamental challenges to normal practices of liberal theological education at HDS. How could the school both maintain its historical identity and stay awake to movements forcing fundamental transformations in regimes of knowledge and pedagogy? Miller announced that HDS would establish two new academic centers: the Department of the Church (DOC) and the Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR). The initiatives, officially dedicated in 1960, were intended as a curricular answer to the question of institutional relevancy. “Our basic intent,” Miller wrote, “is to teach men, first and last, how to be men, in order to be ministers” (Miller 1963, 327). The modern minister would be identifiable through his knowledge of European Christian history and his capacity to engage the “living religions” of the present day. Miller dedicated the majority of his attention to a DOC, which would blend education in Christian history with church internships completed under “religious and scientific observation” (Miller 1963, 327). But like his predecessor Douglas Horton—who had secured the funding for the CSWR and a professorship of World Religions in 1958—Miller was also convinced that to be effective in the modern world, ministry students must acquire intercultural competency. The CSWR would help meet this need, even as the school remained avowedly Protestant in its overall mission. Underscoring this idea, Horton had celebrated the world religions position as “one of the greatest contributions to foreign missions our generation will make,” because “the Christian mission is essentially a witness” and “no one can prophesy how rich a stream of life may flow from our witness … [except] in the presence of another which it invites into mutual witness” (Horton 1959, 294). Between the DOC and the CSWR, HDS advanced a process for cultivating a sort of minister—a sort of human subject—who could address a world that school leaders understood to be in crisis over racial and cultural difference. It may be surprising that theological discussion was not the only response to their concern; the strangeness of the conjunction between racial justice activism and world religions is precisely the tale of this article. The curriculum of “modern religious leadership” would form subjects defined by their combination of historical expertise and cultural cosmopolitanism. While this vision took constructive strides toward some curricular revision, the changes nevertheless had embedded within them at least two latent fears: first, white Protestant anxieties over race; second, increasing consciousness of the role of Christianity within colonialism. A rhetoric of “modern” religious leadership characterized by its awareness of racial diversity anticipated critiques that the school colluded in white supremacy and empire; it defended liberal theological education even as it signaled a need for a reformed vision of what ministry entailed. The modern minister practiced religion as a habit of self and cultivated cultural competence that, in Miller’s words, would help “guide our schizophrenic culture towards a coherent unity” (Miller 1964, 192). This coherence would emerge through dialogues that sought to open up insights about the universality of religious experience. But it is important to note that this universality could only hold, could only continue, if its white masculinity remained unmarked. Anxieties surfaced in early plans for the CSWR, whose seed was the utopian vision of a group of Anglican donors from New York who “wanted to live their Christian faith in a way that would make a difference in the community” (Carman and Dodgson 2003, 12). They pooled their money and threw it behind a center that would “encourage the sympathetic study of religions of the world,” specified as “Eastern Religions” of “Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and the religions of China.” Such study, they believed, would propagate sympathy toward religious difference and lead students to realize the “fundamental unity and reality of all religions” (Carman and Dodgson 2003, 18). They thus defined religion as a universal human experience with specific, local variations. The student of religion must not only map these differences, but also nurture certain habits and sentiments with respect to all of them. It is only through this process of affective cultivation that the unity of religion becomes visible. The backers of the CSWR clearly had a constructive project in mind, but their founding terms preemptively restricted any possibility of critiquing religion as a racial or colonial project, and perhaps of mounting such a political critique from within the study of religion at all. As scholars like Talal Asad, David Chidester, Bruce Lincoln, and Saba Mahmood have shown, the category of religion often works to obfuscate relations of power (Lincoln 1989; Asad 1993; Chidester 1996; Mahmood 2005). But what we have needed these scholars to teach us, student activists at Harvard knew on their own, many decades earlier, at the moment that religious studies was consolidated as a field. As we will see, they urged caution toward the academic study of religion within liberal institutions; they saw how religion might come to be deployed not as a site for material contestation and political struggle, but rather as a shared human experience that transcends both. Indeed, some philanthropic foundations explicitly promoted this view, identifying divinity schools as a site from which to undercut black radicalism. In 1966 HDS received a Lilly Foundation grant for a summer workshop designed to “meet the crisis of Negro leadership in the church.” Black men, professor John Elder explained, had come to view the Christian church as an “Uncle Tom institution” and a “tool of the white man’s colonizing of non-white peoples.” Potential church leaders had begun to “seek dignity and self-respect through some distinctly different religious tradition, most notably Islam.” The consequential blight of “perspicacious Christian leaders” in black communities had helped “black power, black nationalism, and black religion gain prominence.” This was a concern. As he implicitly framed “ministry” as a vocation opposed to “black religion,” Elder portrayed the conference as a space for “defining what the ministry ought to be” for black Americans and “recruiting men” for this calling (Elder 1967, 17). While conference organizers sought to open divinity schools to black students, the terms of this inclusion were circumscribed. They seemed to identify aptitude for ministry in terms of one’s capacity and willingness to perform race within parameters set by white theological educators and their funders. The project to foster liberal religious practice among black Americans—and particularly to counteract the Nation of Islam (NOI)—stood in puzzling relation to the CSWR’s call for sympathetic study of Islam in the Middle East. Even if HDS leaders did so unintentionally, the double standards around black religious practice participated in an economy of race that separated legitimate and illegitimate forms of Islam, even placing the NOI outside the realm of religion itself (Evanzz 2017; Hicks 2012; Curtis 2006). This discourse intersected with a Cold War context that witnessed systematic government surveillance of black church leaders deemed hostile to national interests—the FBI dubbed the NOI the “Muslim Cult of Islam”—even as the state constructed itself as an international champion of diversity (Johnson and Weitzman 2017; Johnson 2015; Dudziak 2001). Thus, the racial logics that structured administrators’ concerns about the future of Protestant churches complemented the sympathy toward “Asian religions” that flourished at the CSWR. They also dovetailed with US foreign policy interests in Asia and the Middle East. As Rachel Rubin and Jeffrey Melnick note, it is no coincidence that US academic and cultural institutions sought “salvation, peace, and aesthetic pleasure” in “the East,” even as its money and military invaded China, India, and the Middle East (Rubin and Melnick 2007, 141). In 1966 Wilfred Cantwell Smith underscored the CSWR’s interest in the “present-day resurgence of these Asian systems” and their “perhaps crucial role in economic and national ‘development’” (Smith [1966] 2003, 42). The concern for the religious lives of designated others were not only intellectual, but also political and economic. Besides emphasizing sympathy as the correct orientation toward religious forms, a revitalized HDS curriculum encouraged students to investigate “living” non-Christian religions instead of “concentrating … on their historical origins” (Miller 1966, 189). This focus on “living” religion at the CSWR coincided with a renewed emphasis on what Miller had once called “the fundamental integrity of the historical perspective” within the DOC curriculum (Miller 1961, 343). Modern ministers would be trained to distinguish past from present, so that they could lead congregations toward a future defined by theological relevance, Christian unity, and “the end of religious isolationism” (Miller 1966, 191). The accompanying pedagogy was simultaneously theological, affective, and historical. Theologically, it hoped for the ultimate reconciliation of difference in transcendent Christian unity. Affectively, it cultivated in students a desire to sympathetically encounter religious others. Historically, it evoked an arc that bent toward unity even as it constructed “world religions” as temporal anachronisms. These emphases will be familiar to many; the questions of both historical and sympathetic study have been the recourse of many of today's liberal arts curricula. As Leigh Schmidt has demonstrated, the question of sympathy has long been a vexed one for our field, associated as it is with white readings of bodies of color and questions of how cultural difference should be managed (Schmidt 2006, 2012). At HDS these dynamics came to the fore in the simultaneous stress on the “living religions” of racial Others and the “historical religion” of Christianity; this taxonomy, no doubt established in good faith, nevertheless erected an implicit hierarchy that separated those possessing a past that merited study and those best understood in the present tense.3 These two concepts of the past complemented each other. The first was defined by division, out of which modern divinity students would blaze a trail; the second lay in a salvation history premised upon God’s unchanging character. If the modern minister held fast to the latter promise, he would be an agent of reconciliation in the modern world. Students would soon turn their critical arsenal against this idea. The HDS administration was fighting, unabashedly, to secure and revitalize a Protestant theological enterprise facing potentially devastating critiques. Nevertheless, HDS administrators rarely noted the Protestantism of their own students. They spoke, rather, of modern religious subjects whose habits of being could promote a liberal unity, rather than disrupt its precepts. In the pedagogy of living religions, a specific formation of white Protestantism would help install a new pedagogy of religious pluralism.4 But even as the HDS faculty invented a curriculum that could respond to external crises, they were unprepared for the challenges they would face within their own institution. Like their faculty, numerous students perceived a crisis that they hoped their theological education could address. Unlike some on the school’s administration, they pursued neither liberal dialogue nor any other project to alleviate the concerns of cultural and economic elites. Rather, they threw themselves into the anticolonial and antiracist movements that had made the deans so anxious. “YOU CAN’T TRUST LIBERALS” Stephan Hornberger pulled no punches in his March 1969 campaign for HDS Student Association President. This third-year student—who the previous spring had been arrested, expelled, and eventually reinstated following an occupation of Harvard’s University Hall—began his platform statement by demanding student enfranchisement on all committees. “Here are a few other things on my mind,” he continued, before slamming down a seventeen-point list of grievances, which began: 1. HDS is a racist institution. 2. HDS is an imperialist institution. Points 4 and 5 condemned a curricular focus on European Christianity and decried lack of faculty in Catholic theology, Jewish theology, “primitive religion,” and psychology of religion (“We should grant our degrees in divinity, not the antiquated theology-ethics-O.T.-N.T.-Church-World Religion-Church History Unit.”). Points 13 and 14 urged faculty to commit civil disobedience against “the military machine” (“Martin Luther King, Jr. came out of the Alabama jails an improved man; would jail really hurt our Dean?”). Point 17 blasted plans to construct a refectory with Rockefeller Foundation money stained with oil and blood (“Or, if we must, let’s name it Martin Luther King Memorial Hall. Remember man’s inhumanity to humanity”) (Hornberger 1969b, 10–11). Hornberger won the election. His campaign had forced a referendum on how far HDS students would go to support antiracist and anti-colonial movements gripping campuses around the world. Making common cause against what Hornberger designated the “military-academic-industrial complex,” students refused the sympathy advocated by their administration. Their purpose was to upend—rather than to expand, reform, or enlighten—business-as-usual within their institutions. The foundation for their activism lay in theological rhetoric that framed activism and self-critique not as a voluntary action, but as an imperative of Christian faith. Their alliances bore constant stress, both from university bureaucracy and from racism within student ranks. These problems hastened the breakup of HDS student solidarity and created a gap into which a discourse of pluralism would grow. Student and faculty had built initial alliances around opposition to the Vietnam War, but these ties frayed when many students began to critique the HDS administration for collusion with empire and white supremacy. The HDS faculty response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.—to cancel morning classes during King’s funeral and reschedule them for an Easter recess three days later—proved a turning point (Gray et al. 1968, 7). Writing in Prospect, the HDS student newspaper, Social Action Committee chair Sam Johnson decried the “aborted sense of values” that enabled HDS to “take [King’s] death in stride (as we did his life)” (Sam Johnson 1968, 4). “If this doesn’t show HDS’s true colors,” Johnson continued, then the decision to cancel the recess did, since “King died not for himself but for the person we refuse to honor on Friday—Jesus Christ” (Sam Johnson 1968, 7). The switch of one recess for another supported a single conclusion: HDS would honor black freedom movements only in ways that did not disrupt its institutional life. They concluded that the same was true with respect to the life of Jesus, which Johnson saw incarnated in black freedom and antiwar movements. Tension escalated when professor Warren Richardson eulogized King as “the most important theological mind of our time” because he espoused “pluralism and diversity” and the “total interrelatedness of man with man” over and against the “dualism” of Black Power (Richardson 1968, 1–2, 6). One week later, Jeffery Boyd’s column “White Violence” renounced such abstract responses to King’s death: One of the reasons that Martin Luther King has suddenly become so popular among white society … is because white society is suddenly afraid at the prospect of guerrilla warfare between the races. … Nothing is so flagrantly hypocritical as for white leaders to preach non-violence at the same time as they are sending the police and army into the ghetto to violently suppress riots. (Boyd 1968a, 4) Boyd mused that “since King’s death white America has been … offering equal opportunity to middle class and upwardly mobile Negroes.” But such tactics could not camouflage the “declaration of war” of white elites against black neighborhoods (Boyd 1968a, 4). Accompanying the article was a cartoon depicting a person “from HDS” laying bare his paternalism while protesting racist employment practices at a business (Figure 1) (Boyd 1968b). The following week, Prospect published a cartoon of white students observing a race riot from a hot air balloon (Figure 2). “I find the world very threatening these days,” one says. “This makes me want to retreat in my theological balloon.” “Tell me,” his friend responds as the scene below erupts into flames, “What do you think of the scholastic conception of God in the latter half of the twelfth century?” (Boyd 1968c). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide A Harvard Divinity School professor shows up at a local business to protest its racist employment policies and, in the process, finds himself balking at the idea of hiring a black colleague and celebrating the “lilly soul power” of his institution (Boyd 1968b). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide A Harvard Divinity School professor shows up at a local business to protest its racist employment policies and, in the process, finds himself balking at the idea of hiring a black colleague and celebrating the “lilly soul power” of his institution (Boyd 1968b). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Two white Harvard Divinity School students observe a race riot from a hot air balloon and then change the subject to twelfth century theology (Boyd 1968c). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Two white Harvard Divinity School students observe a race riot from a hot air balloon and then change the subject to twelfth century theology (Boyd 1968c). The temperature rose again three days before the 1968 convocation, after students occupied the HDS Andover Chapel to give sanctuary to AWOL Marine Paul Olimpieri. The standoff ended when police raided the building and arrested the soldier, who renounced the students before the press. As students scrambled to regroup, all the while wondering whether Olimpieri had been a government plant, Stendahl revised his convocation address in light of the events. In it he urged the students to be prudent. Given the absence of a “word from the Lord” to reveal a moral direction, he concluded, “we shall go about our business” (Stendahl 1969, 4). Stendahl was walking a fine line as a newly appointed dean; that he did not punish the students is from one angle remarkable, even if he did not defend them. Editors of the student periodical, renamed as Concourse but almost identical in content, interpreted Stendahl’s convocation plea as a moral hazard of the administrative role that he had accepted. They believed that he could not have expressed support if he had wanted to do so; students, however, could and should make a different choice. “If a Dean or Faculty or a Student Association must await a word from the Lord, or at least wait until it has articulated an authoritative word of its own,” wrote Glenn Johnson, “then perhaps it is given to the rest of us to risk being foolish or naïve or noisy in order to set events into motion” (Glenn Johnson 1968, 2). But now faculty patience was wearing thin. When three HDS students joined a December occupation of Paine Hall, in which protestors refused to leave after being barred from faculty conversations on the future of ROTC, the public reprimand they had evaded three months earlier arrived with double strength (Mike Boudreaux, et al. 1969a, 4). In response, HDS Student Association President David McDuff attacked the “meaningless and ineffective rubric of ‘dialogue’” used to condemn confrontational tactics against the Vietnam War and the militarization of black neighborhoods (McDuff 1969, 5). Students increasingly painted the desire to “go about our business” as a sign of spiritual bankruptcy. An alumni conference on the topic of “Student Unrest and My Ministry” fanned the flames. A double-page Concourse feature lambasted the “room of bald heads” enacting a “morality play” that cast student radicals as “Contemporary Issues” rather than serious interlocutors (Johnson 1969). “It just goes to show,” wrote Johnson, “you can’t trust liberals.” His conclusion left no room for ambiguity: [This] is just the kind of thing that can lead a restless man to put a weapon against the balding brain of the unlistening and say: HANDS UP, MOTHERFUCKERS, THIS IS A ROBERRY WE’VE COME FOR WHAT’S OURS His most incendiary line doubled as the bolded headline on the paper’s front page (Johnson 1969, 7). As students turned their heat against liberal dialogue as the link between US empire abroad and racism at home, they demanded overhauls of institutional life. In addition to curricular changes, they demanded full student enfranchisement in decisions about funding, hiring, and discipline (McDuff 1969, 5). In this effort, they had company, notably at Union Theological Seminary and University of Chicago Divinity School, where their peers had made strides in gaining full representation in university decision-making processes, especially as pertaining to the future of black studies in their programs (Handy 1987; Kitagawa 1970). Yet the power of student rhetoric against a common institutional foe—plus university representations of radical students as a uniform bloc—did not always match the sustainability and cohesion of their alliances. Strong words glossed fault lines in an alliance where investments in racism supplanted attempts to dismantle it. When problems arose within organizing efforts, the student newspaper provided a forum for airing them. Here students debated whether they were living up to the liberation theologies they claimed as their true north, or appropriating them in the service of narcissism. Christopher Chase charged “the HDS Liberation Front” with “messianic pretentiousness” that reified white supremacy through their performances of opposition to it. He cited a “Civil Rights Honor Roll” of white students who “spent a day or two in Selma,” the “misguided, pathetic, and inappropriate ‘show of good faith’” following King’s death, and white students’ self-aggrandizing charges that HDS is a “racist institution.” “What could be more paternalistic,” Chase wondered, “than to have countless dewy-eyed white students tugging at your sleeve and asking you if you were angry?” (Chase 1969, 7–8). Romney Mosley reminded his colleagues that Rockefeller grants paid his and other black students’ tuition. If such grants “provide the opportunity for the poor to be educated,” then the administration should accept the funds (Moseley 1969, 6). Far from heralding a doomed cause, the newspaper gave a forum to intra-alliance debates. Students maintained common ground in their opposition to calls for civil dialogue and sympathy, which they saw as attempts to absolve the university of structural sin, rather than to transform its practices. Students seemed never more united than in March 1969, after a faculty committee released a “Report on Theological Education for the Black Community.” Responding to critiques of the whiteness of the curriculum and the student body, it recommended that HDS immediately take steps to recruit more black students and faculty, develop curriculum for “the particular needs of black students,” and appoint a black person to the visiting committee (Burkholder et al. 1969, 1–2). It then proposed that another committee explore longer-term and more financially consequential proposals. These ideas ranged from the easy to the ambitious to the somewhat bizarre. HDS might develop an exchange with Atlanta’s historically black Interdenominational Theological Center; form “a semiautonomous black seminary” affiliated with the Boston Theological Institute; or establish a “Store-front seminary for Store-front preachers in the ghetto under black control” (Burkholder et al. 1969, 2). The committee underscored the urgency of its suggestions: Black churches need a new breed of minister who will understand the dynamics of modern culture sufficiently to cope with the problems of the ghetto, the changing educational status of the Negro youth, and the relation of the churches to the public sector. Furthermore black colleges and seminaries are in desperate need of scholars. … HDS should move energetically and without delay in the direction of theological education for the black community. (Burkholder et al. 1969, 2) Students seized the report as a smoking gun for a failed race politics. The HDS Black Caucus, composed of the school’s black students, denounced the report for “racist paternalistic assumptions” that indicated “manifest White superiority feelings among the faculty and administration of the Divinity School” (Bekele et al. 1969, 1). Noting that no current black student intended to serve a church, they scorned the idea that Harvard could train black clergy: That HDS, as presently staffed and administered is unprepared to train White ministers for pastoral leadership in White churches is fully recognized by most HDS seminarians. To suggest then that HDS can now train Black ministers for Black churches is not only inappropriate, but ridiculous. (Bekele et al. 1969, 2) This statement hit where it hurt. Even as the deans reflected on the question of how to ingrain engaged and justice-centered pedagogies at HDS, students all but declared it an impossible cause, at least within the current institutional terms and curricular offerings. The students were clear that no progress could occur at HDS without a minimal acknowledgement of the fact that black students’ futures, and their histories, were fundamentally different from those of their white colleagues. Pointing out that the school’s handful of current black students were preparing for careers other than church ministry, the letter repeated their demand once again: not for mere curricular addition, but for the transformation of its structuring logics (Bekele et al. 1969, 5). The Concourse editorial staff amplified the point. Alongside the Black Caucus statement, they chronicled successive instances when the report had advocated a “paternalistic” education for, about, and on behalf of black students (Mike Boudreaux et al. 1969b, 1–3). A white student saw the administration attempting to “gobbl[e] up all the black theological students in sight” to “enhance its own reputation” rather than advance racial justice (Marie Boudreaux 1969, 4). The message was united: white liberal efforts to incorporate students of color into their institutions, without changing how those institutions operate, did not qualify as reparation. Indeed, these efforts reiterated paternalism toward black students. The committee’s language around diversity, argued the editors, was a new “grammar of racism” (Mike Boudreaux et al. 1969b, 1–3). Attempting to deescalate, Stendahl arranged a meeting between the Black Caucus and the faculty. The students came with an ultimatum: The United States is and always was multi-racial, multi-national, and multicultural. Either we must accept the fact that America is pluralistic and democratically adjust our economic, political, cultural, and educational institutions to fit what is the real living fact or cease believing in the mythology of assimilated Americanism based on the powerful and pervasive white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ideal or the racial crisis will continue to intensify. (HDS Black Caucus 1970, 106) The statement demonstrated the live conflict that had emerged around how a language of “multiculturalism” would be deployed in these decades. This vocabulary invoked not an apolitical posture of “difference” but rather a demand for systemic redistribution of resources. Given Harvard’s centuries-long pattern as “an agent of racism,” the students emphasized, we “cannot—must not, will not—permit a ‘business as usual’ attitude” (HDS Black Caucus 1970, 107). Their reappropriation of Stendahl’s convocation injunction to “go about our business” framed the recommendations as a direct critique of administrative action up to that point. The students called for “the Black Experience [to be] included in all areas of study” instead of “relegated to a compartment” and “viewed as a curiosity most suitable for study by Margaret Mead” (HDS Black Caucus 1970, 108). Noting that only three percent of the student body was black, they called for scholarships and curricular flexibility for black students. They demanded recruitment of black faculty to be judged not by their possession of a PhD but by their track record of work with black communities. Finally, they attacked the CSWR for its “arbitrary, distorted and grossly discriminatory” practice of defining “world religions” such that it “excludes…a whole continent.” The students framed their suggestions as provisional. Rather than burden black students with “offering solutions to the problem of racism,” they insisted, HDS must hire a full-time staff person for the job. The final line underscored the point: “Delaying tactics, wait-and-see methods and other such obnoxious tricks will have serious repercussions not only for this School but for race relations in this country” (The HDS Black Caucus 1970, 111). A NEW GRAMMAR OF RACISM Ten years after Samuel Miller sought to focus the attention of HDS on world religions, an ever-perseverant Krister Stendahl returned to the difficulties of putting pluralism into place. “The Black Caucus has stirred our minds and consciences,” the dean wrote to Harvard president Nathaniel Pusey in his 1969–1970 report. “The Divinity School has prided itself on its wide spectrum. We now begin to see and feel how that proud language has lacked the imagination and sensitivity toward the most immediate and urgent aspects of diversity. This calls for repentance.” Grappling with student critiques, the school looked forward to “moving from good intentions to positive action” on racial justice (Stendahl 1971, 212). Stendahl’s action plan—which included the faculty committee and the request for the black experience report—was a minor note in the document. He focused less on the previous year than on Pusey’s role in “rejuvenat[ing]” the Divinity School. “Your leadership has made major contributions in responding not only to our religiously plural society, but to our religiously pluralistic and shrinking world,” he stressed (Stendahl 1971, 206). If 1969 had been “tough going,” then the school still held to a long view of nurturing a ministry for a pluralistic world (Stendahl 1971, 221). This was the first time that a dean’s report had invoked pluralism as an institutional value for HDS. Stendahl employed it to name both the school’s recent history and the imperative for its future, especially in light of protests that had shaken its self-image. The dean noted, “It could be argued that a move toward genuine pluralism calls for increased attention to the culture, faith, aspirations, and experiences of many traditions and groups in addition to those of the blacks.” But “now and for a long time to come the black experience is number one on our agenda,” he finished (Stendahl 1971, 213; Stendahl et al. 1970, 113). Note how strongly Stendahl leans into “pluralism” as the cohering principle of engagement. As an ideal and a practice, there is little doubt that pluralism named a desire to build a culture of inclusion and equality at HDS. Yet its repeated utterance, coupled with the institutional strategies it bespoke, had the opposite effect. A rhetoric of pluralism undercut radical critiques by translating them as the particular perspectives of individuals, whose voices were welcome to join the dialogue but not to alter its terms. The dean’s letter missed the fact that the student campaign was less to be included into already-existing structures than to fundamentally alter the university’s regimes of power and knowledge. The dean believed that he was sincerely responding to student requests to incorporate African-American traditions into a curriculum of world religions. The students believed that this was precisely what they were asking the school not to do. They were asking for the school to relinquish its “mythology of assimilated Americanism” and to reorganize the academic study of religion through the lens of black experience—not simply to add it to the curriculum. Indeed, just two years earlier at the University of Chicago, Charles Long had made a similar critique of a History of Religions program structured by western European categories. He had called on his colleagues to prioritize black liberation as an intellectual as well as social issue. “I am not proposing that the Divinity School transform itself into an Institute for Black Studies with black faculty (though that might not be the worst thing to happen here),” he explained in his 1968 convocation address. “I am saying that the visibility of the black community in America opens us to a range of cultural materials and methodological positions that would not be possible if this were not the case. I am saying that the hegemony of Western Christian categories and thought models has come to an end” (Long 1986, 152). Long rejected interpretations of Western Christianity as “invalid or useless,” even as he insisted that the kind of “provincialism stemming from the aforementioned hegemony might be overcome if we take seriously the otherness manifested through and in the visibility of the black community” (Long 1986, 152). This demand for action—whether put forth by Long or by the students of the HDS Black Caucus—eclipses any request to incorporate token difference into the curriculum. Likewise, the point of student requests for enfranchisement in university decision-making processes was not to have a perfunctory voice within an existing structure, but rather to overturn entrenched status hierarchies and build a democratic educational system. By imagining that black students had demanded more “attention” within an economy of limited resources—and then implying that this might in the long run detract from attention to other deserving traditions—Stendahl’s letter misrepresented these activists’ critique in a way that construed the Black Caucus as a potential impediment to HDS’s liberal pluralist ethic. For Stendahl, “genuine pluralism” also required retreat from “spectacular” protest tactics. His convocation address that fall cautioned HDS students and alumni against becoming “enslaved by images of swift action” and counseled that “the creative work of our school is not a spectacular thing” (Stendahl 1970a, 1). His words mirrored his summary comments to Pusey. “It has been an unspectacular spectacular year,” he lamented. But although “nearly every college administrator would indicate [that] it has been tough going,” students at HDS likely would respond, “Things are great at my School; everyone has finally come alive and is involved” (Stendahl 1971, 221). Stendahl presented pluralism as an alternative to the conflict between students and administrators. The energy of protest, and anxiety over protest, could be channeled into multicultural engagement that produced shared values of sympathy, respect, and unity. Surely Stendahl was attempting to respond to students’ demands within the institutional constraints of his position, and yet the effort did not mediate the tensions, but seemed to corroborate students’ most trenchant critiques. In his appeal to pluralism, Stendahl had construed antiracist and anti-imperial protest tactics not only as disruptions to civility, but even as signs of a raced “enslavement” to unreasonable and unrealistic visions of the possible. Simultaneously, this emergent discourse of pluralism would come to naturalize both race and religion as nonthreatening properties of individual identity, representing the school’s multicultural community. Lewis and Dibinga were the sharpest opponents to this vision. Their “Report on the Black Experience,” submitted in fall 1970, opened by condemning HDS faculty who “denied the existence of racism.” They then named their audience as only “blacks and some human whites” willing to acknowledge and intervene against white supremacy (Lewis and Dibinga 1970, 3). The introduction closed by proposing new parameters for the HDS dialogue about race. All parties must be convinced “God is on the side of the oppressed in order to free them from the yoke of mental slavery, academic genocide, intellectual terrorism, and psychological atrocities.” Anyone who disagrees opposes the “theological decolonization and political liberation” of the Divinity School (Lewis and Dibinga 1970, 34). As the students turned the table on the calls to “dialogue” that administrators had advocated, they replaced the implicit requirement that subjects be sympathetic and civil with an explicit demand that they be publicly committed to black liberation. They enclosed reports that they had requested from the school’s various academic and professional departments, which chronicled the resources offered to black students and the points at which black experiences were a topic of inquiry, before pledging to broaden these offerings. Dibinga and Lewis’s own policy recommendations—an expanded version of the Black Caucus demands to the faculty the previous March—came only after they had thoroughly surveyed the landscape of the school and, crucially, redescribed their task as one entailing a shift in consciousness for the entire school. The official HDS response both to this document and to the Black Caucus more generally gave disproportionate attention to the students’ tone. Stendahl reassured Pusey that although the Black Caucus’s message was “direct, strong, and human … their criticisms and constructive suggestions were for the most part well thought out and serious” and “there was definite evidence that these black students felt they had a commitment to the School” (Stendahl 1971, 212). Whatever the intentions of the summary report, it positioned white administrators as the arbiters of how black students relate their critique. It gestured toward “evidence that [they] felt” they had a commitment to the school but, as the letter implies, this commitment is qualified by the way students perform it. When The Harvard Divinity Bulletin featured two articles about the Audit of the Black Experience, it overlooked the proposals and underlined the report’s subjective quality. One began, “HDS has been described as a ‘racist institution’ by black students” and buttressed nearly all of Lewis and Dibinga’s critiques with a qualifying clause. By noting what “Mr. Lewis believes” and what “Mr. Dibinga feels,” but never extending full intellectual authority to their accounts, it constructed them as reactionaries granted a place at the table by people who tolerate their presence (Castle 1970b, 3). It was Stendahl’s willingness to consult them, rather than the students’ labor, that garnered praise. Black students are welcome, the article suggests, so long as they perform their critiques in an acceptable way. This campaign to present HDS as committed to multiculturalism coincided with a faculty-led overhaul of the school's discipline policies. In a delayed response to the fall strike and Paine Hall occupation, the HDS faculty voted in a December 1969 meeting to form a Committee on Rights, Responsibilities, and Discipline (CRRD). Students took the move as further faculty abandonment of democratic values. The Student Association refused to appoint student representatives until they were sure that “the CRRD [had] been legitimately constituted” (Spitzform 1970, 3). When the faculty convened to discuss the proposal with students, student columnists ridiculed the meeting. This is “definitely the best alternative to nude theater” and a “real heavy trip on LSP (Liberal Scholastic Professionalism),” wrote Dell Johnson (1970, 1). Student Association Secretary Robin Lovin suggested that angry students could keep their “stomach lining intact by remember[ing] that people don’t really want to do stupid things; it’s just that they don’t know how to stop” (Lovin 1970, 1). The committee moved forward, and it soon seemed that disillusioned students had reached their own limit. The next round of Student Association elections garnered only a fraction of the participation from the previous year. By spring, Concourse had declared the “death of the HDS Community” and disbanded, leaving students without a primary forum for collective discussion (Gehant and Diener 1970, 1). Meanwhile, the administration’s emphasis on multiculturalism supplemented its new system of governance. Together they functioned as tools of behavior management, which not only highlighted administrative power over students, but also encumbered their organizing efforts. Gradually students began to accede to the administration’s language. In October 1971, six students founded another paper that exclusively published letters to the editor, most of which were written by the paper’s six-person staff (Malone 1971b, 3). The Unauthorized Version featured debates over the virtues of feminist campaigns for reproductive rights and women’s ordination. Though they championed universal dialogue, these conversations were dominated by men. When theologian Mary Daly collaborated with students to stage a walkout of Harvard’s Memorial Church in November 1971, a new editor condemned their “cowardly and barren” activism before inviting them “graciously to return” to a church of universal welcome.5 Another writer decried the “crude burlesque” of a movement characterized by “the polemical, the bitter, the cerebral, and the Amazon” (Dimitroff 1971, 3). In a published response, Linda Barufaldi noted HDS feminists’ struggle “to keep communication open” when they are “met on all sides … with value judgment and ridicule” (Barufaldi 1971, 2). But within the new paper, calls for a communicative forum were grounded by lampooning feminism in the first place. The closing of Concourse left a void where public discussions about race and empire once had resided; The Unauthorized Version rarely discussed these themes. The Harvard Divinity Bulletin filled the gap. Months after the 1969 apex of student protests, the magazine had transformed from a quarterly journal-style publication to a multichrome biweekly magazine that promised to show HDS life as it “really” took place (Castle 1970a, 3). Brimming with spreads and short articles about student life, the Bulletin constructed student grievances as signs of the school’s movement toward a more multicultural future. One year after Dibinga and Lewis turned in their report, the Bulletin ran a feature entitled, “Authors of 1970 Black Audit See Some Progress at HDS.” The article noted the appointment of the school’s first tenured black faculty member, Preston Williams; the allocation of scholarships to black students; the increase of black students from nine to thirty-four; and how one course “now includes a visit to a local black church.” Lewis and Dibinga expressed some optimism at the changes, but the headline contradicted Lewis’s musings that “progress” might not be the right word and that “the school has a way to go” to disrupt its pattern of responding to black students “by appeasement” (Castle 1971b, 2). Meanwhile, the magazine remained silent on the Daly walkout, which would have contradicted its claim that even if “many [women] ask if HDS is still excluding the female viewpoint” the school is “no hotbed of militant feminism” (Malone 1971a, 3). The reticence around institutional pressure points is unsurprising in an alumni magazine. Yet it is notable for the way its timing complemented and coincided with wide-reaching attempts to articulate justice as primarily a work of multicultural inclusion. Here HDS could claim progress. If racism and sexism still hampered the school, the paper implied, this signaled the school’s potential to expand the borders of its pluralism. The Bulletin scrutinized students who critiqued Harvard’s participation in US militarism. It derided a conference on religion and imperialism that some students had organized in response to the decision to build Rockefeller Hall. The Bulletin took aim at the conference’s premises. It quoted another student who lamented how “imperialism would be discussed with the assumption that automatically we will do something to oppose it” (Malone 1972, 3). Clearly HDS had experienced internal factioning with its student body, as was typical for movements of the era (Self 2012); this did not alter the singularity of the administration’s response to their protests. Even as the Bulletin exposed the vulnerability of student activist coalitions, Stendahl complained about the “narrow ideological base” of the event (Malone 1972, 3). Previously he had urged students to remember that Rockefeller money “transformed” HDS’s “desperate attempt at lifting itself from its demise … into a viable enterprise” (Stendahl 1970b, 1). Now, in the wake of the criticism, Stendahl expressed gratitude to David Rockefeller, Jr. for his forberance toward “men and women whose integrity and faith lead them to raise questions where it would be both easier and more pleasant not to” (Stendahl 1972, 226–27). Such displays of appreciation for the Rockefellers may have reflected fears about going the way of Union Theological Seminary in New York. At the same time that the liberal HDS administration was moderating calls for a more radical university, Union was hosting scholars like James Cone and Mary Daly and had adopted a governance structure that afforded students, staff, and faculty equal votes. Eventually the school’s top funders protested this radicalism by withdrawing all financial support, spinning Union into a financial crisis. Meanwhile, responding to the Black Manifesto given across the street at Riverside Church in 1969, students convinced remaining board members at Union to dedicate one million dollars toward black social and economic development organizations (Handy 1987; Hulsether 1999). If some HDS students would have welcomed these outcomes—a few had demanded that Rockefeller funds be redirected to affordable housing in Cambridge—the leadership preferred that Union represent a road-not-taken (HDS Abrahamic Minority 1969). Pedagogies of pluralism worked as a self-defense strategy, designed simultaneously to reign in students and to affirm the generosity of funders who endured the insults of idealistic youth. These years witnessed the incorporation of student activism under the positive sign of racial and religious harmony. When challenges to power arrangements surfaced—whether from feminism, black liberation, or anti-imperialism—showcases of the school’s inclusive diversity diffused tension. If a distinct institutional refrain of pluralism did not fully develop until later, then the early seventies laid the necessary groundwork for it. In December 1974, under the interim deanship of Preston Williams, HDS appointed an external Afro-American Religious Studies Review Committee (AARSRC) to review the school’s progress with respect to “the direction of the black church and the development of pluralism at the divinity school” (Malone 1975a, 1). One year later, AARSRC condemned HDS for developing “academic ghettos” for black students and protecting faculty who “still [do] not endorse the legitimacy and necessity of black religious studies at HDS” (Malone 1975c, 6). The ensuing Bulletin article—entitled “Report on Black Religious Studies Urges Genuine Commitment to Pluralism”—echoed Stendahl’s remorseful explanation of four years earlier. Pluralism had already become a keyword for administrators accused of perpetuating institutional racism. There was a crucial difference between this use of multicultural language and the direction to which students had applied it in calling HDS to accept its “multi-racial, multi-national, and multicultural” context. For this student coalition, there was no such thing as “pluralism” absent the “democratic adjustment” of economy, politics, culture, and education (HDS Black Caucus 1970, 102). One could not exist without the other. In insisting on this point, these students demonstrate to us how an appeal to multiculturalism could, and did, provide a moving preamble to demands for antiracist, anti-imperialist educational reforms. Yet we have seen that this was not the only use of this language; others could, and did, mobilize it for different ends. What on the surface sounds like a parallel appeal to pluralist values could be, and was, deployed as Harvard’s official reaction to student demands. Here we uncover what will be a familiar story for any scholar of social change. Like so many movements that came before and would follow that at Harvard, an activist rhetoric had been exhausted and absorbed by the power it sought to fight (Melamed 2016; Moreiras 2001; Williams 1977). The emergent discourse of pluralism was expressed as an explicitly religious, and equally raced, diversity. The emphasis harkened to discourses of living religions, even as it supplied an implicit rejoinder to charges of institutional racism. “The American graduate student who reads Theravada texts in the morning discusses their modern day relevance with a Ceylonese Buddhist. A Muslin [sic] legal scholar puzzles over Aquinas’s theories of divine justice; his next-door neighbor, a Catholic priest […], helps him answer his questions,” the Bulletin reported (Malone 1975b, 6). The opportunity to engage religious diversity doubled as experiential moral pedagogy. Resident Christopher Durasingh reflected upon the religious diversity that surrounded him at the center in saying, “The potentiality for experiencing and learning about the cultural pluralism here is immense” (Malone 1975b, 6). The optic of a community of world religions at the CSWR delivered a counterpoint to the charges of student protestors. The discourse of pluralism bore consequences not just for the direction of HDS, but also the study of religion across Harvard. With leadership from HDS faculty, the graduate school faculty voted to establish an undergraduate religion concentration in 1974. Its curriculum would be connected to but formally separate from HDS resources and center on comparative religion and sympathetic engagement with difference (Carman and Dodgson 2003, 32). Commenting on Harvard’s new major—established just two years after Harvard’s Committee on African American Studies—head graduate tutor William Graham explained that the major would “sensitize students to the diversity of human religious experience and to develop empathy and sensitivity to different religious views.” Doctoral student Diana Eck added that the major would attract “serious students” because to study religion is to “undertake a serious existential quest” (Malone 1976, 6). Here they echoed the rationale of so many other religious studies programs formed over the course of the previous decade (Welch 1971a). Placed in the context of movements at Harvard, the more troubling aspects of this institutional innovation come into view. Even if the new Committee on the Study of Religion was not a conscious attempt to quell student activism, even if it was a sincere attempt to meet their demands, this did not change its mollifying effects. With this decision, the university authorized a definition of religion as having a personal, even “existential” element that should evoke liberal sympathy in its observers, a frame that opposed the one used by students who invoked religions as the foundation for radical race critique. As Graham and Eck—a future HDS dean and a future director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard, respectively—celebrated the arrival of the academic study of religion, they did so with only one account of what it meant to engage religion as a category and as a habit of self. CONCLUSION When an Association of Theological Schools accreditation committee visited Harvard in 1970, it questioned the proliferation of pluralism. Its report diagnosed the faculty with “residual battle fatigue” following the previous year’s conflicts. “Is it possible,” the committee inquired, “that some would like to relax by appealing to the necessity, even virtues, of ‘pluralism’ with which no one really seems happy, let alone excited?” (Castle 1971a, 2). If this question was intended as rhetorical, it failed to recognize that “pluralism” was itself a rhetorical tactic that absorbed the student movements that had caused the exhaustion in the first place. If the discourse produced little happiness, it achieved something else. Through the 1960s and 1970s, pluralism transformed from an administrative response to “battle fatigue” to a concept regularly mobilized to describe HDS, to prescribe its future trajectory, and to form its community members after this image. Pedagogies of religious pluralism operated to contain the HDS contingent of the student left, and particularly black students within it. It facilitated a continuity of social arrangements characterized by the hegemony of whiteness, even as it prompted shifts in the definition, disciplines, and political work carried out by the study of religion at Harvard. And Harvard was not alone. Across the country, other universities were following suit. Whether church-related schools establishing programs in world religions or state institutions embracing the academic study of religion for the first time, a turn to multicultural education swept higher education. That this shift was simultaneous with what Ferguson describes as the birth of the interdisciplines, in which the institutional move toward critical ethnic studies and women’s studies recognized student activist demands even while containing their power, is not coincidental. The question of multiculturalism and its coercive power has captured the attention of historians and cultural critics for decades, but rarely have we focused on the religious history of this discourse. The primary exceptions to this rule have celebrated liberal religious actors for priming a post-1960s triumph of inclusion and tolerance. David Hollinger has portrayed the contemporary United States as “post-Protestant,” in the sense that white Protestant churches declined in numbers after the middle of the century but bequeathed to the nation a culture of inclusion, tolerance, and multiculturalism (Hollinger 2013). Hollinger has been attacked for espousing an American exceptionalism that vilifies radical race movements while championing a colorblind liberalism—what Hollinger elsewhere dubs a “post-ethnic America” (Hollinger 1995; Singh 1998). And yet part of his history is accurate. White liberal Protestants did hasten post-1960s multicultural discourse and the racial break that accompanied it (Omi and Winant 2014). Full comprehension of neoliberal diversity discourse requires that we understand these characters. These actors innovated what Rey Chow describes as the ascendancy of whiteness in a discourse of multiculturalism (Chow 2002). With “religious pluralism,” they constructed a world where race could be transcended in interreligious harmony, even as they censured those who did not accede to a postracial project. Scholars of religion have exposed the many problems of pluralism. Numerous critics suggest that pluralism, far from naming a triumph of diversity, signals the disciplinary power of Protestantism in US culture and law. These studies reveal how a pluralist invitation admits only a particular subject: the agentive individual who conceives religion as voluntary, private belief (Bender and Klassen 2010; Brown 2006; Fessenden 2007; Jakobsen and Pellegrini 2003). So strong is the pull of an apparent Protestantism that Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini suggest that American culture and law be understood not as “secular” but rather as “Protestant secular” (Jakobsen and Pellegrini 2008). The implication is that to be a legible participant in pluralism is already to have been disciplined as “Protestant.” These interventions have been groundbreaking insofar as they expose the disciplinary aspects of pluralism. Yet the laser focus on the Protestantism of both pluralism and secularism may distract from the operation of race within the discourse. The actors at HDS, after all, were all Protestant. Students supported their activism with black liberation theology; the administration introduced pluralism as the route to a postracial Protestant unity. To focus our attention here is neither to express nostalgia for the Christian vision expressed by activist students, nor is it to gloss the colonial histories of the Christianity that both parties deployed. The student protesters were themselves critiquing these postures and histories in their attacks on the curriculum. Instead, the point is that we cannot understand this structuring context without attention to the politics of race and performances of respectability attached to them (Lloyd and Kahn 2016). The decisive point is not that pluralism emerged as a discourse of masked Protestantism, but that it operated as a technology of racial formation and site of postracial fantasy. It welded religious and racial desires in ways that would be consequential for US universities. To fathom the history of multicultural discourse in and beyond higher education, we must combine critiques of the Protestant secular with critiques of liberal multiculturalism. The problem of Protestantism within pluralism is the problem of the interdisciplines itself: how to tell what has transformed and what has trickled down, how to be an informed actor in the wake of what gave birth to us. Many interdisciplinary humanities programs face pressure to prove their relevance to budget-slashing administrators or anti-intellectual lawmakers; colleagues may doubt the merits of our inquiry. In response, we scramble to defend our objects of study. Students of religious studies may declare our distance from (what we classify as) theological projects in the same breath that we invoke multiculturalism as an objective topic of critical analysis. Much like cynical claims that one’s academic work could shed political interest, these efforts at purification obscure the processes that produced the distinctions in the first place. They reify a moralizing divide between prohibited confessional modes and prescribed poses of secular objectivity. This is still a staging of difference that confounds and rearticulates racialized power. As scholars in the humanities struggle to maintain ground, celebrations of religious pluralism have reached a fever pitch in and beyond the US academy. The interdisciplinary fields recently acquired a new sibling: interfaith studies. Its primary advocate, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) Director Eboo Patel, claims that this interdisciplinary field will create leaders “who work with diversity to build pluralism” to build a “strong civic fabric … that can withstand the provocations of extremists and haters” (Patel 2013). To qualify for IFYC-Teagle grants driving the new field, interfaith studies programs must teach “appreciative knowledge of diverse religious traditions” and “shared values between diverse religious traditions.” They must also “bridge liberal arts and pre-professional education models” to prepare students for a “global workforce” (Interfaith Youth Core 2016). Patel frames the religious engagement as displacing critical engagement with race, by claiming that the “faith line” has supplanted the “color line” as the “greatest problem of the 21st century” (Patel 2007, xv; Goodstein 2011). He warns students not to repeat the mistakes of his own youth, when he was “too busy reading critical race theory to pay attention [to religious conflict]” (Patel 2012, 114). Interfaith studies and leadership programs have gained traction across the United States. Elon University, Elizabethtown College, New York University, Nazareth College, and Loyola University at Chicago have developed initiatives in this area (Freedman 2016; Patel 2016). No doubt each program will claim its own unique character and each participant will articulate unique motives for her engagement. Yet, local idiosyncracies notwithstanding, it would be difficult to find a more potent staging ground for neoliberal pedagogy. The chief arguments for interfaith studies announce not only their investment in American nation-building but also their desire to professionalize the liberal arts, in part by displacing the critical study of race—all in the name of a more expansive multiculturalism. Thus, the birth of the interdisciplines continues. If the first wave of these programs—black studies, women’s studies, religious studies—emerged from an institutional suppression of a race radical student left, then interfaith studies aims for similar ends. As before, its supporters adopt a mission to produce in students a missionary consciousness that consolidates American global hegemony, entrenches multiculturalism as the ascendancy of whiteness, and enshrines religion as the site of a vaunted postracial. Any thoughtful response to this moment must be rooted in clarity about the religious and cultural trajectories by which we arrived in this place. Only with such a view will we become capable of confronting the violence that makes possible our interdisciplinary inquiry, as we twist in its impossible grip. For their generous critiques and unwavering support, I thank Kathryn Lofton, Michelle Sanchez, Aisha Beliso-De-Jesús, Tisa Wenger, Amaryah Armstrong, Sarah Berns, Adrian Hernandez-Acosta, Ainsley Land Tucker, Emily Owens, and Jason Smith. For their archival acumen, I thank Gloria Korsman and Jessica Suarez. 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Wilson, John F. 1964. “ Mr. Holbrook and the Humanities, or Mr. Schlatter’s Dilemma: A Review Article,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion  32 ( 3): 252– 61. Footnotes 1 See, for example, accounts of undergraduate programs at Arizona State (Wentz 1977), Colorado College (Pickle 1980), Dartmouth (Katz 1980), Indiana University (May 1970; Imhoff 2016), Princeton (Ramsey 1962), Stanford (Harvey 1998), University of Alabama (McCutcheon 2016), University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB Religious Studies Department 2017), University of Southern California (MacGregor 1962), University of Northern Iowa (Thompson 1980), and Wellesley (Kodera 1982). 2 Essays published in honor of HDS anniversaries narrate the institution’s mission as one of liberal theological innovation through the cultivation of a learned ministry, defined in terms of a commitment to pluralism. See Gomes 1992; Faust 2017; Hempton 2017. 3 For two exemplary discussions of “living religions,” see Smith 1959 and Eck 2000. 4 On Protestantism as a background logic for liberal pluralism, see Bender and Klassen 2010; Fessenden 2007, 2012. For the best early critique of pluralism as a discourse of empire, see (Gardella 2003). 5 Many scholars have critiqued discourses of universality as deployed in relation to feminism within theological studies, the academic study of religion, and mid-century radical movements. For black feminist theological critique, see especially Copeland 2010 and Williams 1993. For excellent work on the gender politics of 1960s and 1970s movements see especially Ransby 2005 and Charron 2009. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the American Academy of Religion Oxford University Press

The Grammar of Racism: Religious Pluralism and the Birth of the Interdisciplines

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
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0002-7189
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10.1093/jaarel/lfx049
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Abstract

Abstract This article reframes the history of religious studies by excavating a central context for its formal consolidation as an academic field: university containment of antiracist student movements. It chronicles this process as it occurred at Harvard Divinity School (HDS) between 1960 and 1975. Student activists appealed to liberation theologies in demanding that HDS take direct, redistributive action against racism and militarism. Administrators responded with rejoinders to a practice of cross-cultural encounter, sympathetic dialogue, and pluralism. Decades before the critique of religion entered a mainstream scholarly lexicon, HDS students attacked this discourse as a technology of racial formation, which separated proper civil subjects from extremists lacking discipline. Meanwhile, as pluralism emerged as the preferred approach to the study of religion at Harvard and around the nation, it circumscribed the field’s critical possibilities. No more would religion provide ground for materialist cultural critique; rather it would be a site for the celebration of positive difference. Just as our religious traditions are dynamic, so is the very idea of America. The motto of the republic, E Pluribus Unum, ‘From Many, One,’ is not an accomplished fact but an ideal that Americans must continue to claim. —Diana Eck, A New Religious America (2009, 9) This is the historic period that tried to perfect the motto ‘e pluribus unum’ as a technique of power, as a strategic situation for the U.S. nation-state, for American capital, and for the American academy. —Roderick Ferguson, The Reorder of Things (2012, 29) IN FALL 1969, Harvard Divinity School (HDS) Dean Krister Stendahl asked two of the school’s nine black students (of 270 total) to write a report on “the black experience.” Stendahl hoped that such a document would help the school “break [its] patterns of white concerns, attitudes, and habits” and cultivate “genuine pluralism” (Stendahl 1971: 206). The request came as a response to student protests—petitions, marches, building occupations, and civil disobedience—that had been raging for five years. Six months later Craig Lewis and Dibinga wa Said turned in their product. It opened by observing that Stendahl’s request reiterated white entitlement over black life and knowledge. It then identified an irresoluble gap between what black people and white people were prepared to understand about the pluralism to which the dean aspired. Page after page chronicled examples of black people being lynched, burned, experimented upon, and—in the wake of this violence—condescended by white liberals. “Unless you are black and Jesus,” the authors stressed, “you cannot understand the economic exploitation, social humiliation, political exploitation, and spiritual colonialism of which black people have been and still are victims for some 529 years” (Lewis and Dibinga 1970, 21). The conclusion underlined the point: The white God or Deity of American theology is non-existent. This God is DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! The American white Christ is also DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! Blacks cannot worship a God and a Christ whose purpose is to dehumanize and brutalize them. (Lewis and Dibinga 1970, 33) This was a climactic articulation of a persistent critique of HDS leadership mounted by HDS students. Throughout their tenure at Harvard, activist students sought to expose a link between injunctions to liberal sympathy and institutional investments in whiteness. Their critiques prompted administrative efforts to embrace racial and religious multiculturalism as a core value of the school. But this response was double edged. Well-intentioned though it may have been, it also served as a strategy of containment relative to student protest. Harvard leadership used arguments about liberal encounter and universal sympathy to quiet historical-materialist critiques of their power. Even more alarming, the students alleged, that same leadership suggested that historical-materialist critiques were insufficiently sympathetic and insufficiently pluralist in themselves. The agenda of pluralism and the agenda of racial justice were, at Harvard, irreconcilable. This history of this student activism and the institutional reaction to it elevates our conversation about what Roderick Ferguson has called the “birth of the interdisciplines” and the place of religious studies within it (Ferguson 2012). Just as universities began to establish interdisciplinary women’s studies and black studies programs, the academic study of religion bloomed as a separate discipline from theology in the 1960s (Welch 1971a). A growing literature in cultural studies interprets such interdisciplinary programs as an attempt on the part of liberal universities to contain and confound antiracist and feminist movements of the period (Ahmed 2012; Ferguson 2012; Melamed 2011; Reddy 2011). These analyses, while illuminating, have overlooked the genesis of religious studies programs within an overlapping context. This is a stunning occlusion, especially when we consider the vast number of undergraduate programs initiated during this epoch. A 1971 report on the academic study of religion, sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies and directed by Claude Welch, maps the contours of this growth. Of the 1,311 US colleges and universities surveyed, 67% (865) had a department or program in the study of religion and 44% (577) sponsored an undergraduate major. The universities with religious studies majors had gained their shape after World War II, with 23% of them establishing their present structures between 1941 and 1956, 22% between 1957 and 1964, and 24% between 1965 and 1970. Undergraduate enrollment in religious studies courses had more than doubled between 1955 and 1970. The growth in doctoral programs in the academic study of religion was even sharper, with nearly one-half of the fifty-three PhD programs surveyed reporting founding dates between 1960 and 1970 (Welch 1971b, 3–5). But the glaring statistics were outdone by the substance underlying them. Nonsectarian public universities had seen the sharpest increase in student interest in religious studies courses, even as Catholic and Protestant schools saw relative decreases in student interest—something the religiously affiliated responded to by downplaying older confessional curricula and moving toward the study of world religions. Whether a program was just getting started or revising a longstanding tradition, Welch was certain that the nationwide trend was toward “pluralistic” programs that “seek to deal more inclusively with religious phenomena” (Welch 1971b, 8). If we want a substantial explanation of why religious studies bloomed as a departmental space in the contemporary university, we are left with a handful of histories that celebrate the field as part of a triumph of multiculturalism. In particular, we find accounts of religious studies as a component of the inclusion of more voices in university curricula and an overdue repudiation of white Christian power. One explanation associates the flowering of religious studies programs with the 1963 Supreme Court case Abington v. Schempp, which barred confessional instruction in public schools but affirmed as constitutional its “objective” study (Goff and Vasco 2013; Alexander 1988; Welch 1971a). This decision coincided with a sea change in the nation’s religious demography, as the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act eliminated immigration quotas and opened the door to immigrants from beyond Europe. As one explanation goes, an increase in Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus in college classrooms and beyond prompted universities to engage religious difference in more expansive ways (Eck 2001; Warner 1993; Wilson 1964). A secular study of religion, our “myth of origins” asserts, emerged at the intersection of these two legal causes (Imhoff 2016). This explanation is not entirely wrong, but it remains out of focus relative to the broader political and social contexts of its institutional era. A more promising analysis frames the abolition of confessionally Christian instruction, the end of immigration quotas, and the diversification of university curricula in religious studies and beyond as overlapping facets of a post-1945 project to frame the United States as a benevolent empire (Holbrook 1963; McCutcheon 2004). As dominant political rhetoric constructed the American populace as diverse in composition and cosmopolitan in ethic, global education became a national security interest, and cultural competency became a form of counter-insurgency (Dudziak 2001; McAlister 2005). Universities were a ground zero for this nation-building work, as they both served as a training ground for Cold War area studies programs and produced graduates who in turn would come to shape both foreign and domestic policy. Public and private grants supported programs in Russian studies, Asian studies, and Middle Eastern studies, even as corporations sought to shape race politics closer to home (Geiger 1993; Lucas 1994). The Ford Foundation threw its largesse behind black studies, in what some scholars have analyzed as an attempt by white elites to defuse black student activism (Rooks 2006). Universities often responded to student movements by incorporating diluted forms of their critiques and then claiming inquiry into diversity as central to institutional mission. This response gave early, and ambivalent, support to the first departments of African-American studies and women’s studies (Ferguson 2012; Melamed 2011). A similar process consolidated a discourse of pluralism as a value for the study of religion and, eventually, helped to install religious studies in formal academic departments. Religious studies programs across the country can, of course, testify to the diverse routes they traveled toward institutional sanction: with and without relations to divinity schools, with and without Cold War investments, with and without legal catalysts, with and without connections to nineteenth-century sociology and anthropology of religion.1 Likewise, a language of “religious pluralism” clearly has always held a range of meanings. Just as scholars who chart the history of African American studies and women’s studies do not claim that academic work on African-Americans and women literally began in this period—or that multiculturalism and feminism have singular definitions—the study of religion and its discourses have long and well-worn histories (Welch 1971a; Sharpe 1986; Masuzawa 2005). The study of world religions and history of religions certainly had been well underway for at least a century at church-related institutions and divinity schools, the history of religions program at the University of Chicago being perhaps the most well-known instance. This article is not claiming that the study of religion began in the 1960s, nor that discourses of pluralism have been stable over time. Even less does this article intend its critique as a referendum on the credibility of religious studies as a field or on pluralism as an ideal. Rather, the goal is to expand our understanding of its rapid institutional codification in relation to anticolonial and antiracist movements of this era. By unearthing one specific history among the many histories of religious studies in the mid-twentieth century, I hope to contribute to the tradition of self-critique that is a hallmark of our discipline. Although there exists a rich historiography on the question of the politics and investments of religious studies, scholars have yet to give thorough historical attention to how post-WWII regimes of race intersected with one process by which the study of religion was installed within modern universities. With the conviction that trained specificity is often the best way to crack open broader sets of questions, this article chronicles a process of institutionalization as it occurred at Harvard between 1960 and 1975. During this fifteen-year period, activist students on the political left cited black and Latin American liberation theologies in their demands that the university take direct action against racism and militarism. Administrative faculty responded in kind. They sought, first, to bolster collective commitments to race equity, namely by trying to craft a curriculum that could be more responsive to the needs of black seminarians, hiring the school’s first black tenured faculty member, and announcing its multicultural values. These were substantial interventions in theological education at HDS. And yet they were also ambiguous. Even as pluralism held out a program for institutional improvement, it could simultaneously be mobilized to reform, manage, and discipline student movements. When students demanded basic policy revisions or chose confrontational protest tactics, a discourse of pluralism produced them as outsiders to, even threats to, a shared liberal ethic of sympathy and dialogue. On the lips of administrators, pluralism came to operate as a technology of racial subject formation, which divided good liberal subjects from radicals lacking propriety. By 1975, exhortations to a practice of pluralism had been consolidated in a new Committee for the Study of Religion at HDS. This discourse transposed student interventions into a chastened register. No more would religion provide leverage to materialist and antiracist critique. Rather, it would provide grounds for the celebration of positive difference. HDS had many unique attributes relative to the broader social and intellectual field of religious studies in the mid-twentieth-century United States. It provided professional theological training from within a religiously unaffiliated institution, as opposed to reflecting the denominational commitments of a seminary or the secular mandate of a state university. Its faculty worked to establish a Committee on the Study of Religion most directly out of this divinity school context, and less out of departments of history, anthropology, philosophy, or area studies. It was part of the most visible university in the world, and as such enjoyed an astounding ability not only to attract students, faculty, and funders but also to model theoretical approaches that reverberated beyond the ivy streets of Cambridge. Yet despite all its critical distinctiveness, HDS and its battles in this midcentury moment can be seen reflected across the United States as undergraduate and graduate programs multiplied following WWII (Welch 1971a; Hart 1999; Sharpe 1986). While an exhaustive comparison may be impossible, three examples—two from prominent public universities that established early programs in religion and one from a private church-related college—put some themes into relief. Indiana University, Bloomington claims one of the longest trajectories in the academic study of religion, although its department of religious studies was not officially sanctioned until 1971. From 1910 to 1952, a local Christian pastor taught noncredit-bearing courses to university’s undergraduates at “The Indiana School of Religion.” Indiana was no exception in this regard, since such parallel, nonaccredited, confessional schools were common at public universities during the early twentieth century (Hart 1999, 80–85). But when another pastor took over the Bloomington program in 1953, he convinced the university to enter a limited partnership with the school. Courses taught at the university could now be counted as credit for the separate program in religion, even if religion courses still did not count toward an arts and sciences degree. By 1963—the year of the Abington v. Schempp decision—the popularity of this external program had moved the university to establish an undergraduate minor in comparative religion. The university added a master’s program in 1968 (Imhoff 2017). At all levels, the program focused on religious traditions “through their scripture, thought, and ethics” and “religion in American culture,” which the faculty chair believed presented “advanced problems of universal interest: that is, problems of religion under the conditions of a highly urbanized culture, a pluralist society, and a technological age” (May 1970, 1). Thus, from Christian beginnings that ran parallel to university offerings, Indiana University, Bloomington ultimately authorized a religious studies department anchored in comparative cultures and religious diversity. Around the same time, similar dynamics were at play on the West Coast at another prominent public university: the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). Here, the seed of a religious studies program grew from a 1954 interdisciplinarity committee comprised of faculty from political science, botany, and economics. In 1961, this committee proposed a new major in “Religious Institutions” for “individuals planning post-graduate work or careers in the field of theology.” When the university faculty rejected the proposal, the committee expunged the reference to theology. They reapplied as a program for “students desiring a general education with emphasis upon this aspect of Western civilization and comparative cultures.” The change did the trick. UCSB appointed its first full-time religious studies faculty member in 1963, and by the end of the decade the department had added an MA program, a research institute, and five more ladder faculty (UCSB Religious Studies Department 2017). Other universities in the California state system followed, with eleven of nineteen schools in the California public system establishing departments of religious studies by 1972 (Love 1972). Once again, as seen at Indiana University, the shift was toward a curriculum that promoted a combination of historical study and cross-cultural analysis, as contrasted with theology. We can trace these patterns beyond the public universities most directly affected by Abington v. Schempp. At Wellesley, a private women’s liberal arts college just up the highway from Harvard, the study of religion saw a similar shift in the 1960s—though the history of the program stretched back a century. The formal study of religion at Wellesley began with its 1875 founding, when students were obligated to take a biblical studies course each year. The administration cut the requirement to one class in 1938 and three decades later had eliminated it altogether “in response to changing educational expectations…in the period of cultural transition in America” (Kodera 1982, 40). The department that had supervised this part of the curriculum subsequently changed its name from the “Department of Biblical History, Literature, and Interpretation” to the “Department of Religion and Biblical Studies.” Throughout the 1970s, retiring church history and Bible faculty were replaced with scholars in Catholic studies, American religions, East Asian religions, and South Asian religions. Recalling these changes in 1982, the department chair James Kodera conveyed the goals of the department as not only to “teach the religious foundations of Western civilization at large” but also to expose students to “the religious heritage of the non-western world” and “instill in students an understanding of each religious tradition on its own terms in the pluralistic context and tolerance for the truth claims of cultures other than their own” (Kodera 1982, 41). Once again, an explicitly Christian program had given way to a pedagogy of pluralism implemented as a response to a “cultural transition” gripping the nation. Each of these institutions tells its own story, and additional accounts from large land grant state institutions, small religious colleges, and other private and public institutions should be told and heard for their regional, theological, and ethnographic specificity. But the preponderance of programs in the study of religion does not alter the stunning effect of a certain vocabulary of pluralism. A desire to honor Christian history and the “Western civilization” it shaped, while charting a bold path into a religiously diverse present and future, captures the impulse of numerous religious studies programs as they gained their institutional foothold. I argue that this common pedagogical discourse of pluralism enfolded deviation and forged unity from incommensurability, whether located in the cacophonous voices of campus protestors or among the varied institutions that arrested their attention. We crack pluralism’s code when we encounter it in its most precise moments of installation, where we can ask after its historical consequences and, finally, wonder what might have been different. MAKING MODERN MINISTERS The impulse to overhaul the study of religion at HDS did not appear overnight. It was rooted in decades of latent anxiety about the relevance of theological education for what deans termed a secularizing and chaos-ridden “modern world.” In 1960, HDS Dean Samuel Miller wrote an end-year report to the Harvard University president, reaffirming that the school existed “to train men for the Church” (Miller 1961, 343). But what this training looked like had to change. If “Christian culture” refused to address “new discoveries, disciplines, and attitudes of our time,” it would “succumb to an essentially non-religious one, that is, a sub-pagan culture” (Miller 1961, 344). Divinity schools must turn out a “learned ministry” who could “make plain how the traditional resources of religion in the Bible, in history, in theology elucidate the presence of God in the contemporary world” (Miller 1961, 344). Miller called theological educators to be a reasoned voice against the din of cultural crisis. Miller glossed the specific challenges to the university’s business-as-usual; perhaps he believed them too obvious to list outright. In the previous six months, black freedom movements had gained strength, as sit-ins at white-only establishments swept a Jim Crow South and students planned protests and strikes at their universities. On the opposite coast, Berkeley police had fire-hosed students protesting a May trial of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and national public opinion had begun to turn against US surveillance and intimidation of its citizens. Across the world, anticolonial movements demanded the end of European global dominance, with the Algerian war for independence, boycott and divestment from apartheid South Africa, and Palestinian resistance capturing headlines and inspiring transnational alliances (Lubin 2014; Von Eschen 1997). Meanwhile, US academic departments faced increasing pressure from state and philanthropic funding bodies to articulate their contribution to national security, understood in terms of the formation of patriotic citizens (Rooks 2006; Melamed 2011). When Miller penned his report, white Protestant men comprised the overwhelming majority of students trained at a school that claimed its liberal theological heritage and commitment to a “learned ministry” as a point of pride.2 It is unsurprising that no matter where he looked, Miller perceived fundamental challenges to normal practices of liberal theological education at HDS. How could the school both maintain its historical identity and stay awake to movements forcing fundamental transformations in regimes of knowledge and pedagogy? Miller announced that HDS would establish two new academic centers: the Department of the Church (DOC) and the Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR). The initiatives, officially dedicated in 1960, were intended as a curricular answer to the question of institutional relevancy. “Our basic intent,” Miller wrote, “is to teach men, first and last, how to be men, in order to be ministers” (Miller 1963, 327). The modern minister would be identifiable through his knowledge of European Christian history and his capacity to engage the “living religions” of the present day. Miller dedicated the majority of his attention to a DOC, which would blend education in Christian history with church internships completed under “religious and scientific observation” (Miller 1963, 327). But like his predecessor Douglas Horton—who had secured the funding for the CSWR and a professorship of World Religions in 1958—Miller was also convinced that to be effective in the modern world, ministry students must acquire intercultural competency. The CSWR would help meet this need, even as the school remained avowedly Protestant in its overall mission. Underscoring this idea, Horton had celebrated the world religions position as “one of the greatest contributions to foreign missions our generation will make,” because “the Christian mission is essentially a witness” and “no one can prophesy how rich a stream of life may flow from our witness … [except] in the presence of another which it invites into mutual witness” (Horton 1959, 294). Between the DOC and the CSWR, HDS advanced a process for cultivating a sort of minister—a sort of human subject—who could address a world that school leaders understood to be in crisis over racial and cultural difference. It may be surprising that theological discussion was not the only response to their concern; the strangeness of the conjunction between racial justice activism and world religions is precisely the tale of this article. The curriculum of “modern religious leadership” would form subjects defined by their combination of historical expertise and cultural cosmopolitanism. While this vision took constructive strides toward some curricular revision, the changes nevertheless had embedded within them at least two latent fears: first, white Protestant anxieties over race; second, increasing consciousness of the role of Christianity within colonialism. A rhetoric of “modern” religious leadership characterized by its awareness of racial diversity anticipated critiques that the school colluded in white supremacy and empire; it defended liberal theological education even as it signaled a need for a reformed vision of what ministry entailed. The modern minister practiced religion as a habit of self and cultivated cultural competence that, in Miller’s words, would help “guide our schizophrenic culture towards a coherent unity” (Miller 1964, 192). This coherence would emerge through dialogues that sought to open up insights about the universality of religious experience. But it is important to note that this universality could only hold, could only continue, if its white masculinity remained unmarked. Anxieties surfaced in early plans for the CSWR, whose seed was the utopian vision of a group of Anglican donors from New York who “wanted to live their Christian faith in a way that would make a difference in the community” (Carman and Dodgson 2003, 12). They pooled their money and threw it behind a center that would “encourage the sympathetic study of religions of the world,” specified as “Eastern Religions” of “Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and the religions of China.” Such study, they believed, would propagate sympathy toward religious difference and lead students to realize the “fundamental unity and reality of all religions” (Carman and Dodgson 2003, 18). They thus defined religion as a universal human experience with specific, local variations. The student of religion must not only map these differences, but also nurture certain habits and sentiments with respect to all of them. It is only through this process of affective cultivation that the unity of religion becomes visible. The backers of the CSWR clearly had a constructive project in mind, but their founding terms preemptively restricted any possibility of critiquing religion as a racial or colonial project, and perhaps of mounting such a political critique from within the study of religion at all. As scholars like Talal Asad, David Chidester, Bruce Lincoln, and Saba Mahmood have shown, the category of religion often works to obfuscate relations of power (Lincoln 1989; Asad 1993; Chidester 1996; Mahmood 2005). But what we have needed these scholars to teach us, student activists at Harvard knew on their own, many decades earlier, at the moment that religious studies was consolidated as a field. As we will see, they urged caution toward the academic study of religion within liberal institutions; they saw how religion might come to be deployed not as a site for material contestation and political struggle, but rather as a shared human experience that transcends both. Indeed, some philanthropic foundations explicitly promoted this view, identifying divinity schools as a site from which to undercut black radicalism. In 1966 HDS received a Lilly Foundation grant for a summer workshop designed to “meet the crisis of Negro leadership in the church.” Black men, professor John Elder explained, had come to view the Christian church as an “Uncle Tom institution” and a “tool of the white man’s colonizing of non-white peoples.” Potential church leaders had begun to “seek dignity and self-respect through some distinctly different religious tradition, most notably Islam.” The consequential blight of “perspicacious Christian leaders” in black communities had helped “black power, black nationalism, and black religion gain prominence.” This was a concern. As he implicitly framed “ministry” as a vocation opposed to “black religion,” Elder portrayed the conference as a space for “defining what the ministry ought to be” for black Americans and “recruiting men” for this calling (Elder 1967, 17). While conference organizers sought to open divinity schools to black students, the terms of this inclusion were circumscribed. They seemed to identify aptitude for ministry in terms of one’s capacity and willingness to perform race within parameters set by white theological educators and their funders. The project to foster liberal religious practice among black Americans—and particularly to counteract the Nation of Islam (NOI)—stood in puzzling relation to the CSWR’s call for sympathetic study of Islam in the Middle East. Even if HDS leaders did so unintentionally, the double standards around black religious practice participated in an economy of race that separated legitimate and illegitimate forms of Islam, even placing the NOI outside the realm of religion itself (Evanzz 2017; Hicks 2012; Curtis 2006). This discourse intersected with a Cold War context that witnessed systematic government surveillance of black church leaders deemed hostile to national interests—the FBI dubbed the NOI the “Muslim Cult of Islam”—even as the state constructed itself as an international champion of diversity (Johnson and Weitzman 2017; Johnson 2015; Dudziak 2001). Thus, the racial logics that structured administrators’ concerns about the future of Protestant churches complemented the sympathy toward “Asian religions” that flourished at the CSWR. They also dovetailed with US foreign policy interests in Asia and the Middle East. As Rachel Rubin and Jeffrey Melnick note, it is no coincidence that US academic and cultural institutions sought “salvation, peace, and aesthetic pleasure” in “the East,” even as its money and military invaded China, India, and the Middle East (Rubin and Melnick 2007, 141). In 1966 Wilfred Cantwell Smith underscored the CSWR’s interest in the “present-day resurgence of these Asian systems” and their “perhaps crucial role in economic and national ‘development’” (Smith [1966] 2003, 42). The concern for the religious lives of designated others were not only intellectual, but also political and economic. Besides emphasizing sympathy as the correct orientation toward religious forms, a revitalized HDS curriculum encouraged students to investigate “living” non-Christian religions instead of “concentrating … on their historical origins” (Miller 1966, 189). This focus on “living” religion at the CSWR coincided with a renewed emphasis on what Miller had once called “the fundamental integrity of the historical perspective” within the DOC curriculum (Miller 1961, 343). Modern ministers would be trained to distinguish past from present, so that they could lead congregations toward a future defined by theological relevance, Christian unity, and “the end of religious isolationism” (Miller 1966, 191). The accompanying pedagogy was simultaneously theological, affective, and historical. Theologically, it hoped for the ultimate reconciliation of difference in transcendent Christian unity. Affectively, it cultivated in students a desire to sympathetically encounter religious others. Historically, it evoked an arc that bent toward unity even as it constructed “world religions” as temporal anachronisms. These emphases will be familiar to many; the questions of both historical and sympathetic study have been the recourse of many of today's liberal arts curricula. As Leigh Schmidt has demonstrated, the question of sympathy has long been a vexed one for our field, associated as it is with white readings of bodies of color and questions of how cultural difference should be managed (Schmidt 2006, 2012). At HDS these dynamics came to the fore in the simultaneous stress on the “living religions” of racial Others and the “historical religion” of Christianity; this taxonomy, no doubt established in good faith, nevertheless erected an implicit hierarchy that separated those possessing a past that merited study and those best understood in the present tense.3 These two concepts of the past complemented each other. The first was defined by division, out of which modern divinity students would blaze a trail; the second lay in a salvation history premised upon God’s unchanging character. If the modern minister held fast to the latter promise, he would be an agent of reconciliation in the modern world. Students would soon turn their critical arsenal against this idea. The HDS administration was fighting, unabashedly, to secure and revitalize a Protestant theological enterprise facing potentially devastating critiques. Nevertheless, HDS administrators rarely noted the Protestantism of their own students. They spoke, rather, of modern religious subjects whose habits of being could promote a liberal unity, rather than disrupt its precepts. In the pedagogy of living religions, a specific formation of white Protestantism would help install a new pedagogy of religious pluralism.4 But even as the HDS faculty invented a curriculum that could respond to external crises, they were unprepared for the challenges they would face within their own institution. Like their faculty, numerous students perceived a crisis that they hoped their theological education could address. Unlike some on the school’s administration, they pursued neither liberal dialogue nor any other project to alleviate the concerns of cultural and economic elites. Rather, they threw themselves into the anticolonial and antiracist movements that had made the deans so anxious. “YOU CAN’T TRUST LIBERALS” Stephan Hornberger pulled no punches in his March 1969 campaign for HDS Student Association President. This third-year student—who the previous spring had been arrested, expelled, and eventually reinstated following an occupation of Harvard’s University Hall—began his platform statement by demanding student enfranchisement on all committees. “Here are a few other things on my mind,” he continued, before slamming down a seventeen-point list of grievances, which began: 1. HDS is a racist institution. 2. HDS is an imperialist institution. Points 4 and 5 condemned a curricular focus on European Christianity and decried lack of faculty in Catholic theology, Jewish theology, “primitive religion,” and psychology of religion (“We should grant our degrees in divinity, not the antiquated theology-ethics-O.T.-N.T.-Church-World Religion-Church History Unit.”). Points 13 and 14 urged faculty to commit civil disobedience against “the military machine” (“Martin Luther King, Jr. came out of the Alabama jails an improved man; would jail really hurt our Dean?”). Point 17 blasted plans to construct a refectory with Rockefeller Foundation money stained with oil and blood (“Or, if we must, let’s name it Martin Luther King Memorial Hall. Remember man’s inhumanity to humanity”) (Hornberger 1969b, 10–11). Hornberger won the election. His campaign had forced a referendum on how far HDS students would go to support antiracist and anti-colonial movements gripping campuses around the world. Making common cause against what Hornberger designated the “military-academic-industrial complex,” students refused the sympathy advocated by their administration. Their purpose was to upend—rather than to expand, reform, or enlighten—business-as-usual within their institutions. The foundation for their activism lay in theological rhetoric that framed activism and self-critique not as a voluntary action, but as an imperative of Christian faith. Their alliances bore constant stress, both from university bureaucracy and from racism within student ranks. These problems hastened the breakup of HDS student solidarity and created a gap into which a discourse of pluralism would grow. Student and faculty had built initial alliances around opposition to the Vietnam War, but these ties frayed when many students began to critique the HDS administration for collusion with empire and white supremacy. The HDS faculty response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.—to cancel morning classes during King’s funeral and reschedule them for an Easter recess three days later—proved a turning point (Gray et al. 1968, 7). Writing in Prospect, the HDS student newspaper, Social Action Committee chair Sam Johnson decried the “aborted sense of values” that enabled HDS to “take [King’s] death in stride (as we did his life)” (Sam Johnson 1968, 4). “If this doesn’t show HDS’s true colors,” Johnson continued, then the decision to cancel the recess did, since “King died not for himself but for the person we refuse to honor on Friday—Jesus Christ” (Sam Johnson 1968, 7). The switch of one recess for another supported a single conclusion: HDS would honor black freedom movements only in ways that did not disrupt its institutional life. They concluded that the same was true with respect to the life of Jesus, which Johnson saw incarnated in black freedom and antiwar movements. Tension escalated when professor Warren Richardson eulogized King as “the most important theological mind of our time” because he espoused “pluralism and diversity” and the “total interrelatedness of man with man” over and against the “dualism” of Black Power (Richardson 1968, 1–2, 6). One week later, Jeffery Boyd’s column “White Violence” renounced such abstract responses to King’s death: One of the reasons that Martin Luther King has suddenly become so popular among white society … is because white society is suddenly afraid at the prospect of guerrilla warfare between the races. … Nothing is so flagrantly hypocritical as for white leaders to preach non-violence at the same time as they are sending the police and army into the ghetto to violently suppress riots. (Boyd 1968a, 4) Boyd mused that “since King’s death white America has been … offering equal opportunity to middle class and upwardly mobile Negroes.” But such tactics could not camouflage the “declaration of war” of white elites against black neighborhoods (Boyd 1968a, 4). Accompanying the article was a cartoon depicting a person “from HDS” laying bare his paternalism while protesting racist employment practices at a business (Figure 1) (Boyd 1968b). The following week, Prospect published a cartoon of white students observing a race riot from a hot air balloon (Figure 2). “I find the world very threatening these days,” one says. “This makes me want to retreat in my theological balloon.” “Tell me,” his friend responds as the scene below erupts into flames, “What do you think of the scholastic conception of God in the latter half of the twelfth century?” (Boyd 1968c). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide A Harvard Divinity School professor shows up at a local business to protest its racist employment policies and, in the process, finds himself balking at the idea of hiring a black colleague and celebrating the “lilly soul power” of his institution (Boyd 1968b). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide A Harvard Divinity School professor shows up at a local business to protest its racist employment policies and, in the process, finds himself balking at the idea of hiring a black colleague and celebrating the “lilly soul power” of his institution (Boyd 1968b). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Two white Harvard Divinity School students observe a race riot from a hot air balloon and then change the subject to twelfth century theology (Boyd 1968c). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Two white Harvard Divinity School students observe a race riot from a hot air balloon and then change the subject to twelfth century theology (Boyd 1968c). The temperature rose again three days before the 1968 convocation, after students occupied the HDS Andover Chapel to give sanctuary to AWOL Marine Paul Olimpieri. The standoff ended when police raided the building and arrested the soldier, who renounced the students before the press. As students scrambled to regroup, all the while wondering whether Olimpieri had been a government plant, Stendahl revised his convocation address in light of the events. In it he urged the students to be prudent. Given the absence of a “word from the Lord” to reveal a moral direction, he concluded, “we shall go about our business” (Stendahl 1969, 4). Stendahl was walking a fine line as a newly appointed dean; that he did not punish the students is from one angle remarkable, even if he did not defend them. Editors of the student periodical, renamed as Concourse but almost identical in content, interpreted Stendahl’s convocation plea as a moral hazard of the administrative role that he had accepted. They believed that he could not have expressed support if he had wanted to do so; students, however, could and should make a different choice. “If a Dean or Faculty or a Student Association must await a word from the Lord, or at least wait until it has articulated an authoritative word of its own,” wrote Glenn Johnson, “then perhaps it is given to the rest of us to risk being foolish or naïve or noisy in order to set events into motion” (Glenn Johnson 1968, 2). But now faculty patience was wearing thin. When three HDS students joined a December occupation of Paine Hall, in which protestors refused to leave after being barred from faculty conversations on the future of ROTC, the public reprimand they had evaded three months earlier arrived with double strength (Mike Boudreaux, et al. 1969a, 4). In response, HDS Student Association President David McDuff attacked the “meaningless and ineffective rubric of ‘dialogue’” used to condemn confrontational tactics against the Vietnam War and the militarization of black neighborhoods (McDuff 1969, 5). Students increasingly painted the desire to “go about our business” as a sign of spiritual bankruptcy. An alumni conference on the topic of “Student Unrest and My Ministry” fanned the flames. A double-page Concourse feature lambasted the “room of bald heads” enacting a “morality play” that cast student radicals as “Contemporary Issues” rather than serious interlocutors (Johnson 1969). “It just goes to show,” wrote Johnson, “you can’t trust liberals.” His conclusion left no room for ambiguity: [This] is just the kind of thing that can lead a restless man to put a weapon against the balding brain of the unlistening and say: HANDS UP, MOTHERFUCKERS, THIS IS A ROBERRY WE’VE COME FOR WHAT’S OURS His most incendiary line doubled as the bolded headline on the paper’s front page (Johnson 1969, 7). As students turned their heat against liberal dialogue as the link between US empire abroad and racism at home, they demanded overhauls of institutional life. In addition to curricular changes, they demanded full student enfranchisement in decisions about funding, hiring, and discipline (McDuff 1969, 5). In this effort, they had company, notably at Union Theological Seminary and University of Chicago Divinity School, where their peers had made strides in gaining full representation in university decision-making processes, especially as pertaining to the future of black studies in their programs (Handy 1987; Kitagawa 1970). Yet the power of student rhetoric against a common institutional foe—plus university representations of radical students as a uniform bloc—did not always match the sustainability and cohesion of their alliances. Strong words glossed fault lines in an alliance where investments in racism supplanted attempts to dismantle it. When problems arose within organizing efforts, the student newspaper provided a forum for airing them. Here students debated whether they were living up to the liberation theologies they claimed as their true north, or appropriating them in the service of narcissism. Christopher Chase charged “the HDS Liberation Front” with “messianic pretentiousness” that reified white supremacy through their performances of opposition to it. He cited a “Civil Rights Honor Roll” of white students who “spent a day or two in Selma,” the “misguided, pathetic, and inappropriate ‘show of good faith’” following King’s death, and white students’ self-aggrandizing charges that HDS is a “racist institution.” “What could be more paternalistic,” Chase wondered, “than to have countless dewy-eyed white students tugging at your sleeve and asking you if you were angry?” (Chase 1969, 7–8). Romney Mosley reminded his colleagues that Rockefeller grants paid his and other black students’ tuition. If such grants “provide the opportunity for the poor to be educated,” then the administration should accept the funds (Moseley 1969, 6). Far from heralding a doomed cause, the newspaper gave a forum to intra-alliance debates. Students maintained common ground in their opposition to calls for civil dialogue and sympathy, which they saw as attempts to absolve the university of structural sin, rather than to transform its practices. Students seemed never more united than in March 1969, after a faculty committee released a “Report on Theological Education for the Black Community.” Responding to critiques of the whiteness of the curriculum and the student body, it recommended that HDS immediately take steps to recruit more black students and faculty, develop curriculum for “the particular needs of black students,” and appoint a black person to the visiting committee (Burkholder et al. 1969, 1–2). It then proposed that another committee explore longer-term and more financially consequential proposals. These ideas ranged from the easy to the ambitious to the somewhat bizarre. HDS might develop an exchange with Atlanta’s historically black Interdenominational Theological Center; form “a semiautonomous black seminary” affiliated with the Boston Theological Institute; or establish a “Store-front seminary for Store-front preachers in the ghetto under black control” (Burkholder et al. 1969, 2). The committee underscored the urgency of its suggestions: Black churches need a new breed of minister who will understand the dynamics of modern culture sufficiently to cope with the problems of the ghetto, the changing educational status of the Negro youth, and the relation of the churches to the public sector. Furthermore black colleges and seminaries are in desperate need of scholars. … HDS should move energetically and without delay in the direction of theological education for the black community. (Burkholder et al. 1969, 2) Students seized the report as a smoking gun for a failed race politics. The HDS Black Caucus, composed of the school’s black students, denounced the report for “racist paternalistic assumptions” that indicated “manifest White superiority feelings among the faculty and administration of the Divinity School” (Bekele et al. 1969, 1). Noting that no current black student intended to serve a church, they scorned the idea that Harvard could train black clergy: That HDS, as presently staffed and administered is unprepared to train White ministers for pastoral leadership in White churches is fully recognized by most HDS seminarians. To suggest then that HDS can now train Black ministers for Black churches is not only inappropriate, but ridiculous. (Bekele et al. 1969, 2) This statement hit where it hurt. Even as the deans reflected on the question of how to ingrain engaged and justice-centered pedagogies at HDS, students all but declared it an impossible cause, at least within the current institutional terms and curricular offerings. The students were clear that no progress could occur at HDS without a minimal acknowledgement of the fact that black students’ futures, and their histories, were fundamentally different from those of their white colleagues. Pointing out that the school’s handful of current black students were preparing for careers other than church ministry, the letter repeated their demand once again: not for mere curricular addition, but for the transformation of its structuring logics (Bekele et al. 1969, 5). The Concourse editorial staff amplified the point. Alongside the Black Caucus statement, they chronicled successive instances when the report had advocated a “paternalistic” education for, about, and on behalf of black students (Mike Boudreaux et al. 1969b, 1–3). A white student saw the administration attempting to “gobbl[e] up all the black theological students in sight” to “enhance its own reputation” rather than advance racial justice (Marie Boudreaux 1969, 4). The message was united: white liberal efforts to incorporate students of color into their institutions, without changing how those institutions operate, did not qualify as reparation. Indeed, these efforts reiterated paternalism toward black students. The committee’s language around diversity, argued the editors, was a new “grammar of racism” (Mike Boudreaux et al. 1969b, 1–3). Attempting to deescalate, Stendahl arranged a meeting between the Black Caucus and the faculty. The students came with an ultimatum: The United States is and always was multi-racial, multi-national, and multicultural. Either we must accept the fact that America is pluralistic and democratically adjust our economic, political, cultural, and educational institutions to fit what is the real living fact or cease believing in the mythology of assimilated Americanism based on the powerful and pervasive white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ideal or the racial crisis will continue to intensify. (HDS Black Caucus 1970, 106) The statement demonstrated the live conflict that had emerged around how a language of “multiculturalism” would be deployed in these decades. This vocabulary invoked not an apolitical posture of “difference” but rather a demand for systemic redistribution of resources. Given Harvard’s centuries-long pattern as “an agent of racism,” the students emphasized, we “cannot—must not, will not—permit a ‘business as usual’ attitude” (HDS Black Caucus 1970, 107). Their reappropriation of Stendahl’s convocation injunction to “go about our business” framed the recommendations as a direct critique of administrative action up to that point. The students called for “the Black Experience [to be] included in all areas of study” instead of “relegated to a compartment” and “viewed as a curiosity most suitable for study by Margaret Mead” (HDS Black Caucus 1970, 108). Noting that only three percent of the student body was black, they called for scholarships and curricular flexibility for black students. They demanded recruitment of black faculty to be judged not by their possession of a PhD but by their track record of work with black communities. Finally, they attacked the CSWR for its “arbitrary, distorted and grossly discriminatory” practice of defining “world religions” such that it “excludes…a whole continent.” The students framed their suggestions as provisional. Rather than burden black students with “offering solutions to the problem of racism,” they insisted, HDS must hire a full-time staff person for the job. The final line underscored the point: “Delaying tactics, wait-and-see methods and other such obnoxious tricks will have serious repercussions not only for this School but for race relations in this country” (The HDS Black Caucus 1970, 111). A NEW GRAMMAR OF RACISM Ten years after Samuel Miller sought to focus the attention of HDS on world religions, an ever-perseverant Krister Stendahl returned to the difficulties of putting pluralism into place. “The Black Caucus has stirred our minds and consciences,” the dean wrote to Harvard president Nathaniel Pusey in his 1969–1970 report. “The Divinity School has prided itself on its wide spectrum. We now begin to see and feel how that proud language has lacked the imagination and sensitivity toward the most immediate and urgent aspects of diversity. This calls for repentance.” Grappling with student critiques, the school looked forward to “moving from good intentions to positive action” on racial justice (Stendahl 1971, 212). Stendahl’s action plan—which included the faculty committee and the request for the black experience report—was a minor note in the document. He focused less on the previous year than on Pusey’s role in “rejuvenat[ing]” the Divinity School. “Your leadership has made major contributions in responding not only to our religiously plural society, but to our religiously pluralistic and shrinking world,” he stressed (Stendahl 1971, 206). If 1969 had been “tough going,” then the school still held to a long view of nurturing a ministry for a pluralistic world (Stendahl 1971, 221). This was the first time that a dean’s report had invoked pluralism as an institutional value for HDS. Stendahl employed it to name both the school’s recent history and the imperative for its future, especially in light of protests that had shaken its self-image. The dean noted, “It could be argued that a move toward genuine pluralism calls for increased attention to the culture, faith, aspirations, and experiences of many traditions and groups in addition to those of the blacks.” But “now and for a long time to come the black experience is number one on our agenda,” he finished (Stendahl 1971, 213; Stendahl et al. 1970, 113). Note how strongly Stendahl leans into “pluralism” as the cohering principle of engagement. As an ideal and a practice, there is little doubt that pluralism named a desire to build a culture of inclusion and equality at HDS. Yet its repeated utterance, coupled with the institutional strategies it bespoke, had the opposite effect. A rhetoric of pluralism undercut radical critiques by translating them as the particular perspectives of individuals, whose voices were welcome to join the dialogue but not to alter its terms. The dean’s letter missed the fact that the student campaign was less to be included into already-existing structures than to fundamentally alter the university’s regimes of power and knowledge. The dean believed that he was sincerely responding to student requests to incorporate African-American traditions into a curriculum of world religions. The students believed that this was precisely what they were asking the school not to do. They were asking for the school to relinquish its “mythology of assimilated Americanism” and to reorganize the academic study of religion through the lens of black experience—not simply to add it to the curriculum. Indeed, just two years earlier at the University of Chicago, Charles Long had made a similar critique of a History of Religions program structured by western European categories. He had called on his colleagues to prioritize black liberation as an intellectual as well as social issue. “I am not proposing that the Divinity School transform itself into an Institute for Black Studies with black faculty (though that might not be the worst thing to happen here),” he explained in his 1968 convocation address. “I am saying that the visibility of the black community in America opens us to a range of cultural materials and methodological positions that would not be possible if this were not the case. I am saying that the hegemony of Western Christian categories and thought models has come to an end” (Long 1986, 152). Long rejected interpretations of Western Christianity as “invalid or useless,” even as he insisted that the kind of “provincialism stemming from the aforementioned hegemony might be overcome if we take seriously the otherness manifested through and in the visibility of the black community” (Long 1986, 152). This demand for action—whether put forth by Long or by the students of the HDS Black Caucus—eclipses any request to incorporate token difference into the curriculum. Likewise, the point of student requests for enfranchisement in university decision-making processes was not to have a perfunctory voice within an existing structure, but rather to overturn entrenched status hierarchies and build a democratic educational system. By imagining that black students had demanded more “attention” within an economy of limited resources—and then implying that this might in the long run detract from attention to other deserving traditions—Stendahl’s letter misrepresented these activists’ critique in a way that construed the Black Caucus as a potential impediment to HDS’s liberal pluralist ethic. For Stendahl, “genuine pluralism” also required retreat from “spectacular” protest tactics. His convocation address that fall cautioned HDS students and alumni against becoming “enslaved by images of swift action” and counseled that “the creative work of our school is not a spectacular thing” (Stendahl 1970a, 1). His words mirrored his summary comments to Pusey. “It has been an unspectacular spectacular year,” he lamented. But although “nearly every college administrator would indicate [that] it has been tough going,” students at HDS likely would respond, “Things are great at my School; everyone has finally come alive and is involved” (Stendahl 1971, 221). Stendahl presented pluralism as an alternative to the conflict between students and administrators. The energy of protest, and anxiety over protest, could be channeled into multicultural engagement that produced shared values of sympathy, respect, and unity. Surely Stendahl was attempting to respond to students’ demands within the institutional constraints of his position, and yet the effort did not mediate the tensions, but seemed to corroborate students’ most trenchant critiques. In his appeal to pluralism, Stendahl had construed antiracist and anti-imperial protest tactics not only as disruptions to civility, but even as signs of a raced “enslavement” to unreasonable and unrealistic visions of the possible. Simultaneously, this emergent discourse of pluralism would come to naturalize both race and religion as nonthreatening properties of individual identity, representing the school’s multicultural community. Lewis and Dibinga were the sharpest opponents to this vision. Their “Report on the Black Experience,” submitted in fall 1970, opened by condemning HDS faculty who “denied the existence of racism.” They then named their audience as only “blacks and some human whites” willing to acknowledge and intervene against white supremacy (Lewis and Dibinga 1970, 3). The introduction closed by proposing new parameters for the HDS dialogue about race. All parties must be convinced “God is on the side of the oppressed in order to free them from the yoke of mental slavery, academic genocide, intellectual terrorism, and psychological atrocities.” Anyone who disagrees opposes the “theological decolonization and political liberation” of the Divinity School (Lewis and Dibinga 1970, 34). As the students turned the table on the calls to “dialogue” that administrators had advocated, they replaced the implicit requirement that subjects be sympathetic and civil with an explicit demand that they be publicly committed to black liberation. They enclosed reports that they had requested from the school’s various academic and professional departments, which chronicled the resources offered to black students and the points at which black experiences were a topic of inquiry, before pledging to broaden these offerings. Dibinga and Lewis’s own policy recommendations—an expanded version of the Black Caucus demands to the faculty the previous March—came only after they had thoroughly surveyed the landscape of the school and, crucially, redescribed their task as one entailing a shift in consciousness for the entire school. The official HDS response both to this document and to the Black Caucus more generally gave disproportionate attention to the students’ tone. Stendahl reassured Pusey that although the Black Caucus’s message was “direct, strong, and human … their criticisms and constructive suggestions were for the most part well thought out and serious” and “there was definite evidence that these black students felt they had a commitment to the School” (Stendahl 1971, 212). Whatever the intentions of the summary report, it positioned white administrators as the arbiters of how black students relate their critique. It gestured toward “evidence that [they] felt” they had a commitment to the school but, as the letter implies, this commitment is qualified by the way students perform it. When The Harvard Divinity Bulletin featured two articles about the Audit of the Black Experience, it overlooked the proposals and underlined the report’s subjective quality. One began, “HDS has been described as a ‘racist institution’ by black students” and buttressed nearly all of Lewis and Dibinga’s critiques with a qualifying clause. By noting what “Mr. Lewis believes” and what “Mr. Dibinga feels,” but never extending full intellectual authority to their accounts, it constructed them as reactionaries granted a place at the table by people who tolerate their presence (Castle 1970b, 3). It was Stendahl’s willingness to consult them, rather than the students’ labor, that garnered praise. Black students are welcome, the article suggests, so long as they perform their critiques in an acceptable way. This campaign to present HDS as committed to multiculturalism coincided with a faculty-led overhaul of the school's discipline policies. In a delayed response to the fall strike and Paine Hall occupation, the HDS faculty voted in a December 1969 meeting to form a Committee on Rights, Responsibilities, and Discipline (CRRD). Students took the move as further faculty abandonment of democratic values. The Student Association refused to appoint student representatives until they were sure that “the CRRD [had] been legitimately constituted” (Spitzform 1970, 3). When the faculty convened to discuss the proposal with students, student columnists ridiculed the meeting. This is “definitely the best alternative to nude theater” and a “real heavy trip on LSP (Liberal Scholastic Professionalism),” wrote Dell Johnson (1970, 1). Student Association Secretary Robin Lovin suggested that angry students could keep their “stomach lining intact by remember[ing] that people don’t really want to do stupid things; it’s just that they don’t know how to stop” (Lovin 1970, 1). The committee moved forward, and it soon seemed that disillusioned students had reached their own limit. The next round of Student Association elections garnered only a fraction of the participation from the previous year. By spring, Concourse had declared the “death of the HDS Community” and disbanded, leaving students without a primary forum for collective discussion (Gehant and Diener 1970, 1). Meanwhile, the administration’s emphasis on multiculturalism supplemented its new system of governance. Together they functioned as tools of behavior management, which not only highlighted administrative power over students, but also encumbered their organizing efforts. Gradually students began to accede to the administration’s language. In October 1971, six students founded another paper that exclusively published letters to the editor, most of which were written by the paper’s six-person staff (Malone 1971b, 3). The Unauthorized Version featured debates over the virtues of feminist campaigns for reproductive rights and women’s ordination. Though they championed universal dialogue, these conversations were dominated by men. When theologian Mary Daly collaborated with students to stage a walkout of Harvard’s Memorial Church in November 1971, a new editor condemned their “cowardly and barren” activism before inviting them “graciously to return” to a church of universal welcome.5 Another writer decried the “crude burlesque” of a movement characterized by “the polemical, the bitter, the cerebral, and the Amazon” (Dimitroff 1971, 3). In a published response, Linda Barufaldi noted HDS feminists’ struggle “to keep communication open” when they are “met on all sides … with value judgment and ridicule” (Barufaldi 1971, 2). But within the new paper, calls for a communicative forum were grounded by lampooning feminism in the first place. The closing of Concourse left a void where public discussions about race and empire once had resided; The Unauthorized Version rarely discussed these themes. The Harvard Divinity Bulletin filled the gap. Months after the 1969 apex of student protests, the magazine had transformed from a quarterly journal-style publication to a multichrome biweekly magazine that promised to show HDS life as it “really” took place (Castle 1970a, 3). Brimming with spreads and short articles about student life, the Bulletin constructed student grievances as signs of the school’s movement toward a more multicultural future. One year after Dibinga and Lewis turned in their report, the Bulletin ran a feature entitled, “Authors of 1970 Black Audit See Some Progress at HDS.” The article noted the appointment of the school’s first tenured black faculty member, Preston Williams; the allocation of scholarships to black students; the increase of black students from nine to thirty-four; and how one course “now includes a visit to a local black church.” Lewis and Dibinga expressed some optimism at the changes, but the headline contradicted Lewis’s musings that “progress” might not be the right word and that “the school has a way to go” to disrupt its pattern of responding to black students “by appeasement” (Castle 1971b, 2). Meanwhile, the magazine remained silent on the Daly walkout, which would have contradicted its claim that even if “many [women] ask if HDS is still excluding the female viewpoint” the school is “no hotbed of militant feminism” (Malone 1971a, 3). The reticence around institutional pressure points is unsurprising in an alumni magazine. Yet it is notable for the way its timing complemented and coincided with wide-reaching attempts to articulate justice as primarily a work of multicultural inclusion. Here HDS could claim progress. If racism and sexism still hampered the school, the paper implied, this signaled the school’s potential to expand the borders of its pluralism. The Bulletin scrutinized students who critiqued Harvard’s participation in US militarism. It derided a conference on religion and imperialism that some students had organized in response to the decision to build Rockefeller Hall. The Bulletin took aim at the conference’s premises. It quoted another student who lamented how “imperialism would be discussed with the assumption that automatically we will do something to oppose it” (Malone 1972, 3). Clearly HDS had experienced internal factioning with its student body, as was typical for movements of the era (Self 2012); this did not alter the singularity of the administration’s response to their protests. Even as the Bulletin exposed the vulnerability of student activist coalitions, Stendahl complained about the “narrow ideological base” of the event (Malone 1972, 3). Previously he had urged students to remember that Rockefeller money “transformed” HDS’s “desperate attempt at lifting itself from its demise … into a viable enterprise” (Stendahl 1970b, 1). Now, in the wake of the criticism, Stendahl expressed gratitude to David Rockefeller, Jr. for his forberance toward “men and women whose integrity and faith lead them to raise questions where it would be both easier and more pleasant not to” (Stendahl 1972, 226–27). Such displays of appreciation for the Rockefellers may have reflected fears about going the way of Union Theological Seminary in New York. At the same time that the liberal HDS administration was moderating calls for a more radical university, Union was hosting scholars like James Cone and Mary Daly and had adopted a governance structure that afforded students, staff, and faculty equal votes. Eventually the school’s top funders protested this radicalism by withdrawing all financial support, spinning Union into a financial crisis. Meanwhile, responding to the Black Manifesto given across the street at Riverside Church in 1969, students convinced remaining board members at Union to dedicate one million dollars toward black social and economic development organizations (Handy 1987; Hulsether 1999). If some HDS students would have welcomed these outcomes—a few had demanded that Rockefeller funds be redirected to affordable housing in Cambridge—the leadership preferred that Union represent a road-not-taken (HDS Abrahamic Minority 1969). Pedagogies of pluralism worked as a self-defense strategy, designed simultaneously to reign in students and to affirm the generosity of funders who endured the insults of idealistic youth. These years witnessed the incorporation of student activism under the positive sign of racial and religious harmony. When challenges to power arrangements surfaced—whether from feminism, black liberation, or anti-imperialism—showcases of the school’s inclusive diversity diffused tension. If a distinct institutional refrain of pluralism did not fully develop until later, then the early seventies laid the necessary groundwork for it. In December 1974, under the interim deanship of Preston Williams, HDS appointed an external Afro-American Religious Studies Review Committee (AARSRC) to review the school’s progress with respect to “the direction of the black church and the development of pluralism at the divinity school” (Malone 1975a, 1). One year later, AARSRC condemned HDS for developing “academic ghettos” for black students and protecting faculty who “still [do] not endorse the legitimacy and necessity of black religious studies at HDS” (Malone 1975c, 6). The ensuing Bulletin article—entitled “Report on Black Religious Studies Urges Genuine Commitment to Pluralism”—echoed Stendahl’s remorseful explanation of four years earlier. Pluralism had already become a keyword for administrators accused of perpetuating institutional racism. There was a crucial difference between this use of multicultural language and the direction to which students had applied it in calling HDS to accept its “multi-racial, multi-national, and multicultural” context. For this student coalition, there was no such thing as “pluralism” absent the “democratic adjustment” of economy, politics, culture, and education (HDS Black Caucus 1970, 102). One could not exist without the other. In insisting on this point, these students demonstrate to us how an appeal to multiculturalism could, and did, provide a moving preamble to demands for antiracist, anti-imperialist educational reforms. Yet we have seen that this was not the only use of this language; others could, and did, mobilize it for different ends. What on the surface sounds like a parallel appeal to pluralist values could be, and was, deployed as Harvard’s official reaction to student demands. Here we uncover what will be a familiar story for any scholar of social change. Like so many movements that came before and would follow that at Harvard, an activist rhetoric had been exhausted and absorbed by the power it sought to fight (Melamed 2016; Moreiras 2001; Williams 1977). The emergent discourse of pluralism was expressed as an explicitly religious, and equally raced, diversity. The emphasis harkened to discourses of living religions, even as it supplied an implicit rejoinder to charges of institutional racism. “The American graduate student who reads Theravada texts in the morning discusses their modern day relevance with a Ceylonese Buddhist. A Muslin [sic] legal scholar puzzles over Aquinas’s theories of divine justice; his next-door neighbor, a Catholic priest […], helps him answer his questions,” the Bulletin reported (Malone 1975b, 6). The opportunity to engage religious diversity doubled as experiential moral pedagogy. Resident Christopher Durasingh reflected upon the religious diversity that surrounded him at the center in saying, “The potentiality for experiencing and learning about the cultural pluralism here is immense” (Malone 1975b, 6). The optic of a community of world religions at the CSWR delivered a counterpoint to the charges of student protestors. The discourse of pluralism bore consequences not just for the direction of HDS, but also the study of religion across Harvard. With leadership from HDS faculty, the graduate school faculty voted to establish an undergraduate religion concentration in 1974. Its curriculum would be connected to but formally separate from HDS resources and center on comparative religion and sympathetic engagement with difference (Carman and Dodgson 2003, 32). Commenting on Harvard’s new major—established just two years after Harvard’s Committee on African American Studies—head graduate tutor William Graham explained that the major would “sensitize students to the diversity of human religious experience and to develop empathy and sensitivity to different religious views.” Doctoral student Diana Eck added that the major would attract “serious students” because to study religion is to “undertake a serious existential quest” (Malone 1976, 6). Here they echoed the rationale of so many other religious studies programs formed over the course of the previous decade (Welch 1971a). Placed in the context of movements at Harvard, the more troubling aspects of this institutional innovation come into view. Even if the new Committee on the Study of Religion was not a conscious attempt to quell student activism, even if it was a sincere attempt to meet their demands, this did not change its mollifying effects. With this decision, the university authorized a definition of religion as having a personal, even “existential” element that should evoke liberal sympathy in its observers, a frame that opposed the one used by students who invoked religions as the foundation for radical race critique. As Graham and Eck—a future HDS dean and a future director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard, respectively—celebrated the arrival of the academic study of religion, they did so with only one account of what it meant to engage religion as a category and as a habit of self. CONCLUSION When an Association of Theological Schools accreditation committee visited Harvard in 1970, it questioned the proliferation of pluralism. Its report diagnosed the faculty with “residual battle fatigue” following the previous year’s conflicts. “Is it possible,” the committee inquired, “that some would like to relax by appealing to the necessity, even virtues, of ‘pluralism’ with which no one really seems happy, let alone excited?” (Castle 1971a, 2). If this question was intended as rhetorical, it failed to recognize that “pluralism” was itself a rhetorical tactic that absorbed the student movements that had caused the exhaustion in the first place. If the discourse produced little happiness, it achieved something else. Through the 1960s and 1970s, pluralism transformed from an administrative response to “battle fatigue” to a concept regularly mobilized to describe HDS, to prescribe its future trajectory, and to form its community members after this image. Pedagogies of religious pluralism operated to contain the HDS contingent of the student left, and particularly black students within it. It facilitated a continuity of social arrangements characterized by the hegemony of whiteness, even as it prompted shifts in the definition, disciplines, and political work carried out by the study of religion at Harvard. And Harvard was not alone. Across the country, other universities were following suit. Whether church-related schools establishing programs in world religions or state institutions embracing the academic study of religion for the first time, a turn to multicultural education swept higher education. That this shift was simultaneous with what Ferguson describes as the birth of the interdisciplines, in which the institutional move toward critical ethnic studies and women’s studies recognized student activist demands even while containing their power, is not coincidental. The question of multiculturalism and its coercive power has captured the attention of historians and cultural critics for decades, but rarely have we focused on the religious history of this discourse. The primary exceptions to this rule have celebrated liberal religious actors for priming a post-1960s triumph of inclusion and tolerance. David Hollinger has portrayed the contemporary United States as “post-Protestant,” in the sense that white Protestant churches declined in numbers after the middle of the century but bequeathed to the nation a culture of inclusion, tolerance, and multiculturalism (Hollinger 2013). Hollinger has been attacked for espousing an American exceptionalism that vilifies radical race movements while championing a colorblind liberalism—what Hollinger elsewhere dubs a “post-ethnic America” (Hollinger 1995; Singh 1998). And yet part of his history is accurate. White liberal Protestants did hasten post-1960s multicultural discourse and the racial break that accompanied it (Omi and Winant 2014). Full comprehension of neoliberal diversity discourse requires that we understand these characters. These actors innovated what Rey Chow describes as the ascendancy of whiteness in a discourse of multiculturalism (Chow 2002). With “religious pluralism,” they constructed a world where race could be transcended in interreligious harmony, even as they censured those who did not accede to a postracial project. Scholars of religion have exposed the many problems of pluralism. Numerous critics suggest that pluralism, far from naming a triumph of diversity, signals the disciplinary power of Protestantism in US culture and law. These studies reveal how a pluralist invitation admits only a particular subject: the agentive individual who conceives religion as voluntary, private belief (Bender and Klassen 2010; Brown 2006; Fessenden 2007; Jakobsen and Pellegrini 2003). So strong is the pull of an apparent Protestantism that Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini suggest that American culture and law be understood not as “secular” but rather as “Protestant secular” (Jakobsen and Pellegrini 2008). The implication is that to be a legible participant in pluralism is already to have been disciplined as “Protestant.” These interventions have been groundbreaking insofar as they expose the disciplinary aspects of pluralism. Yet the laser focus on the Protestantism of both pluralism and secularism may distract from the operation of race within the discourse. The actors at HDS, after all, were all Protestant. Students supported their activism with black liberation theology; the administration introduced pluralism as the route to a postracial Protestant unity. To focus our attention here is neither to express nostalgia for the Christian vision expressed by activist students, nor is it to gloss the colonial histories of the Christianity that both parties deployed. The student protesters were themselves critiquing these postures and histories in their attacks on the curriculum. Instead, the point is that we cannot understand this structuring context without attention to the politics of race and performances of respectability attached to them (Lloyd and Kahn 2016). The decisive point is not that pluralism emerged as a discourse of masked Protestantism, but that it operated as a technology of racial formation and site of postracial fantasy. It welded religious and racial desires in ways that would be consequential for US universities. To fathom the history of multicultural discourse in and beyond higher education, we must combine critiques of the Protestant secular with critiques of liberal multiculturalism. The problem of Protestantism within pluralism is the problem of the interdisciplines itself: how to tell what has transformed and what has trickled down, how to be an informed actor in the wake of what gave birth to us. Many interdisciplinary humanities programs face pressure to prove their relevance to budget-slashing administrators or anti-intellectual lawmakers; colleagues may doubt the merits of our inquiry. In response, we scramble to defend our objects of study. Students of religious studies may declare our distance from (what we classify as) theological projects in the same breath that we invoke multiculturalism as an objective topic of critical analysis. Much like cynical claims that one’s academic work could shed political interest, these efforts at purification obscure the processes that produced the distinctions in the first place. They reify a moralizing divide between prohibited confessional modes and prescribed poses of secular objectivity. This is still a staging of difference that confounds and rearticulates racialized power. As scholars in the humanities struggle to maintain ground, celebrations of religious pluralism have reached a fever pitch in and beyond the US academy. The interdisciplinary fields recently acquired a new sibling: interfaith studies. Its primary advocate, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) Director Eboo Patel, claims that this interdisciplinary field will create leaders “who work with diversity to build pluralism” to build a “strong civic fabric … that can withstand the provocations of extremists and haters” (Patel 2013). To qualify for IFYC-Teagle grants driving the new field, interfaith studies programs must teach “appreciative knowledge of diverse religious traditions” and “shared values between diverse religious traditions.” They must also “bridge liberal arts and pre-professional education models” to prepare students for a “global workforce” (Interfaith Youth Core 2016). Patel frames the religious engagement as displacing critical engagement with race, by claiming that the “faith line” has supplanted the “color line” as the “greatest problem of the 21st century” (Patel 2007, xv; Goodstein 2011). He warns students not to repeat the mistakes of his own youth, when he was “too busy reading critical race theory to pay attention [to religious conflict]” (Patel 2012, 114). Interfaith studies and leadership programs have gained traction across the United States. Elon University, Elizabethtown College, New York University, Nazareth College, and Loyola University at Chicago have developed initiatives in this area (Freedman 2016; Patel 2016). No doubt each program will claim its own unique character and each participant will articulate unique motives for her engagement. Yet, local idiosyncracies notwithstanding, it would be difficult to find a more potent staging ground for neoliberal pedagogy. The chief arguments for interfaith studies announce not only their investment in American nation-building but also their desire to professionalize the liberal arts, in part by displacing the critical study of race—all in the name of a more expansive multiculturalism. Thus, the birth of the interdisciplines continues. If the first wave of these programs—black studies, women’s studies, religious studies—emerged from an institutional suppression of a race radical student left, then interfaith studies aims for similar ends. As before, its supporters adopt a mission to produce in students a missionary consciousness that consolidates American global hegemony, entrenches multiculturalism as the ascendancy of whiteness, and enshrines religion as the site of a vaunted postracial. Any thoughtful response to this moment must be rooted in clarity about the religious and cultural trajectories by which we arrived in this place. Only with such a view will we become capable of confronting the violence that makes possible our interdisciplinary inquiry, as we twist in its impossible grip. For their generous critiques and unwavering support, I thank Kathryn Lofton, Michelle Sanchez, Aisha Beliso-De-Jesús, Tisa Wenger, Amaryah Armstrong, Sarah Berns, Adrian Hernandez-Acosta, Ainsley Land Tucker, Emily Owens, and Jason Smith. For their archival acumen, I thank Gloria Korsman and Jessica Suarez. 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See Gomes 1992; Faust 2017; Hempton 2017. 3 For two exemplary discussions of “living religions,” see Smith 1959 and Eck 2000. 4 On Protestantism as a background logic for liberal pluralism, see Bender and Klassen 2010; Fessenden 2007, 2012. For the best early critique of pluralism as a discourse of empire, see (Gardella 2003). 5 Many scholars have critiqued discourses of universality as deployed in relation to feminism within theological studies, the academic study of religion, and mid-century radical movements. For black feminist theological critique, see especially Copeland 2010 and Williams 1993. For excellent work on the gender politics of 1960s and 1970s movements see especially Ransby 2005 and Charron 2009. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.

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