Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies


Harold D. Roth is Professor of Religious Studies and the Director of the Contemplative Studies Initiative. Roth is a specialist in Classical Chinese Religious Thought, Classical Daoism, the comparative study of contemplative practices and experiences and a pioneer of the academic field of Contemplative Studies. He is also the person who coined the term "Contemplative Studies" and he designed the first university concentration program in this subject. His publications include six books, The Textual History of the Huai-nan Tzu (Association for Asian Studies, 1992), Original Tao: "Inward Training" and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism (Columbia University Press, 1999), Daoist Identity: Cosmology, Lineage, and Ritual (w/Livia Kohn) (University of Hawaii Press, 2002), A Companion to Angus C. Graham's Chuang Tzu: the Inner Chapters (Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, 2003), The Huainanzi: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Government in Early Han China, (w/John S Major, Sarah Queen, and Andrew S. Meyer)(Columbia, 2010),  The Essential Huainanzi (w/ Major, Queen, and Meyer) (Columbia, 2012), and The Contemplative  Foundations of Classical Daoism  (SUNY Press, 2021). He has also published more than 50 articles and book chapters on the history and religious thought of the Daoist tradition, on the textual history and textual criticism of classical Chinese works, and on the pedagogy and the academic discipline of Contemplative Studies.

Roth's articles have been published in many leading academic journals, including the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Early China, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, China Review International, the Journal of Chinese Religions and the Journal of Chinese Philosophy, and he was written chapters or articles in such works as The Religions of China in Practice, the revised Sources of Chinese Tradition, The Encyclopedia of Religion, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Festschrift for Angus Graham.

In addition, Roth has been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation For International Scholarly Exchange. He also was awarded a Wriston Fellowship for Teaching Excellence from Brown University. Roth has served his academic field in a variety of ways. He served on the Board of Directors of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions for a decade starting in 1993, during which time he has also served on the editorial boards of four international journals of Daoism and Early Chinese Studies. In addition to this, he was the founder and Co-Organizer of the New England Symposium of Chinese Thought (1988-93), the organizer of four academic panels at the Association for Asian Studies and American Oriental Society, and the Co-Organizer of the Second American-Japanese Conference on Taoist Studies (1998). He has been a member of the initial Steering Committees for two groups within the American Academy of Religion, the Daoist Studies Section and the Contemplative Studies Group. He has been on the planning committees for the Mind and Life Institute Summer Research Institutes and the first and second International Symposia on Contemplative Studies (2012 and 2014) and Co-Chaired the third International Symposium on Contemplative Studies in November 2016 in San Diego.

A widely sought public lecturer, Roth has given 100  invited lectures and papers at academic conferences, including named lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Dartmouth College,  Pacific Lutheran University, The Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley, St. Lawrence University, Grinnell College, Wheaton College, the University of Texas at Dallas, the Keynote Address at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the ASIANetwork and the Commencement Address at the Dharma Realm University in California in 2019.

Roth has done extensive service at Brown. He was Concentration Advisor in the Departments of Religious Studies (1987-93, 2000-2001), and East Asian Studies (1991-98), and has served on numerous department and university committees, including the Tenure, Promotions, and Appointments Committee for which he served Chair and the Faculty Executive Committee and the Faculty Executive Committee. For these contributions, Roth received the 2014 President Award for Outstanding Service in Faculty Governance. He is the founder and director of Brown's pioneering Contemplative Studies Initiative and Concentration, the first degree-granting major at a North American research university, and was the co-founder and co-director of the Warren Alpert Medical School's Scholarly Concentration in Contemplative Studies. Roth is continuing his research on classical Daoism, and has just published a major collection entitled The Contemplative Foundations of Classical Daoism.

As an innovator in the field of Contemplative Studies, Roth has developed courses that combine traditional third-person study with critical first-person approaches. He is currently working on a book manuscript detailing the theory and practice of "Integrative Contemplative Pedagogy."


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