Marla Frederick Visits Reading Religion Graduate Salon

Marla Frederick with Salon students

Marla Frederick visits the Reading Religion Graduate Salon

 Harvard Divinity School Dean Dr. Marla Frederick, and recipient of the Boniuk Institute's inaugural Senior Scholar Award, joined the Boniuk Institute’s Reading Religion Salon for a wide-ranging conversation about the challenges facing religious communities today, the realities of the job market for religion scholars, the importance of interdisciplinary scholarship, and the role of HBCUs in building a multiracial, multi-religious modern democracy.

A scholar of religion and media, Frederick reflected on how the rise of social media has democratized access to larger audiences and opened a floodgate of ideas, conspiracies, and disinformation. Views that were once considered orthodox are being challenged, and this poses new challenges for traditional religious institutions.

Frederick also worries about social media disrupting the intimate healing spaces that religion provides. It is easier now to make public things that need to be exposed, however, it’s also harder to keep things that should remain private out of the public eye.

An anthropologist by training, Frederick encouraged scholars to pursue interdisciplinary study, saying that it has been indispensable to her throughout her career. Anthropology provided methods and theoretical framework to her scholarship, but she found that she needed the tools of other fields in order to carry out her research.

When asked about the future of higher education, Frederick remarked, “HBCUs are critical.” They educated the Black leaders at the forefront of the civil rights movement, especially women.  HBCU’s long and vital history is even now shaping the current moment in ways that we don’t fully appreciate or honor. Every day, HBCUs are producing leaders of every industry and remain vital to advancing a multiracial democracy.