Comparative Studies


“Comparative Studies” includes reference to aesthetics, anthropology, archaeology, ethnography, ethics, gender studies, history, linguistics, literature, philosophy, phenomenology, religion, the social sciences, theology and, as appropriate, other related areas and disciplines that are utilized in the larger field of the study of religion.


In any of these areas and disciplinary approaches, comparative studies will normally be pursued with reference to two religious traditions, in accord with a carefully specified and fruitful theme or themes; exceptions will be made when circumstances indicate. Our hope is to introduce care and rigor into the field, while yet not precluding interests potential students may bring with them to our programs. A doctoral student will work with a scholar expert in each of the chosen traditions, and will in addition be advised in comparative theory and the construction of a sound comparative methodological framework throughout her or his program by one of the scholars listed below, or by another scholar serving on the CSR working in comparative studies who would be willing to serve in such a role.

Applicants should already be reasonably familiar with at least one of the religious traditions to be studied, and possess a solid background in one or more of the languages relevant to the study of that tradition.

General Examinations

  1. The theory and method exam required of all PhD candidates in the study of religion.
  2. A three-hour exam in one of the religious traditions being compared, with emphasis first on historical and conceptual knowledge (including major ideas and concepts within the tradition, themes, ideologies, ritual, political, and social forms, and their evolution), and second on some specific and linguistically-grounded focused area of study within that tradition.
  3. A three-hour exam in the other tradition, again with a double emphasis on historical and conceptual knowledge of the tradition, and on some appropriate specific and linguistically-grounded focused area of study within that tradition.
  4. A three-hour exam (or substituted exam paper in lieu of an exam, following the guidelines outlined in the doctoral degree requirements) on the student's special focus, to be determined by the student in consultation with her or his advisors. In the case of an exam, there would be required at least one hour-long essay question on the comparative approach or approaches the student is deploying, giving the criteria for the selection of that method in the context of the larger range of comparative theories and method; in the case of the choice of an exam paper in lieu of the special focus three-hour exam, at least one third of the paper must be devoted to this topic.


Affiliated Faculty

Diana Eck

Diana Eck

Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society
William A. Graham

William A. Graham

Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus
Murray A. Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies

Parimal G. Patil

Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy
Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies