Anthony Pinn

Rice University — Houston, TX

Anthony B. Pinn is the Director of Research at the Institute for Humanist Studies and the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University.  Pinn is also the founding director of the Rice University Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning (CERCL). CERCL seeks to explore and enhance in a creative manner the relationship between Houston and Rice University.  He also served as the first executive director of Society for the Study of Black Religion and served as a member of Board of Directors/Executive Committee of the American Academy of Religion.

Pinn received the BA from Columbia University, and the MDiv. from Harvard Divinity School.  Pinn also completed the MA and PhD at Harvard University.  His teaching interests include liberation theologies, black religious aesthetics, religion and popular culture, and African American Humanism. 

In terms of his research, Pinn believes much of what has been written within the study of black religion avoids two fundamental questions:  What is black about black religion?  What is religious about black religion?  In part this results from reluctance, particularly on the part of black theologians, to address issues of theory and method.  That is to say, little attention has been given to "how" one should study black religion and "what" is actually being studied. 

His recent work seeks to address this shortcoming through attention to the nature and meaning of black religion.  Through an interdisciplinary and comparative analysis, his recent research projects have attempted to explore the "quest for complex subjectivity" as the fundamental nature of black religion.  In developing this theory of religion, Pinn seeks to firmly place African American Humanism within the discourse of African American religion.  He argues that African American Humanism has played a vital role in the development of African American identity and personhood.  In this way, it, like black churches, has been of deep historical significance in the development of African American ways of being in the world.

Pinn is the author/editor of thirty-two books.  Several of these texts explore his interest in African American Humanism.  They include,  Why, Lord?:  Suffering and Evil in Black TheologyBy These Hands:  A Documentary History of African American Humanism (1995); (2001); and African American Humanist Principles:  Living and Thinking Like the Children of Nimrod (2004).  Pinn's role in humanist circles was recognized by the Council for Secular Humanism in 1999 with "The African American Humanist Award."

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