My academic career began with the study of Chinese language and culture at Durham University in the UK. Since then I have become a leading interpreter of Daoist religion, through my study of the medieval Chinese religious movement known as The Way of Highest Clarity. Over the past fifteen years, I have published six books on Chinese religions, including most recently China’s Green Religion (May 2017). I am committed to maintaining a strong publishing profile, and working with graduate students and undergraduates to develop their own research programs and capacities.
More recently, however, I’ve become established as a key scholar of religion and ecology in China. China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and will eclipse the US as the world’s leading economy within a decade. China is experiencing massive economic change and unprecedent environmental devastation. My concern is to understand how China’s traditions, especially Daoism, continue to influence Chinese social imagination about nature and environment and to help develop a Chinese ethic of ecological sustainability.
I believe that academic research should be publicly accessible and socially relevant, and I am committed to employing social media and Internet technologies in order to enable people in Canada and across the world to understand how China is transforming the world. The story I want to tell is how China’s entry onto the world stage is having a profound effect not just on the global economy, but on our religious and cultural traditions, and on our way of thinking about nature.
In addition to my publishing, I regularly speak at academic conferences, and give public lectures and media interviews on a wide variety of topics related to religion and culture in China. Media outlets have included the Washington Post, CTV Newsworld, CTV Canada AM, and the Christian Science Monitor. I have given guest lectures all over the world, from China’s Fudan University, to the Australian National University and even the United States Naval War College. I have also consulted on legal matters related to Chinese religions in Canadian society, including preparing expert witness testimony for civil court proceedings.
As well as conducting research and teaching, I have also invested in developing administrative and professional competencies related to curriculum design, program development, recruitment, and vision for higher education. I have consulted for senior administration in issues related to international education and imagining new strategies for higher education. In January 2015 I became director of Queen’s interdisciplinary graduate program in Cultural Studies, and co-chair of the Religion and Ecology group at the American Academy of Religion.