I was born in England, in 1968, and completed a B.A. (Hons.) in Chinese Studies at Durham University, with a distinction in oral Chinese. As part of my language studies, I spent a year at the People’s University of China, in Bejing, and a summer on a scholarship at the Mandarin Training Center at Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. After my BA, I spent three years at Cambridge University studying theology and religious studies at the Faculty of Divinity. After graduating with an MA, I came to Boston, where I embarked upon a Ph.D. in the Division of Religious and Theological Studies at Boston University. I studied with Livia Kohn, one of the West’s leading experts on Daoism (aka Taoism), the organized indigenous religion of China, and also John Berthrong, Robert Neville and Tu Weiming (at Harvard), who are three of the great scholars of Confucian philosophy working in North America today.
Since graduating with my Ph.D. in 2000 I have been living in Toronto. Currently I’m a professor of Chinese Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, based in the School of Religion and the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Queen’s is one of the top-ranked research universities in Canada, and consistently attracts the very brightest undergraduate and graduate students. While I was an assistant professor, I spent four years directing our MA program in religion and modernity, where students research the impact of modernity on religions across the world. As part of their coursework they have the option of taking a graduate seminar that I teach on religion, nature and technology. In 2007-2008 I spent a sabbatical year as a visiting research professor in the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. I also maintain the largest academic website on Daoist Studies, with over 1,500 subscribers and over 10,000 pages of information. You can find this at www.daoiststudies.org
My research has focussed mainly on traditional Chinese views of nature and environment, and I’ve published four books on this topic, with a fifth due out shortly.
- James Miller, Dan Smyer Yu and Peter van der Veer, eds., Religion and Ecological Sustainability in China, New York: Routledge 2014.
- James Miller. The Way of Highest Clarity: Nature, Vision and Revelation in Medieval China. Magdalena, NM: Three PInes Press. Also distributed by University of Hawai’i Press.
- James Miller, ed. Chinese Religions in Contemporary Societies. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006.
- James Miller, Daoism: A Short Introduction, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2003. Translated into Italian by M. Ghilardi, Daoismo: Una Introduzione, Roma: Fazi editore. Republished as Daoism: A Beginner’s Guide, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2008.
- N.J. Girardot, James Miller and Liu Xiaogan, eds., Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape, Cambridge: Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 2001.
For now, my research is focussed on the contemporary period. In particular I’m interested in three related questions:
- How have the process of modernization and the ideology of modernity transformed Chinese cultural views of both nature and religion?
- How are Chinese religions changing as a result of climate change and the widespread sense of a global ecological crisis?
- How can Daoism be understood as a religion based on the subjectivity of nature?
As my research and thinking develops, I’m writing about these issues on my blog http://www.sustainablechina.info and commenting in the mainstream media, as well as publishing in traditional academic venues. Click here for my current CV