On July 26, Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Divinity by the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, at its graduation ceremonies in London. She was introduced to the Faculty and students by Professor Gurharpal Singh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Professor in Inter-Religious Relations and Development. Her citation commended both her work on India and on the South Asian diaspora communities of America, especially the Pluralism Project and its focus on the challenges of religious diversity.
In her address to the graduates, Professor Eck spoke about her own time at SOAS as a Fulbright scholar and a master’s degree student in the 1960s, recalling especially the life of the Common Room, with students from all over Asia, from the Middle East and Africa. She noted how much the world has changed in the decades since then, with the revolutions in communication and all that is signaled by “globalization.” In these years, SOAS has also grown into one of the premier centers in the world for the study of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
“But over these years, some things have hardly changed at all. Deep differences –economic, political, and religious—continue to fracture and divide the world, locally and globally. We understand one another too little. The globalization of our conscience and consciousness is still underdeveloped. Our ignorance and prejudice circle the globe along with our credit card numbers and our greenhouse gases.”
“It is this,” she said, “that makes your work as SOAS graduates essential to the world we live in today and more urgent than ever before. Diversity is just a fact, but pluralism is a creation. It is the achievement of a place like SOAS. It is forged by the engagement across differences of cultures and continents that you have found here; it is forged by the energies on display in the SOAS Common Room, by the relationships you have made, and by the intellectual strengths you have found here. In the world in which we all live today, you are lucky to be graduates of this place. Negotiating difference, creating the infrastructure of pluralism, is both a global and local challenge. It is your challenge as citizens of a fast-changing interdependent and complex world.