Skip to content

Dr. Mary Fulkerson, Professor emerita of Theology, Duke Divinity School

What research are you currently working on?

I am working on an essay on Christianity and feminist theology requested by a journal.   

What classes do you teach this semester?

I am retired and come in to my office every week to do research and occasional meetings, but do not teach anymore. I used to teach courses that connected the role of Christianity in relation to racism and sexism---(both negative and positive roles).

How do your current or past involvements intersect with human rights?

I grew up going to all white Protestant churches. As a Divinity faculty, I began to be more aware of race issues. I did research on the role of Christianity in racism and sexism by doing an ethnographic study of a significally interracial church.  Continuing to attend that church after the book publication, I have gotten more involved in church and university committees that address these topics, such as The Pauli Murray Project.  It was primarily in my attending the interracial (and sometimes primarily African American) churches that I became significantly aware of human rights issues---and aware of them in a much deeper sense than as “ideas.” I discovered that “beliefs” and “convictions” on issues such as sexism, racism, and other social justice issues are not completely adequate for addressing these problems. Sociological research has helped me pay attention to affective bodily reactions that are deeply engrained in human habits in response to different kinds of human beings---such as persons of different races, persons with cognitive disabilities, as well as persons with different versions of Christian faith.

What made you want to be a part of the Duke Human Rights Center’s Faculty Advisory Board?        

As I have written on the Christian church and racism and sexism over the years, I realized that I needed to do more exploration and addressing of social justice issues. The Human Rights Center appeared to clearly be an important source of access to knowledge of such issues, including the social-institutional character of these topics.

What is something you are looking forward to for human rights works at Duke this year?               

As a retired Divinity faculty I hope to continue to have my office at Duke and will have more time to be involved in the Human Rights Center’s projects and activities. (I definitely hope I can be involved, even though I am retired.) I look forward to human rights work that attends to race, gender and sexual orientation issues, but also to the intersection of these identity markers.

What advice would you give to current Duke undergraduate students looking to get more involved with human rights on campus?

Since I am in the Divinity School, I would need to know more about what’s available to undergraduates to give a good  answer to this question.  However, minimally, I would advise them to connect up with any available groups that are explicitly about human rights, for example,  groups giving attention to interracial  as well as LGBTQ realities---groups which include diverse members.  I might also advise them to join groups that focus on their own experiences and issues of prejudice.