PSR welcomes international visiting professors

October 14, 2009

PSR welcomes three visiting professors―Beverley Haddad, Gerald West, and Yiyi Chen―for the fall 2009 semester. The PSR community looks forward to their contributions to the school’s efforts to include global perspectives, promote diversity, and foster inter-denominational discussions.

Dr. Beverley Haddad is a priest of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Haddad comes to Berkeley from the School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where she is director of the theology and development program. She earned her MA in development studies from the University of Western Cape and her PhD in African women’s faith, feminism, and development from the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg. She previously taught internationally at the PSR and the Chicago Theological Seminary. This fall she is teaching the course “HIV AIDS: Challenge in Church,” which explores the epidemic in Africa and organized religion’s response. “I was looking for a space where there was a history and tradition of social justice work and social dimensions of faith,” Haddad explains of her choice to teach at PSR. “Here, there is an openness to alternative theologies.”

Dr. Gerald West, like his wife Dr. Haddad, hails from University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, where he is senior professor in the School of Religion and Theology and director of the Ujamaa Centre for Community Research and Development. West earned his MA and PhD in biblical studies from Sheffield University in England. He has lectured in a diverse array of countries, including India, the United Kingdom, Norway, and the U.S. He delivered a lecture at PSR in 2007 about using the Bible as a resource for addressing HIV and AIDS. West is teaching the course “Biblical Interpretation in Africa” this semester, which explores how the Bible—a text steeped in a history of colonialism, he says—becomes an African book that deals with African issues. “There are not many places in the U.S. where boldness is the case, as it is here at PSR,” West explains. “I’m prepared to engage intellectually and practically in this interdenominational and inter-religious environment.”

Dr. Yiyi Chen returns to the Bay Area from Peking University in Beijing, China, where he is deputy director of ancient Near Eastern languages and civilizations. In 2006, Chen worked as a visiting professor at PSR’s neighbor, UC Berkeley, and he is now living in Fremont with his wife and two children. He earned his MA in Near Eastern studies and PhD in biblical studies from Cornell University. Chen is teaching the course “Advanced Hebrew Reading” this fall, which focuses on reading, interpreting, and translating Hebrew poetry. “We’re reading the book of Hosea, which is very challenging,” Chen says of his course. “Each of my students and I bring a different perspective, and I hope to get a deeper view of the book with my students.”