Leela Prasad Elected to Leadership Role in American Academy of Religion

Leela prasad in her library
Leela Prasad will be the fourth Asian American woman and the third faculty member from Duke’s Department of Religious Studies to lead the American Academy of Religion.

Leela Prasad, professor of religious studies, has been elected vice president of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). The leadership role puts Prasad in position to serve as president-elect next year and as the association’s president the following year.  

Prasad’s research focuses on the intersection of religious studies, anthropology, history and literature, with particular attention to South Asia. Her first book, “Poetics of Conduct: Narrative and Moral Being in a South Indian Town,” explored how everyday stories, performance, and routine practices reveal ethical imagination and discourse. The book was awarded the “Best First Book in the History of Religions Prize” by the AAR.   

Her most recent book, “The Audacious Raconteur: Sovereignty and Storytelling in Colonial India” from Cornell University Press, used the oral narrations and writings of four Indians in colonial India to show how even under the most oppressive rule, storytellers and artists assert cultural independence and ultimately remain sovereign. 

The AAR is the flagship global organization of the academic study of religion and allied fields. Founded in 1909, it has more than 8,000 members from across North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Prasad will be the fourth Asian American woman and the third faculty member from Duke’s Department of Religious Studies to lead this organization in its 113-year history.