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Emilie M. Townes elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

TownesEmilie M. Townes, associate dean of academic affairs and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies and a center for independent policy research.

Townes, who served a one-year term as president of the American Academy of Religion in 2008, specializes in Christian social ethics and African American religious communities.  She is an American Baptist clergywoman.

Joining Townes from the Yale University faculty in the 2009 class of fellows is Dale B. Martin, Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Religious Studies. Seven other members of the Yale University faculty were also elected to the class, which included a total of 210 new fellows from across the country and 19 foreign honorary members.

The AAAS announced the new class of fellows in a statement issued today.

In addition to a full schedule of lecturing in seminary, college and university settings, Townes also lectures and leads workshops in local churches, denominational bodies and at special events on a regular basis.  In January, for example, she was a plenary speaker at the Third World Forum on Theology and Liberation in Belém, Brazil. 

In academic settings, Townes works to show the theoretical and practical links between the study of Black religions and the other theological and academic disciplines. Her work highlights the ways in which interdisciplinary analysis and critique can break open new modes of thought, research, and conversations about the nature of oppression and the ability to eradicate it.  She is actively engaged in research on women and health in the African diaspora with attention to Brazil and the United States.

She encourages students to think through the ways in which they can bring their faith and social witness into a discipleship molded by faith, hope, love, and justice. At Yale, Townes is especially concerned with bringing together the religious resources of the community of New Haven and the alumni network with current students to help students gain hands-on practical, pastoral, and prophetic experience in the various ministries of the church. She was instrumental in establishing the Initiative on Religion and Politics at Yale.

Townes is a native of Durham, NC. She holds a D.Min. degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University. She is the former Carolyn Williams Beaird Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

She has written several books, including Womanist Ethics, Womanist Hope, In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness; Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Issues and a Womanist Ethic of Care; and Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil. She is the editor of two collections of essays,  A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering and Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs. With a current membership of 4,000 American Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members, the Academy has four major goals:

  • Promoting service and study through analysis of critical social and intellectual issues and the development of practical policy alternatives;
  • Fostering public engagement and the exchange of ideas with meetings, conferences, and symposia bringing diverse perspectives to the examination of issues of common concern;
  • Mentoring a new generation of scholars and thinkers through the Visiting Scholars Program and Hellman Fellowship Program;
  • Honoring excellence by electing to membership men and women in a broad range of disciplines and professions. Click here to learn about our new members.


The Academy's headquarters are in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With its geographically diverse membership, it conducts activities in this country and abroad.

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