Religious Studies

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Professor Richard King

Professor of Buddhist and Asian Studies

Head of Department

Office: Cornwallis North West Room 213

Office hours: Wednesdays 12.00-13.00


Richard King studied philosophy and religious studies at the University of Hull before completing a PhD on Hindu and Buddhist philosophy at the University of Lancaster. He has worked in a number of different universities including Stirling, Derby, Vanderbilt (Nashville, USA), Glasgow and has been at the University of Kent since 2013. Professor King describes himself as a philosopher and a historian of ideas by inclination with an interest in classical South Asian thought and postcolonial theory. His work explores the intersection between what we call philosophy and mysticism/spirituality and the ways in which European colonialism has influenced (and continues to influence) modern interpretations of classical Indian traditions.

Research Interests

Professor King's research explores interdisciplinary issues in the intersection between Religious Studies, Philosophy, the comparative study of mysticism/spirituality and the study of Asia. He works on theory and method questions in the study of religion (see King, 2017, Religion/Theory/Critique, Columbia University Press) and, in particular, has written about the impact of coloniality/modernity on the representation of Hindu and Buddhist traditions in the West. He is one of a number of key writers who have called into question the usefulness of the category of religion as a cross-cultural variable, especially with regard to the history of South Asian traditions. He is also known for his writings on colonialism and the modern formation of the category of Hinduism. More specifically, Professor King is a specialist of classical Indian (Hindu Brahmanical and Buddhist) thought, with specific interests in early Indian Mahayana Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta. He has a particular interest in postcolonial theory and the challenges involved in seeking to globalise and expand philosophy beyond its western horizons. (see King (1999), Orientalism and Religion, Routledge; King, Indian Philosophy, 2000). He is also interested in the impact that neoliberal capitalism has played in the emergence of new forms of eastern-inspired spirituality in the contemporary period (see Carrette and King (2005), Selling Spirituality, Routledge).

From 2007 to 2009 Professor King served on the advisory committee to the Guggenheim Museum in New York for 'The Third Mind' - a major exhibition exploring Asian philosophical influences on modern American art and also as co-chair of the Cultural History for the Study of Religion group for the American Academy of Religion. From 2017-2020 he is co-investigator for a Leverhulme Trust funded research project which seeks to map mindfulness training provision in the UK (Twitter: @MapMindful)

Professor King's current research work explores apophatic (that is, negative or ‘unsaying’) discourse in classical Buddhist, Vedantic and Christian literature and the ways in which these trends have been largely excluded from the history of philosophy and framed by the category of mysticism. He is also working on the rise of 'mindfulness” in the 21st-century, exploring how an ancient Buddhist meditative practice became a modern secular therapy now widely adopted in healthcare, business and military contexts.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Carrette, J. and King, R. (2005). Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion. [Online]. Abingdon: Routledge. Available at:
King, R. (1999). Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial Theory, India and 'the Mystic East'. [Online]. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. Available at:
King, R. (1999). Indian Philosophy. An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
King, R. (1995). Early Advaita Ved?nta and Buddhism: The Mah?y?na Context of the Gau?ap?diya-k?rik?. [Online]. New York: State University of New York Press. Available at:
Edited book
King, R. (2006). Religion and Violence in South Asia: Theory and Practice. [Online]. King, R. and Hinnells, J. eds. Abingdon: Routledge. Available at:
King, R. (2013). The Copernican Turn in the Study of Religion. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion [Online] 25:137-159. Available at:
Book section
King, R. (2017). Edited and Critical Introduction. in: King, R. ed. Religion, Theory, Critique: Classic and Contemporary Approaches and Methodologies. New York: Columbia University Press.
King, R. (2016). 'Paying Attention' in a Digital Economy: Reflections on the Role of Analysis and Judgement Within Contemporary Discourses of Mindfulness and Comparisons with Classical Buddhist Accounts of Sati. in: Handbook of Mindfulness: Culture, Context and Social Engagement. Springer International Publishing, pp. 27-45. Available at:
King, R. (2011). Imagining Religions in India: Colonialism and the Mapping of South Asian History and Culture. in: Mandair, A. and Dressler, M. eds. Secularism and Religion-Making. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 37-61.
King, R. (2010). Philosophy of Religion as Border Control: Globalization and the Decolonization of the "Love of Wisdom" (philosophia). in: Bilimoria, P. and Irvine, A. eds. Postcolonial Philosophy of Religion. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, pp. 35-52. Available at:
King, R. (2004). Asian Religions and Mysticism: The Legacy of William James in the Study of Religions. in: Carrette, J. R. ed. William James and the Varieties of Religious Experience. A Centenary Celebration. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 106-123.
King, R. (2003). Colonialism and Buddhism. in: Buswell, R. E. ed. Encyclopaedia of Buddhism. New York: Macmillan.
King, R. (2001). Orientalism, Hinduism and Feminism. in: Macfie, A. L. ed. Orientalism. A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 335-342.
Total publications in KAR: 13 [See all in KAR]
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Richard King teaches on Hindu and Buddhist traditions; Indian philosophy; postcolonial theory, theory and method in the study of religion/South Asia.

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Religious Studies, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 827159 or email Religious Studies

Last Updated: 21/02/2019