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Devaka Premawardhana Named ‘Emerging Scholar’

One of 12 Minority Scholars Selected Nationwide

Photo by Nina Riggio ’17

Devaka Premawardhana, assistant professor of religion at Colorado College, has been named a 2017 Emerging Scholar by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education magazine. He is one of only 12 “Under 40” scholars selected from around the country.

Each year, the magazine recognizes 12 minority scholars throughout the nation whose research and scholarship is cutting edge, says Jamal Eric Watson, the magazine’s executive editor. “We were impressed with Devaka Premawardhana’s work and we are pleased that we were able to train a spotlight on his trajectory.  We look forward to following his career and research.”  

“I'm delighted that Devaka has received the 2017 Emerging Scholars Award,” says CC’s Sandra Wong, dean of the college and dean of the faculty. “We nominated him based on his outstanding teaching, scholarship and service to the college.  Since his first year at Colorado College, he has become a challenging, thought-provoking teacher and a creative scholar in the study of global Christianity.”   Diverse first published its “Emerging Scholars” edition in 2002. The magazine’s editors select honorees from a pool of candidates recommended by various scholars, department chairs, and others. Each scholar is selected based on research, educational background, publishing record, teaching record, competitiveness of field of study, and uniqueness of field of study.

Premawardhana, who holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in religion and anthropology from Harvard University, has conducted nearly two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Africa among the Makhuwa-speaking people of Mozambique. His research explores the complexities of Christian identity and practice in a part of the world where indigenous traditions remain vibrant and influential, even in the lives of converts.

“It’s a real honor to be recognized in this way,” says Premawardhana. “And I’m encouraged by what awards like this say about efforts, at CC and in the wider academy, to engage perspectives long overlooked and undervalued.”

“He has introduced CC students and colleagues, as well as audiences abroad, to experiences and insights gained from field work and participant observation,” adds Wong. “I greatly appreciate Devaka’s contributions to our curriculum in anthropology and the study of religion and to our community.  We are very fortunate to have him on our faculty, and the award is well-deserved.”

Premawardhana’s first book, “The Fringes of Faith: Existential Mobility in Everyday Mozambique,” to be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, is due out early next year.