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Prof. Sarah Pessin

Sarah Pessin

Sarah Pessin
Interfaith Chair, Center for Judaic Studies
Professor of Philosophy
University of Denver

Sturm Hall

Recent Updates

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Sarah is the team leader for DU's new Religious Inclusivity Initiative (RII) as part of a new national project through the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and the American Association for Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). For her emerging work on civic and interfaith themes, Sarah was awarded a new Public Impact Fellowship through DU, as well as a grant through the College of Art, Humanities, and Social Science's new Center for Innovation in Liberal and Creative Arts (CILCA) for work with Greg Robbins (Religious Studies) and Andrea Stanton (Religious Studies) on new curricular and co-curricular campus-wide interfaith/inter-religious keystone experiences for students.

In Fall 2018, Sarah began teaching a new Philosophy of Race course and she recently taught a new JUST/PHIL/RLGS/COMN pilot class on Stereotyping and Violence; she is conducting a graduate independent study on this Winter on anti-Semitism, she will participate on a panel on the tacitly Christian character of the academic study of philosophy of religion, and this Summer, she will deliver a paper at a critical race theory conference on existentialism co-sponsored by the French Embassy in Washington DC. In Fall 2018, Sarah also finalized a multi-year academic project as the editor for the "Jewish Philosophy" section of a forthcoming Multicultural Medieval Philosophy Reader. Following up on her book Ibn Gabirol's Theology of Desire: Matter and Method in Jewish Medieval Neoplatonism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Sarah recently finalized a research chapter on Ibn Gabirol's Plotinian and Porphyrian arcs, and a new journal essay on how Ibn Gabirol's Neoplatonic sense of goodness connects with Levinas' sense of messianicity. She is also currently completing a new essay on Ibn Gabirol for an edited volume in her field, a new entry on Ibn Gabirol for the Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion, and an updated entry on Ibn Gabirol for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; this Winter she will deliver a paper on Ibn Gabirol at the American Academy of Religion meeting in Denver. She is also currently working on a number of projects on Moses Maimonides and Saadya Gaon.

Sarah recently had her work on civic agonism featured in an online colloquium on love and politics through the Political Theology network; she also recently published a lengthy essay on love, laughter, and agonism in the works of Emmanuel Levinas and the implications of these themes for a more complicated picture of interfaith work in American democracy. She is currently working on a fuller length research project on these themes in relation to rethinking American ideas of love and forgiveness in the context of rethinking Christian and Jewish theologies of works and grace.

Sarah annually co-organizes the Week of Jewish Philosophy with colleague Elias Sacks (CU Boulder), offering scholars, students, and community members opportunities to work through challenging texts and questions in Jewish Philosophy; this year's event is planned for April 2019. She also annually co-organizes the Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions conference with Richard Taylor (Marquette University), offering scholars and students working in medieval philosophy an opportunity to share research on the intersection of ideas across Jewish, Islamic, and Christian medieval texts and traditions; this next event takes place at Marquette University in June 2018.

Sarah continues to lead conversations about Levinasian ethics in connection with the Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site which she helped create, as she continues to be active in campus inclusivity and diversity efforts, including her role on the new AHSS Inclusive Excellence Committee, as a member of the IRISE faculty advisory committee, and as a faculty mentor for a new IRISE postdoctral fellow.

She is also the academic advisor for a number of Joint Doctoral Program students (through the DU-Iliff program in the study of religion), and she serves as the Chair of the Academic Planning Committee for the Faculty Senate.

For her dedication to university service, Sarah was awarded the 2017 DU Faculty Service Award.


MA, Columbia University, New York

PhD, The Ohio State University, Columbus