Dr. Sarah Pessin is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver (DU) where she also serves as Interfaith Chair. She is the recipient of an ACE Fellowship for 2022-2023.
Sarah is a teacher-scholar dedicated to civic engagement, justice and equity, hope and responsibility, diversity and inclusion, religious inclusivity, interdisciplinary innovation, curricular-meets-co-curricular creativity, and strengthening higher ed structures of shared governance. She served as the Director of the Center for Judaic Studies from 2008-2019 and helped create the campus’ Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site. She has also held the Everding Distinguished Lectureship from Iliff School of Theology and St. John’s Cathedral (2016), and has served as the Team Leader for DU’s Religious Inclusivity Initiative. After serving as the Chair of the Senate’s Academic Planning Committee for three years, she served as the Faculty Senate President during COVID (2020-2022).
In her interdisciplinary research on meaning-making, Sarah engages intertwined questions about memory, hope, religion, race, receptivity, ethics, pluralism, paradox, embodiment, pardon, and the “politics of responsibility.” She is interested in the intersection of affect, trauma, embodiment, imagination, and lived human experience in relation to socio-political life. Focused on the phenomenology of lived experience in particular relation to inter-human responsivity and response, her work aims to better understand and develop models of civic engagement that include living uncomfortably with real difference while working to challenge and dismantle structural inequities. She is also a collage artist and poet who enjoys performing stand-up comedy and writing about politics and hope on medium.com.
Her current projects include new courses in the philosophy of religion and race, and book projects on interfaith civics, the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, and responsibility in civics. She is also working on a multi-media micro-documentary project on hope and responsibility in civic life.
In addition to three books in progress, over 100 academic articles and public essays, and over 250 academic presentations, she is the author of a book on receptivity and desire in Greco-Islamo-Jewish philosophy (Ibn Gabirol’s Theology of Desire, Cambridge University Press, 2013) and the editor of the “Jewish Tradition” section of a multicultural reader that sets out to bring greater religious inclusivity to academic histories of philosophy and religions (Medieval Philosophy: A Multicultural Reader, Bloomsbury Academic, 2019). She has also authored chapters for key reference works in her fields, including the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy, the Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy, the Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy, and the Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy.
Sarah is a new Senior Editor with the St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology project—an online series designed to bring greater religious literacy to a wide public readership. Additionally, she has been commissioned by an independent press to write a short book for a general audience on pardon and hope in the context of spiritual and political life, has been selected for inclusion in an NEH workshop on Levinas and Democracy, and related to her work on ancient and medieval theories of power, receptivity, and imagination, has been invited to participate in a new interdisciplinary arts, literature, and science project (“Imaginaries of Force”) through University of Hamburg.
In all of these projects, she works at the intersection of human-meaning-making, religion, and politics towards the goal of better understanding, envisioning, and enacting more ethical and equitable futures.
She holds a PhD in Philosophy from The Ohio State University, and an MA in Philosophy from Columbia University. She did her undergraduate work at Stern College of Yeshiva University.