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Benjamin Ray

Professor Emeritus
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bowdoin College
  • Master of Arts (MA), University of Chicago
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Chicago

For the past thirty years, my teaching and research has focused on the indigenous religions of Sub-Saharan Africa as well as African forms of Christianity. My range of undergraduate teaching has encompassed large survey courses, one on pre-historic and ancient religions, the other on African religions. I also teach upper-level courses on African Art and Religion, Yoruba Religion, and a Majors Seminar on Death and the Afterlife. Over the years, I developed a number of research publications based on the materials in these courses. I have recently created an undergraduate course on the subject of the Salem witch trials, in conjunction with an NEH supported digital research project on that subject. I regularly teach a graduate course on Methods in the History of Religions.

A former Fellow of the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, I am the director of the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive, a digital collection of most of the relevant primary source materials in textual and image formats, as well as digital maps and student written essays.

As the Adjunct Curator of African Art for University Art Museum, I have curated a number of exhibitions on African traditional art, drawing mainly upon the University's extensive collection of African art objects. In this capacity, I also review and select African art objects for the Museum's collection.

Selected Publications

  • Satan and Salem: The Witch-Hunt Crisis of 1692. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2015.
  • Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt. Bernard Rosenthal, Editor-in-Chief. Associate Editors, Benjamin C. Ray, et al., Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive: 2002 to present.
  • A Magic Still Dwells: Comparative Religion in the Postmodern Age. Edited by Kimberley C. Patton and Benjamin C. Ray. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. Chinese translation: Peking University Press, 2005.
  • African Religions: Symbol, Ritual, and Community. 2nd. edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2000.
  • Myth, Ritual, and Kingship in Buganda. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Research Interests: 

  • African Religions
  • African Art
  • History of religions methodology
  • Salem witch trials
  • Technology in the humanities

Mailing Address: 

Department of Religious Studies
PO Box 400126
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4126