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University of California Santa Barbara
Academic Senate Awards

Prior Year Recipients

2017-18 Harold J. Plous Award

Terence D. Keel

It is with great pleasure that we announce Dr. Terence Keel as the recipient of the 2017-18 Harold J. Plous Memorial Award. This is the highest honor the College of Letters and Science bestows on an Assistant Professor. It honors outstanding contributions to the intellectual life of the campus community. Currently Professor Keel is an Assistant Professor in two departments, Black Studies and History, and he has established himself as an exemplary interdisciplinary scholar whose unique research interests span the history of science, the study of religion, Western intellectual history, and African American studies. Alongside this scholarly productivity is an outstanding record of teaching, mentoring, and service to the profession and the university.

Dr. Terence Keel received his B.A. from Xavier University of Louisiana, Master of Theological Studies and PhD from Harvard University. At UCSB he has established himself a truly interdisciplinary scholar; he is a historian of science, race and religion with research interests that range across a number of fields of study. Keel has published four articles and a book review in major journals, and one book chapter. Most significantly, his forthcoming monograph will be published in 2017 by Stanford University Press, titled The Religious Pursuit of Race: Christian Thought and the Formation of Racial Science. In it, Keel challenges conventional narratives of secularization and science/religion conflict that continue to influence historical accounts of the evolution of modern science to argue that modern racial science is rooted in ideas, conceptual frameworks, and theological and cultural imperatives inherited from Christian intellectual history. In a narrative that takes us from eighteenth-century German ethnology to the contemporary revival and commercialization of genetic research, Keel shows how some of the defining features of modern race science—including its commitment to theories of common human ancestry, its obsession with racial difference, and its claim to universality—can be traced to religious ways of thinking about human origins, “otherness,” and Biblical truth. Professor Keel has also had great success in receiving research grants from the UC Consortium on Black Studies and the UC Center for New Racial Studies. The highly prestigious UC President’s Faculty Fellowship in the Humanities was recently awarded to Professor Keel in recognition of his impressive record of accomplishment.

Professor Keel’s teaching record is very impressive and the fact that he excels at teaching in two different departments makes this accomplishment even more remarkable. In both departments he is receiving excellent ESCI scores and written evaluations from students who routinely use such superlatives as “overall my favorite UCSB class so far.” He has also developed new and innovative curricula in both departments and has had an exemplary record of professional and on-campus service. In fact, Professor Keel’s record of professional service is inspirational; he has co-organized a major conference on Critical Race Theory and Health Sciences, held at Boston University School of Law. At UCSB he chairs and provides leadership for the recently created Black Studies Doctoral Emphasis. He also conceived and hosted a widely-subscribed lecture series, The Biopolitics of Reproduction. Drawing inspiration from his interdisciplinary research career, this unique symposium brought together the departments of Black Studies, Feminist Studies, and History. Although still a junior scholar, Professor Keel has already established himself as a leader on campus.

Highly praised by his colleagues as well as his students, Professor Terence Keel embodies all the attributes we hope to recognize with the Plous Award: world-class scholarly research and passion for teaching and public service. With utmost enthusiasm, the selection committee congratulates Professor Keel on behalf of the College of Letters and Science for winning the 2017-18 Harold J. Plous Award.