Derek F. Maher, PhD

Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Chair, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
Brewster A-328


Dr. Derek F. Maher, a Fulbright Fellow, joined the ECU faculty in 2003. He earned a PhD and MA in the History of Religions: Tibetan Studies from the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, and a BA in Philosophy and BS in Physics from Evergreen State College. He is an associate professor of religious studies at East Carolina University. Dr. Maher teaches courses in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Methodology, and Religion and Violence.

His research interests include Tibetan biography, history, philosophy, politics, and especially religion. In particular, he is working on a series of biographies to see how they enact religious, philosophical and political agendas. He is actively engaged in publishing and presenting his research at national and international organizations.

From 2013-2021, he served as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. In 2021, he was appointed as the Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. Between 2006 and 2020, he led twelve study abroad programs to India, helping 180 ECU students and others share in his passion for the region.

Example of Courses Taught


Books and Journal Issues

  • The Tulku (sprul sku) Institution in Tibetan Buddhism. Edited by Daniel A. Hirshberg, Derek F. Maher, & Tsering Wangchuk. Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines 38 (2017).
  • The Body in the World’s Religions: Reflections in Light of Transhumanism. co-edited with Calvin Mercer. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.
  • One Hundred Thousand Moons, An Advanced Political History of Tibet, 2 volumes, by Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa. Translated and annotated by Derek F. Maher. Leiden: Brill, 2009.
  • Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension, co-edited with Calvin Mercer, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.

Articles and Chapters

  • “Biography of the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso,” Treasury of Lives: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Himalayan Religion. New York: Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, 2017. Adapted from Derek F. Maher, “Eighth Dalai Lama (1758-1804)” in Die Dalai Lamas. Edited by Martin Brauen, Stuttgart, Germany: Arnoldsche Publisher and Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, 2005. Simultaneously published in German, French, and English editions.
  • “Compassion in Buddhism and Islam: The Liberal Arts and Living a Meaningful Life” in Compassion at the Heart of Higher Education, edited by Paul Gibbs. London: Springer, 2017.
  • “Revival and Renewal through Reincarnation: The Bodong Tradition Then and Now,” in The Tulku Institution in Tibetan Buddhism: Past, Present, and Future Prospects of the Reincarnation System, co-edited with Tsering Wangchuk and Daniel Hirshberg. Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, volume 38, Février, 2017.
  • “Digitally Mapping the Buddhist Holy Land: Intercultural Communication, Religious History, and Networked Rhetoric,” co-authored with Guiseppe Getto. in Journal of Rhetoric, Professional Communication, and Globalization, Volume 9, Number 1 (2016), 76-97.
  • Revival and Renewal through Reincarnation: The Bodong Tradition Then and Now, in “The Tulku Institution in Tibetan Buddhism: Past, Present, and Future Prospects of the Reincarnation System,” co-edited with Tsering Wangchuk. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism Series, Forthcoming from Wisdom Publications, 2014.
  • Tibetan Terrorism? A Case Study in Name-Calling, in “Moral Psychology of Terrorism: Implications for Security,” eds. Jalil Rosendale and Nathan Lean. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013.
  • Leadership of Dalai Lama, in “Religious Leadership,” 2 volumes, ed. by Sharon Callahan, Sage Publications, 2013
  • Tibetan Monastics and Social Justice, in “Companion to Religion and Social Justice,” eds. by Stanley Burgess and Michael Palmer. Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publications, 2012.
  • Response to Aubrey deGrey from a Buddhist Perspective, in “Routledge Companion to Religion and Science,” eds. By James Haag, Gregory Peterson, and Michael Spezio. London: Routledge, 2011.
  • An Examination of a Critical Appraisal of Tsepon Shakabpa’s One Hundred Thousand Moons, in “Mapping the Modern in Tibet,” edited by Gray Tuttle, International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies-Wissenschaftsverlag GmbH: Sankt Augustin, 2011.



  • PI, “Targeted Strategic Graduation and Retention Pilot Project,” Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III, American Rescue Plan, $100,000, awarded, 2021-2022.
  • PI, “Learning Assistants: Effectiveness in Arts and Sciences,” Student Success Innovation Lab, UNC-SO, $200,000, awarded 2018-2021.