Dr. Kathryn Barush Awarded the 2022 Borsch-Rast Book Prize

Dr. Kathryn Barush Awarded the 2022 Borsch-Rast Book Prize

BERKELEY, CA — November 30, 2022 — The Graduate Theological Union is pleased to announce that Dr. Kathryn Barush, Thomas E. Bertelsen Jr. Associate Professor of Art History and Religion, has been awarded the sixth annual Borsch-Rast Book Prize and Lectureship for her 2021 publication, Imaging Pilgrimage: Art as Embodied Experience (Bloomsbury Visual Arts). 

In her acclaimed book, Dr. Barush explores contemporary artworks created after pilgrimage experiences, which are intended to act as a catalyst for the embodied experience of others. Each chapter focuses on a contemporary artwork that links one landscape to another—from the Spanish Camino to a backyard in the Pacific Northwest, from Lourdes to South Africa, from Jerusalem to England, and from Ecuador to California, ultimately comprising the first full-length study to engage contemporary art that has emerged out of the embodied experience of pilgrimage. 

“Dr. Barush invites readers to see with fresh eyes the forms and roles of pilgrimage in contemporary society,” said Dr. Judith Berling, a member of the Borsch-Rast selection committee, Professor Emerita of Chinese and Comparative Religions, and former Dean at the GTU. “The interdisciplinary approach of Imaging Pilgrimage explores often ignored dimensions of religious pilgrimages and focuses our attention not solely on verbal explanations but on how the material aspects of pilgrimage express meanings to those who experience them.” 

The work on Imaging Pilgrimage began before the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dr. Barush said that the idea of journeys close to home — through making and experiencing artworks, gathering souvenirs, and creating built environments — assumed renewed significance amid that crisis. 

"My goal for the project has always been to lift up the stories that I tell within those pages: stories of healing from illness and trauma, stories about imagination and re-enchantment, and stories about forging a path ahead,” Dr. Barush said. “The process of writing this book was collaborative and dialogical; sometimes it felt like a barn-raising of sorts. You’ll see many familiar folks among the pages; I am so grateful to be part of this supportive community of scholars and co-learners.” 

Pilgrimage has long been an area of focus for Dr. Barush. Her first monograph, Art and the Sacred Journey in Britain, 1790-1850 (London: Routledge), focused on the relationship between British artists and pilgrimage in the early nineteenth century. She is also the Founding Director of the Berkeley Art and Interreligious Pilgrimage Project, which offers an invitation to create and experience art-infused pilgrimages in the Bay Area and beyond.  

Dr. Barush has lectured widely on the topic of pilgrimage, including several offerings available through GTUx such as “Labyrinth: A Pilgrimage in Place.” She is an avid walker herself and has led groups of graduate student pilgrims along the Camino Ignaciano in Spain. 

Dr. Barush will give a lecture on Imaging Pilgrimage in the spring of 2023, the details of which will be forthcoming.  

Established in 2016, the Borsch-Rast Book Prize is awarded annually to encourage innovative and creative theological scholarship by GTU graduates and current faculty and carries a prize of $10,000. The prize is funded by an endowment stemming from the sale of Trinity Press International, a venture dedicated to the publication of scholarly and often interdisciplinary theological studies. The prize and lectureship honor the joint example and collaboration of Frederick Houk Borsch (1935-2017) and Harold W. Rast (1933-2004). 

The Borsch-Rast selection committee awarded an Honorable Mention to GTU alum Dr. Stephen Shaver for his book Metaphors of Eucharistic Presence: Language, Cognition, and the Body and Blood of Christ (Oxford University Press, 2021), which exemplifies the standards of providing new perspectives on a theological or religious issue through creative and innovative scholarship. 

"Drawing creatively on the discipline of cognitive linguistics, Shaver shows how a generous reading of supposedly conflicting metaphors for Christ’s presence in the communion rite can actually enrich understanding across denominational lines,” said Dr. Arthur Holder, former GTU Dean and a member of the Borsch Rast Book Prize Selection Committee. “His book is a fine model of the interdisciplinary and ecumenical approach to scholarship valued at the GTU.” 

The GTU will begin accepting nominations of 2022 publications written by GTU faculty and alums for the next Borsch-Rast Book Prize and Lectureship on January 1, 2023.  

Visit https://www.gtu.edu/academics/borsch-rast-prize-lectureship for more on the Borsch-Rast Book Prize and Lectureship, including contest guidelines, the nominations form, and past recipients.  


Register for the Sixth Annual Borsch-Rast Lecture presented by Dr. Kathryn Barush.