Photo of Ken Derry

Ken Derry

Associate Professor, Teaching Stream (On leave through to June 30, 2024)
Historical Studies - History of Religions


As an undergraduate student, Ken Derry wandered a few different paths. He spent two years immersed in biophysics, and then turned to English and Japanese literature before finally discovering his true calling: the study of religion.

Dr. Derry’s academic focus is on the ways in which modern cultural products relate to more “traditional” religious beliefs and practices. What might the Bible tell us about Iron Man, for example – and vice versa? He has examined a range of topics including Christian symbolism, ghosts, Hong Kong film, superheroes, and Disney stories, and has drawn on research in such areas as colonialism, gender, hermeneutics, history, myth, narrative, politics, and ritual studies. Dr. Derry’s Ph.D. thesis examines issues of religion and violence in modern Canadian Native writings, and is the first full Religion and Literature monograph to consider the works of North American Indigenous authors. He currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Religion & Film and is the pedagogy editor for Religious Studies Review.


PhD (University of Toronto)
MA (University of Toronto)
BA (University of Toronto)


  • Comparative Religion
  • Indigenous Traditions
  • Method and Theory
  • Religion and Literature/Film
  • Religion and Violence


Ken Derry has been teaching courses at UofT since 1996, when he was still a graduate student. His approach emphasizes the importance of student experience, creativity, and critical engagement. To this end he has assigned an essay topic based on visiting a local religious site; conducted a class field trip to the Remembrance Day service in Streetsville; trained students to create, film, and edit interviews; and brought guest speakers to UTM such as Richie Mehta, director of the films Amal, Siddharth, and I'll Follow You Down.

This interest in experiential learning was first sparked by participation in the UofT undergraduate student exchange program at Kwansei Gakuin University. Dr. Derry’s year in Japan convinced him of the incredible, transformative power of such programs, and since 2000 he has been involved in administering, developing, and promoting study abroad opportunities at UofT. In 2012 and 2014, he had the great privilege to teach a course on religion as part of the university’s Summer Abroad Program in Hong Kong.


Dr. Derry was incredibly honoured to be named as the recipient of the 2013 UTM Teaching Excellence Award. From 2011 to 2014 he also received the Dean’s Excellence Award and the Small Groups Award each year. While working as a full-time administrator on the St. George campus, he was presented with the 2009 University of Toronto "Stepping Up" award for enhancing the student experience, and the 2008 Arts & Science Student Union Urmila (Uma) Sarkar Award for Outstanding Service.


Dr. Derry’s academic work has been supplemented and enhanced by critical encounters outside of the university context. He helped lead a summer camp on Lake Scugog for homeless men from Regent Park; passed on life skills to hearing impaired children near Christie Pits; taught English to students in Japan; and worked as a science and math instructor at an alternative elementary school in downtown Toronto. 

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