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R. Daniel Shaw

Senior Professor of Anthropology and Translation

As senior faculty at Fuller, this professor primarily mentors students and only occasionally, if ever, teaches courses.

BA, MA, University of Arizona
PhD, University of Papua New Guinea


C. David Weyerhaeuser, Faculty award (2006)
$217k John Templeton Foundation award (ID 59142)
Recruiting Field Data for Cognitive Science of Religion Questions, November 2015-May 2017.
American Anthropological Association “Distinguished Member” award
American Society of Missiology Lifetime Achievement Award, 2022

Areas of Expertise

Social anthropology, cognitive anthropology, anthropology of mission, Bible translation, communication theory, qualitative research methods

“Communication of the gospel message must account for the original communication as well as the communicators’ and the contemporary receptors’ circumstances. They enter into dialogue with the source that cannot change.”


Dr. Shaw, in his book Communicating God’s Word in a Complex World. Explore more voices from the Fuller community on changing missiology here.


R. Daniel Shaw has been at Fuller since 1982, when he set up the translation program for the School of World Mission (now the School of Mission and Theology). He currently directs the DIS/DGL program in the Pacific where he seeks to enable the next generation of Pacific Islanders to serve their own people academically and missionally. Similarly, he consults with Global Bible Translation Partners in developing a Digital Training Library that provides resources for local translators across the globe. He also serves SIL as an International Anthropology Consultant.

Dr. Shaw is the son of missionary parents who served in India and the Philippines. Later, along with his wife, Karen, and three sons, he served as a Wycliffe translator for 12 years among the Samo people of Papua New Guinea. He is known on campus for his Samo stories, and his teaching reflects a combination of high academic standards with life experience and practical application to the ministry needs of students. 

Shaw frequently speaks for mission conferences, and presents professional papers at anthropological and missiological meetings around the world. He regularly consults and teaches on anthropology, Bible translation, cross-cultural evangelism, and training. He is a lifetime fellow of the American Anthropological Association, and the Polynesian Society and a member of the Association for Social Anthropologists in Oceania, American Society of Missiologists, and the Association of Evangelical Professors of Mission.

Shaw’s many books have both an anthropological and missiological focus including Transculturation: The Cultural Factor in Translation and Other Communication Tasks (1988), Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Religious Belief and Practice (1999) with Paul Hiebert and Tite Tiénou and Communicating God’s Word in a Complex World: God’s Truth or Hocus-Pocus? (2003) with faculty colleague Charles Van Engen. His Samo ethnographies include Kandila: Samo Ceremonialism and Interpersonal Relationships (1990), From Longhouse to Village: Samo Social Change (1995), and Singing Samo Songs: From Shaman to Pastor (2022). He collaborated with his friend Bill Burrows to edit a volume of twelve case studies from around the world demonstrating the value of Traditional Ritual as Christian Worship (2018). He regularly joins other scholars in contributing to volumes detailing various cultural and missional implications of his research as well as scores of journal articles across his disciplines of expertise. Shaw is listed in the 2001 International Who’s Who of Professional Educators, the 2002 Directory of American Scholars, the 2009–2016 Who’s Who in America, and the 2010–2016 Who’s Who in the World. His passion is “engaging in and encouraging socio-religious research so that all people may receive God’s Word and apply it to their lives” (Commendation on ASM Lifetime Achievement Award plaque).

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