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R. Daniel Shaw

Senior Professor of Anthropology and Translation

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

Courses Taught

MB520: Thinking Anthropologically

MB560: Methods of Observing and Interpreting Culture

MR520: Human Spirituality in Culture


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, November 2017

Wycliffe Bible Translator’s 50 Year Service Award, 2017

Numerous book awards

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 and, therefore, serves as the foundation for theological reflection. This process fosters a deepening and expanding comprehension of the application of the text in the cultural experiences of people in our increasingly complex world.”


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 came to what was the School of World Mission in 1982 tasked with developing a degree in translation. Over his 35 years at Fuller he has taught anthropology and translation and specializes in research and methods courses particularly for PhD students as well as students in the Doctorate in Intercultural Studies Program which he helped redesigned as an off-campus cohort program in 2003.

Shaw is the son of missionary parents who served in India and the Philippines where he developed a keen interest in culture. 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.

Dr. Shaw frequently speaks for mission conferences and “Perspectives” courses, presents at anthropological meetings, and regularly consults and teaches around the world on anthropology, Bible translation, and cross-cultural mission. He has been an SIL-International Anthropology consultant since 1978 and served on the Mission Aviation Fellowship-US board of Directors from 1994-2014 and MAF-International Board of Trustees from 2007-2010. He is a Lifetime Fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the Polynesian Society. He is also active in the Association for Social Anthropologists in Oceania, and the American Society of Missiologists (board member from 2013-2017).

Shaw’s many publications include articles and reviews in major journals and dictionaries, as well as chapters in numerous books. His most notable books include Transculturation: The Cultural Factor in Translation (1988) and two ethnographies of the Samo: Kandila: Samo Ceremonialism and Interpersonal Relationships (1990) and From Longhouse to Village: Samo Social Change (1995). He has co-authored or edited Understanding Folk Religion with Paul Hiebert and Tite Tiénou (1999), Communicating God’s Word in a Complex World: with faculty colleague Charles Van Engen (2003), and Traditional Ritual as Christian Worship with William R. Burrows (2018). Shaw is listed in the 2001 International Who’s Who of Professional Educators, the 2002 Directory of American Scholars, the 2009–2017 Who’s Who in America, and the 2010–2017 Who’s Who in the World.

Featured Publications