Luce/ACLS Fellows in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs

The Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs (RJIA) is an initiative designed to foster new connections between scholars and journalists covering international affairs. The program offers two interrelated awards: programming grants for universities and fellowships for scholars in the humanities and social sciences who study religion in international contexts. This program is made possible by the generous support of The Henry Luce Foundation.

Luce/ACLS Fellowships support scholars in the humanities and related social sciences pursuing research on any aspect of religion in international contexts with a desire to connect their specialist knowledge with journalists and media practitioners. The ultimate goal of the research will be a significant piece of scholarly work by the applicant and concrete steps to engage journalistic and media audiences. This program is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.

Anthea D. Butler
Anthea D. Butler  |  Abstract
The prosperity gospel as a worldwide phenomenon is restructuring not only churches but political, social, and governmental policies. This project investigates the networks of large prosperity gospel churches based in Nigeria, and their flagship churches in the United Kingdom and North America. These churches are the Redeemed Church of God, Faith Tabernacle, and the Synagogue, Church of All Nations. This study considers how prosperity gospel leaders and adherents are influencing economic and political leadership not only in Nigeria, but in the nations that they are now reverse missionizing. These churches are reframing fundamental Christian beliefs about poverty, wealth, status, and power. As a result, they are not only reframing social policies, but remaking urban spaces through their explosive growth and leadership. The results of this research will be disseminated in scholarly articles and conferences as well as in a long-form journalistic article.

Associate Professor, Religious Studies and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania  -  Blessed and Highly Favored: Prosperity Gospel as a Nigerian Political and Social Network

Levi McLaughlin
Levi McLaughlin  |  Abstract
This project addresses the impact of religion on Japanese politics. It focuses on members of Soka Gakkai, the religion that underpins the political party Komeito, and politically active Shinto affiliates, including those within Nippon Kaigi, the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership (SASL), and other organizations that maintain ties with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). These religious communities operate as key vote mobilizers for the governing LDP-Komeito coalition, and they shape efforts toward constitutional amendment, militarization, and social policy changes. I intend to share my preliminary findings via a blog and social media platforms in order to provide an on-the-ground account of non-elite adherents who guide Japanese politics. By offering unprecedented insight into participants’ lives, this project will reveal nuanced details of everyday experiences that will allow the public to comprehend not only what is happening vis-à-vis religion and politics in Japan, but why it is happening.

Assistant Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies, North Carolina State University  -  Religious Influences on Japanese Politics and Policymaking

Joyce Dalsheim
Joyce Dalsheim  |  Abstract
This project furthers contemporary conversations about secularism and citizenship by investigating the promise of liberation through self-determination. Focusing on Israeli Jews, it examines the processes through which sovereign ethnonational majorities are produced. Using stories from many different communities, this research reveals how different ways of being Jewish challenge the policies and practices of the Jewish state, and how, conversely, the existence of the Jewish state constrains the range of possible ways of being Jewish. The case of Israel demonstrates that the classic “Jewish Question” in Europe has been transformed but not answered by political sovereignty. When being Jewish is not a minority position, self-determination and cultural elimination turn out to be closely linked. Conflicts in Israel/Palestine are among the most publicized and polarizing in the world. This project demonstrates how scholarship in the humanities helps provide insight into such contentious struggles and allows us to develop alternative conceptualizations of their histories, their lived experiences, and their futures. An important goal of this fellowship is to bring this work to wider audiences, engaging with journalists, and publishing in venues accessible to the broader public.

Assistant Professor, Global Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte  -  Does Israel Have a Jewish Problem? On the Struggles to Be Jewish in the Modern Nation State

Simran Jeet Singh
Simran Jeet Singh  |  Abstract
This project focuses on the Puratan Janamsakhi, the earliest known account of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. Scholarship on Guru Nanak has largely dismissed this text and has overlooked the fact that, after its composition in 1588 CE, the Puratan Janamsakhi remained the most popular and most widely circulated account of Guru Nanak’s life for two centuries. What emerges from this project is a new picture of Guru Nanak that presents him as a politically active figure who clearly intended to establish a religious community. Guru Nanak’s political vision and worldview also serves as the basis for a second book project that explores Sikh ethics in response to xenophobic and bias-motivated violence. The stories from this book simultaneously narrativize the history of Sikhs in America and examine the process of racialization as a social construction. These stories and insights will be published as essays in popular media.

Assistant Professor, Religion, Trinity University  -  Representing Guru Nanak and the Sikh Tradition

Nile Green
Nile Green  |  Abstract
The primary aim of this project is the development of a concise book defining and analyzing global Islam and the processes behind its fissiparous forms. By defining a set of core criteria (organization; communication; replication; revenue; campaigns), the book shows how some religious actors and organizations increase their transnational impact while others do not. A key argument is that there is no single global Islam in theological terms: there are Salafi, Shi‘i and Sufi, extremist and quietist forms. What distinguishes global Islam is scale: the ability of some organizations to transfer their activities and ideologies across spatial, ethnic, or political boundaries. The book explains how, where and why this process occurs. In addition to the book, a series of short online lectures will discuss how Islam works as religion. The overall aim is to reach a larger Muslim and non-Muslim public confused by the cacophony of voices claiming to speak for Islam as a whole.

Professor, History, University of California, Los Angeles  -  Global Islam: What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

Tulasi Srinivas
Tulasi Srinivas  |  Abstract
Water is life. In Hinduism, water, earth and sun form a complete, divine eco-cosmography, but in India unregulated urban growth in the name of development has led to violent habitat destruction and water pollution—an impending eco-calypse. With such increasing water destruction, what happens to a religious imagination rooted in the natural? Through women’s tortured narratives of water pollution and flooding and journalists’ archives of rampant eco-destruction in Bangalore, India, this ethnographic project will expand Western debates on religion, science, violence, and ecological loss. The project also investigates the religious conceptions of water as life and as divinity as they intersect with water management and sustainability policy discourse. Book talks, in-depth interviews, conference panels, lectures, and possible workshops will broaden the public understandings and valuation of water, and of its place in religion and science in different cultural contexts.

Associate Professor, Anthropology, Emerson College  -  The Absent Goddess: Religion, Ecology and Violence in Urban India