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.

Febe Armanios
Febe Armanios  |  Abstract
This project explores the rise, expansion, and influence of Christian television in the Middle East, from the early 1980s to the present. Christian broadcasting was initially established by American televangelists who sought to spread their charismatic brand of Christianity. The development of American-sponsored channels, however, challenged Middle Eastern Christians to defend their own voices and pioneer their own religious channels, which captured a local perspective on spirituality, theology, culture, and politics. Even though some broadcasts have continued to promote American evangelical agendas, television has simultaneously created a new forum for indigenous Christians long excluded from public religious expression in their home countries. This project will be published as a book and through other forms of academic writing. It will also be disseminated in blog entries, op-eds, and public lectures, as well as through conversations with journalists and writers who cover issues related to religion, media, and the Middle East.

Professor, History, Middlebury College  -  Satellite Ministries: The Rise of Christian Television in the Middle East

Mara A. Leichtman
Mara A. Leichtman  |  Abstract
Arab Gulf states are surpassing Western development agencies in providing assistance to African countries. This project analyzes individual, civil society, and state giving in Kuwait through Islamic ethical frameworks as motivations for charity. Case studies of transregional connections with Senegal and Tanzania assess the cultural and religious impact of Gulf funding in Africa while complicating the “giver/receiver” binary. Through exploring Sunni and Shi‘i organizations in Africa, "Humanitarian Islam" unpacks the politics of Kuwaiti giving by situating the aid apparatus within national, international, historical and contemporary contexts. Media coverage has depicted Africa as another sphere for the Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry in disseminating Sunni-Shi‘i sectarianism. Based on this research, public writing for media and policy outlets will demonstrate that Iran is not the only Shi‘i player in Africa and that Africans are not simply pawns in Gulf power politics.

Associate Professor, Anthropology, Michigan State University  -  Humanitarian Islam: Transnational Religion and Kuwaiti Development Projects in Africa

Deepa Das Acevedo
Deepa Das Acevedo  |  Abstract
The dispute over women’s access to the Hindu temple at Sabarimala, Kerala, has figured prominently in Indian and international news for nearly four years now. Nevertheless, the core issue—whether women aged 10–50 may enter the temple precincts—has remained the subject of contentious legal and political battles long after the Supreme Court of India issued its opinion in 2018. This project draws on a long-term ethnographic and legal study of Sabarimala to situate the dispute within Indian politics and constitutional law, as well as within gendered disputes over sacred spaces more broadly. Sabarimala has generated high-profile developments far outside the courtroom: street protests, Twitter campaigns, human protest ‘chains, and national election campaigns. As such, the problem of women’s entry offers a timely case study through which to explore problems of religion-state relations in secular democracies worldwide, and to connect this scholarship with popular audiences beyond the academy.

Assistant Professor, Law, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa  -  The Battle for Sabarimala

Callie Maidhof
Callie Maidhof  |  Abstract
"Borderline Settlers" is a study of the contemporary Israeli settlement project that contests the popular understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one that is driven by the religious fervor of extremists. Based on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork, this research shows that the success of Israel’s settlement project turns not on political or religious passions, but on mobilizing secular, middle-class desire. "Borderline Settlers" highlights how the state settlement project involves producing and harnessing populations of “regular” or "moderate” settlers—tech workers, stay-at-home moms, contractors, etc.—who are shaped by a presumptively secular rationality. The study thus offers a re-framing of a contentious issue under scrutiny by the public, policymakers, and scholars alike; its results will be disseminated in popular outlets, including interviews and a long-form journalistic piece, and ultimately in an ethnographic monograph.

Visiting Assistant Professor, Global Studies, Colby College  -  Borderline Settlers: Religion and Suburbia in Contemporary Israel

Julia Gaffield
Julia Gaffield  |  Abstract
"The Abandoned Faithful" argues that the Haitian state shaped international definitions of sovereignty and national legitimacy after the Declaration of Independence in 1804. Rather than seeing Haiti’s nineteenth century as a period of isolation and decline, its first six decades were globally connected because the country’s leaders challenged their post-colonial inequality with diplomacy and state-formation. This strategy aimed to establish Haiti’s membership among the “family of nations,” and forced the Atlantic powers to redefine the boundaries of international relations. This project reveals how Haiti’s decades-long negotiations with the Catholic Church were integral to the racialization of the global hierarchy. Building on earlier writing for the media, I will write an article that connects my current research to the ongoing significance of Vatican diplomacy in the twenty-first century, including recent diplomatic engagement with Palestine and China. During the fellowship year, I also will partner with the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University to create a public art exhibit. The museum houses a rare and remarkable collection of portraits of Haiti’s nineteenth-century heads of state, painted in the 1870s by Haitian artist Louis Rigaud.

Associate Professor, History, Georgia State University  -  The Abandoned Faithful: Sovereignty, Diplomacy, and Religious Jurisdiction after the Haitian Revolution

Julia G. Young
Julia G. Young  |  Abstract
"The Revolution Is Afraid" analyzes the transnational development of the Unión Nacional Sinarquista, a Mexican Catholic political organization that has attracted adherents both in Mexico and within Mexican immigrant communities since its founding in 1937. In doing so, it explores the critical role of religion in Mexican far-right politics, as well as the reasons that integralist Catholic nationalism appealed to so many Mexicans on both sides of the border. This project engages scholars of the history of Mexico and Mexican migration, as well as wider audiences interested in transnational Catholic nationalist, integralist, and authoritarian political movements.

Associate Professor, History, The Catholic University of America  -  The Revolution is Afraid: Mexican Catholic Nationalism and the Unión Nacional Sinarquista

Rosalyn LaPier
Rosalyn LaPier  |  Abstract
“Protest as Pilgrimage” is a multi-faceted scholarly project that focuses on Indigenous women in environmental activism and the transformation of places of protest into places of pilgrimage. Through the lenses of environmental justice, climate action, Indigenous activism, Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, and gender analysis, this work explores the connections and continuities between contemporary Indigenous protests—as places of Indigenous women’s religious revitalization—and historic female-focused religious practices. During the fellowship term, I plan to continue writing journalistic pieces, and to expand my writing to a variety of publications with pieces that focus on the roles of women in global Indigenous environmental activism.

Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, University of Montana  -  Protest as Pilgrimage