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    ACLS Fellow Brook Danielle Lillehaugen presenting her research at the 2016 ACLS Annual Meeting 

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Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs University Grantees

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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 RJIA grants provide support to universities with strengths in the study of religion, journalism, and media as they pursue programming that catalyzes interdisciplinary collaborations and connects scholarship on religion to journalistic training and practice. The grants of up to $60,000 may fund a variety of activities, including new curricular ventures, public programming, or research working groups. Grantee universities also may serve as host sites for Luce/ACLS RJ&IA research fellows, who are selected in the year following the grant award.


2016 University Grantees

Sufis, Salafis, and the Public Square
Columbia University
Principal Investigators: Katherine Pratt Ewing, Religious Studies, and Alexander Stille, Journalism

This project examines whether there has been an implicit deal between authoritarian regimes and Salafist movements in countries where Sufism is being crowded out by heavily funded forms of Salafism and other forms of anti-Sufi Islam. Ewing and Stille are investigating the eclipse of Sufism within the contemporary political context of four Muslim countries, three of which (Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania) are characterized by authoritarian regimes aiming to fend off violent jihadism and a fourth, Senegal, in which a democratic government actively supports Sufism but is also concerned with the increasing influence of Salafism. The project draws Columbia University’s Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life (IRCPL) and Journalism School into a collaboration that engages students and local researchers in collecting oral histories of variously oriented Sunnis and members of government under the joint supervision of Professors Stille and Ewing. Our goals are to produce a significant publically available database of oral histories; a long piece of narrative journalism by Stille that would bring the fruit of this work to a larger public; a volume of oral histories edited by Ewing that would target policy makers, students, and the public; and articles by Ewing that would address a scholarly audience.

Perceptions of Religion
Indiana University
Principal Investigator: Elaine Monaghan, Journalism

This project draws on Indiana University’s area and international studies experts, media and religion scholars, journalism practitioners, media school resources, and its rich research capabilities with the goal of improving journalism practice, scholarship, and public understanding of religion and its role in international affairs. The multi-disciplinary project team will examine case studies taken directly from ongoing and past media coverage to identify examples of best practice, evaluate observed patterns and establish a new set of journalistic standards. These cases include coverage of disagreements about reproductive rights, prayer in schools, depictions of minority religions, the role of religion in environmentalism or connections between religion and political violence. Over the course of this two-year project, the project team will launch a new undergraduate overseas course, design collaborative curricular units and convene scholars at the university to examine how media practitioners can do a better job of reporting, understanding and portraying complex stories with religious themes or components. 

Reporting Religion
Northeastern University
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Bucar, Religious Studies

Building on Northeastern University’s strength in experiential and global education, this two-part project fosters greater collaboration between religious studies and journalism. The first project develops an experiential embedded course for journalism students called “Reporting Religion.” This course, which will be focused in its first iteration on Islam and Christianity in Spain, will be co-taught by religious studies and journalism faculty and integrate a week-long study abroad program into a semester course. This will allow journalism students to gain targeted religious literacy by 1) completing coursework on multiple religious traditions, 2) reviewing critical studies of journalist coverage of religion in international affairs, 3) applying this knowledge during an on-the-ground international reporting project, and 4) unpacking this embedded global experience upon returning to campus. The second project encourages greater interactions between scholars of religion and journalists covering international affairs through a public workshop (working title “Reporting on religion: Reinventing how journalists and scholars communicate”). The workshop brings together faculty and working journalists in the New England area. Through a series of breakout sessions and short panel presentations, the goal of the workshop is to highlight various dimensions of scholarly expertise in religious studies relevant to journalists covering international affairs, as well as improve scholars’ abilities to translate their expertise to a broader audience.