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.

Attiya Ahmad
Attiya Ahmad  |  Abstract
This project examines why entrepreneurs and consumers consider tourism to be an important site for producing Islamic piety and Muslim belongings—even in the face of the uncertainty and risk that mark shifting landscapes of conflict in the contemporary Middle East. By analyzing the activities of halal tourism purveyors and consumers spanning the Middle East, South-East Asia and Europe, this ethnographic study highlights how material relations figure in the production of Muslim gender dynamics, subjectivities, affinities and histories. “Halal Tourism” furthers our understanding of why spaces of leisure have become sites of violence and religious-secular contestation, as well as our understanding of the scale and complexity of transnational Muslim mobility and religious aspiration amidst global landscapes of political upheaval, conflict, and the ongoing refugee crisis.

Assistant Professor, Anthropology, The George Washington University  -  Halal Tourism: Gendered Muslim Aspirations and Material Counterpoints Amidst the Spoils of War in the Middle East
For residence at Columbia University, Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life

Brian D. Goldstone
Brian D. Goldstone  |  Abstract
This project investigates the emergence in West Africa of Pentecostal prayer camps as alternative sites for the treatment and diagnosis of psychiatric disorders. Moving between these controversial healing centers, on the one hand, and the domain of transnational NGOs and human rights groups on the other, the project explores the challenges facing the nascent field of global mental health and the limits of biomedical reason—with excursions along the way into colonial psychiatry, the vicissitudes of humanitarianism, and a Pentecostal revolution that continues to burn its way across Africa’s social and religious landscape. Initial findings from this research have appeared or are forthcoming in both scholarly and journalistic outlets. One piece will tell the story of a family’s harrowing 18-year journey through Ghana’s mental health system, from the country’s psychiatric clinics and traditional shrines to the charismatic prophetess at whose secluded prayer camp they are now residing; another considers the widely circulated images—depicting men and women in chains, in cages, in various states of confinement—through which the prayer camps have been brought to global awareness. Ultimately, the articles suggest that public representations of these "new asylums" fail to consider what they offer to those who seek refuge there.

Visiting Scholar, Institute of African Studies, Emory University  -  Diagnosing the Devil: Psychospiritual Interventions in West Africa

Anya Bernstein
Anya Bernstein  |  Abstract
This project explores the intersection of religion and science in post-Soviet and post-atheist Russia, focusing on the increasing anticipation of an end to earth as we know it and on how technology is responding to remake human bodies for an immortal age. Drawing on archival materials and fieldwork with contemporary Russian religious and technoscientifc futurist movements, such as Russian Cosmism and transhumanism, the project expands current Euro-American understandings of the relationship between science and religion by reflecting on how hopes and fears for the future translate into policy debates on new medical technologies. The project seeks to broaden public understanding of the relationship between science, religion, and technology in cross-cultural contexts by engaging with journalists covering religion internationally, and facilitating a dynamic exchange between how scholars and journalists can collaborate.

Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Harvard University  -  The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia
For residence at Columbia University, Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life

Simon Rabinovitch
Simon Rabinovitch  |  Abstract
This project is about the persistence of collective rights in the modern world and proposes to rethink the trajectory of comparative legal history as it relates to religion and state development. I focus on Jewish collective rights, historically and to the present, as a way to explore how states and religious communities negotiate the conflicting rights of religious groups and individual citizens. Religious autonomy, religion in public space, education, family law, and public health are all issues that have become battlegrounds over how to apply concepts such as tolerance and freedom of conscience. The study considers cases in Europe, North America, Israel, and elsewhere that Jewish collective and individual rights have been at odds, and how different legal systems have resolved or managed them. Jewish Collective Rights looks at issues with great current public interest, including the meaning of religious freedom and the question of how to regulate religious autonomy in democratic states. Over the course of the fellowship year, I will engage journalists and members of the public seeking to understand the current fault lines in religious conflict not only around the world but in American courts as well.

Assistant Professor, History, Boston University  -  Jewish Collective Rights: An International Comparison
For residence at Northeastern University, Humanities Center

John Corrigan
John Corrigan  |  Abstract
The U.S. promotes religious freedom internationally, believing it a necessary step toward reducing religious violence. The American approach has encountered difficulties, some of which arise from incomplete understandings of the ways in which religion is imbedded in culture. Additionally, well-meaning American diplomacy miscalculates the possibilities for the success abroad of an American ideology of religious freedom. That problem derives in part from American amnesia about religious violence in the national past. The national history of religious violence is obscured, screened from official memory even as it is remembered in minority communities that suffered violence. That forgetting has limited American capability to appreciate the complex dynamics of religious intolerance elsewhere. Religious Violence and American Foreign Policy will be published as an academic study and it will serve as the framework for a documentary about America, religion, and international affairs.

Professor, Religion and History, Florida State University  -  Religious Violence and American Foreign Policy

Alexander Thurston
Alexander Thurston  |  Abstract
Prevailing explanations for the rise of jihadism tend to caricature jihadists as nihilistic opportunists, uncompromising fanatics, or outright psychopaths. This book project offers a different understanding, showing that jihadists devote substantial attention to both religious argumentation and local politics. The project addresses the recent history, doctrinal content, and local political contexts of jihadism in Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, and Libya. Drawing on a wealth of untapped primary sources in Arabic, as well as field research, the project examines Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its many offshoots, as well as North African affiliates of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). The book’s findings will have implications for the study of religion and violence around the world. The project also will engage the media through the author’s blog, and by cultivating relationships with individual journalists, especially African journalists based in countries relevant to the project.

Visiting Assistant Professor, African Studies, Georgetown University  -  Jihadism in Northwest Africa: Doctrines, Debates, and Local Politics