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.

Evelyn Azeeza Alsultany
Evelyn Azeeza Alsultany  |  Abstract
“Stealth Anti-Muslim Racism in an Age of Islamophobia” offers a multi-site analysis of how Islamophobia gets perpetuated and normalized in the most unexpected and subtle of ways—through positive media representations, liberal political discourses, hate crime laws, and even the firing of public figures for racist speech. Based on nine years of collecting materials, from representations of Muslims on television to police reports on murder cases, this project exposes insidious forms of anti-Muslim racism across three sites: television, corporations and universities, and law enforcement, from the Obama presidency to the present. Drawing on critical discourse analysis to identify competing meanings produced about Muslims, this project brings Muslims into a vital conversation about racial politics today. This research will be published as a book and in more accessible installments as op-eds, blog posts, book talks, and conversations with journalists who cover the intersection of race and religion.

Associate Professor, American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California  -  Stealth Anti-Muslim Racism in an Age of Islamophobia

Natalie Khazaal
Natalie Khazaal  |  Abstract
How do religious minorities in the Arab world fight stigma in the digital age? This project explores the effect of the Arab uprisings on Arab identity by focusing on the controversial case of Arab apostates in the context of a defiant turn where minorities use media to reject unifying nationalist narratives centered on Islamic identity. “Arab Apostates” is based on the textual analysis of a large corpus of primary Arabic-language apostate accounts transmitted through a variety of media and is informed by theories of stigma and debates about post-secularism, contemporary Islams, and political questions about contemporary religious movements. As a critical cultural studies project, it challenges the academic neglect of a phenomenon with potentially dramatic consequences for the Middle East. It also corrects a bias in the apostasy literature, which favors apostates from cults, restoring the significance of the accounts of apostates from mainstream religions.

Assistant Professor, Arabic, Georgia Institute of Technology  -  Arab Apostates: Media and the Making of a Defiant Minority

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd  |  Abstract
To determine what counts as religion is an act of power and sovereignty. This project looks at the entanglements of religion and politics through four case studies in which the religion/not religion border is central to US domestic and foreign policy. As with other borders, there are important consequences that follow from how the religion/not religion border is drawn, who defines it, and who is viewed as on one side or the other. This “prism of the border” gives us insight into challenges involving religion, race, immigration, indigeneity, and US power. Bringing this research to a wide array of public audiences, the project establishes channels of communication and collaboration with journalists and policy practitioners. Project findings will be disseminated through academic and public writing, lecturing, and interviews, among other forms of media engagement.

Professor, Political Science, Northwestern University  -  Religion on the Border

Lihi Ben Shitrit
Lihi Ben Shitrit  |  Abstract
Jerusalem’s Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif and its surroundings have inspired inexhaustible academic and popular fascination. The site has served as a central case for studying the contested interaction of religion and politics in space. Yet the gendered dimensions of inter-communal disputes over sacred space in Jerusalem, and women’s roles in these site-specific conflicts, have been largely neglected. This project examines three contemporary women’s movements in and around the site—Women for the Temple, the Murabitat, and Women of the Wall. Using these cases, the project demonstrates how attention to gender and to women’s engagement in conflict over sacred places is essential for understanding the intra-communal processes that make contested sacred sites increasingly “indivisible” for parties in the inter-communal context. Media engagement for the project will include op-eds, collaboration with print and new media journalists in Israel/Palestine, the United States, and India, presentations in workshops and seminars, and book talks.

Assistant Professor, International Affairs, University of Georgia  -  Women and the Holy City: Women's Movements in the Struggle over Jerusalem's Sacred Space

Larisa Jasarevic
Larisa Jasarevic  |  Abstract
At the time of global bee decline and speculations on precarious planetary futures, beekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina read the vanishing of the bees as the sign of the world’s end. This project attends to the Bosnian Muslim conceptions of the end times, gathered from vernacular, classic, and cosmopolitan Islamic sources that frame relations with bees and popular responses to the climatic disorder. Contrary to expectations, Islamic references to the end times lead to resilient practices that resonate with cosmopolitan ecological agendas. This project features a multi-media book companion with video-essays and posts from local apiaries to give the taste of the field. Journalistic articles will bring Islamic environmental concerns to the readership of online and print media, while teasing out salient connections between ecology and eschatology in and beyond the Balkans. Finally, collaborations with science writers, conservation biologists, publicly engaged beekeepers, and save-the-bees activists will complement the discourses on apian endangerment with a perspective on the value and meaning of bees.

Senior Lecturer, Global Studies, University of Chicago  -  Beekeeping in the End Times: Disaster Ecology and Islamic Eschatology in Bosnia and Beyond

Amy Erica Smith
Amy Erica Smith  |  Abstract
Two parallel trends are transforming the developing world: climate change and the growing demographic importance of Pentecostalism and conservative Protestantism. As environmental degradation reshapes the physical environments in which humans live, citizens interpret the changes and respond through frames shaped by their religious communities. Focusing on a Brazilian case study, this project demonstrates the diverse ways religion molds citizens’ explanations of and responses to climate change. Contrary to theories focusing on developed countries such as the United States, Brazilian evangelicals and Catholics tend to interpret religious doctrine in ways that promote environmental concern. However, religious institutions vary greatly in the extent to which they take action based on their environmental theologies. Through print journalism, this project will leverage current connections with reporters in the United States and Brazil, while connecting with current climate change communication efforts to promote a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between religion and the environment.

Associate Professor, Political Science, Iowa State University  -  Religion and Climate Change in Brazil: The Deluge and the Desert