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.

Sean Griffin
Sean Griffin  |  Abstract
This project investigates the memory politics of the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church. It documents the complex and ambivalent relations between the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate and uncovers their collaborative efforts to transform cultural memory in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, in the three decades since the disintegration of the USSR. Mikhail Zadornov once described Russia as ‘a great country with an unpredictable past’. The study explores the development of these unpredictable pasts in the post-Soviet period and shows how they are being cultivated in an attempt to legitimize the contemporary Russian political order. The Second Baptism of Rus is currently under advanced contract with the ‘Religion and Conflict Series’ at Cornell University Press.

Lecturer, Russian/Religion, Dartmouth College  -  The Second Baptism of Rus: Cultural Memory after Communism

Michael D. McNally
Michael D. McNally  |  Abstract
I am writing a book exploring Native American religions through the lens of their engagement with contested sacred lands. Specifically, the book rethinks the definitional conundrum of Native "religion" with the possibilities of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its talk of of peoplehood. Native traditions have been understood, in classrooms no less than in law, through ill-fitting modern Western categories: either the overly spiritualized discourse of "religion" or the secularized environmental discourse of "resources." This book takes shape amid a related public scholarship partnership with the Native American Rights Fund/Colorado Law joint effort to implementing UNDRIP in the United States. Through a series of clinics for the targeted professional publics most involved with the adjudication of sacred lands issues: lawyers, environmental consultants, public and tribal land managers, and environmental reporters, we aim to promote religious literacy on issues engaged more often as environmental or as a facet of climate reporting.

Professor, Religion, Carleton College  -  Religion as Peoplehood: Native Americans, the Environment, and the Sacred

Mbaye Lo
Mbaye Lo  |  Abstract
This project is about the African Muslim scholar Omar Ibn Said (1770-1863), who wrote an autobiography in Arabic in 1831 while enslaved in Bladen County, North Carolina. Recently, Omar has attracted popular attention as a striking example of the presence of Muslims in the antebellum era. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared June 3, 2019 as Omar Ibn Said day. Musician Rhiannon Giddens has been commissioned to write an opera based on this life. And the Library of Congress has created an Omar Ibn Said Collection of documents in English and Arabic. This project offers new perspectives on Omar’s life in North Carolina from 1808 through his death in 1863, and his Arabic writings that encompass 17 documents held in local and national repositories. It also examines Omar’s condensed references, omissions, quotations and Qur’anic verses to reflect a complex background in his West African and Islamicate culture. Over the course of the fellowship term, I will collaborate with journalists in North Carolina, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, South Africa, and elsewhere, to make Omar ibn Said’s life and works more accessible to both a local and global audience.

Associate Professor of the Practice, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University  -  “I Cannot Write My Life”: New Perspectives on the Life and Writings of Omar ibn Said

Yasmin Moll
Yasmin Moll  |  Abstract
The 2011 revolution unleashed both passionate concern and contention about how to create a “New Egypt.” Islamic channels were important sites of these debates as rival television preachers gave media form to their competing visions of what a virtuous life entails and what an ethical polity looks like. Based on fieldwork in Cairo with the “New Preachers” – so named because of their novel styles of Islamic media – this book explores what on and offscreen debates over the mass mediation of Islam reveal about the diverse conceptions of human flourishing and divine obligation that animate religious revivalism and revolutionary praxis alike. In doing so, it goes beyond a politics of redemption or repugnance to take seriously the social life of theology and its immanent and transcendant stakes. Through public-facing writing, this research enriches ongoing conversations about the complex intersections of religion, media and politics in a moment of resurgent authoritarianism and resistance alike.

Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  The Revolution Within: Islamic Media and the Struggle for the New Egypt

Adeline Masquelier
Adeline Masquelier  |  Abstract
This project takes seriously claims that schools in Niger are haunted. Focusing on schoolgirls possessed by spirits grieving for lost homes, it asks what the past brings along when it returns. Spirits are thought to attack girls to make it known they were evicted when the trees they lived in were cut to build schools. The eviction speaks to a broad history of iconoclasm that secured Islam’s presence in places previously centered on spirit veneration. Today the landscape is animated by the violence of the past while the harm spirits cause unfurls into the future. By examining spirit possession through the lens of time, this project considers the narratives of loss broadcast by spirits; the wider claims about the past these narratives authorize; and how these claims call into question the futures promised by education. This work will be disseminated in public writing as well as through engagement with journalists and writers who cover West Africa.

Professor, Anthropology, Tulane University  -  Haunted: Possession, Time, and the Agency of the No Longer

Hannah R. Waits
Hannah R. Waits  |  Abstract
This project analyzes the growth and influence of American evangelicals’ missionary work across the Global South, from 1945 to the present. It demonstrates how millions of Americans built their international power and how they developed the cultural and political goals that they seek to achieve through global religious activism. US evangelicals’ efforts to spread their gospel throughout a decolonizing and postcolonial world most changed their ideas and practices related to race and sexuality. Most notably, these shifts produced the spiritual blueprint for colorblind racism and transformed evangelicals from the biggest foes of AIDS victims domestically to the face of AIDS relief internationally. The results of this research will be disseminated as a book and scholarly articles, in op-eds, and through conversations with journalists who cover international NGOs in the Global South.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University  -  The Missionary Majority: American Evangelicals and Power in a Postcolonial World