Luce/ACLS Fellows in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs University Grantees

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.

2017 University Grantees

Arizona State University

Principal Investigators: John D. Carlson (Religious Studies), Kristin Grady Gilger (Journalism), Anand Gopal (Sociology/Journalism)
Religion, Journalism, and Democracy: Strengthening Vital Institutions of Civil Society

Democracy and the institutions on which it depends are being tested today in ways unseen in recent decades. Populist movements are sweeping across the globe, while authoritarian regimes challenge democratic norms once taken for granted. Key institutions of civil society—the academy, press, and religious organizations—can serve as bulwarks that protect democratic principles. Notwithstanding their distinct missions, they protect democracy when they reinforce one another. Unfortunately, the gap between religion scholarship and the media is wider than ever. Journalists lack training in how to cover religion stories, while religion scholars need skills to share their knowledge effectively with journalists and the public. The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University are spearheading an initiative to remedy these shortcomings. This project brings together journalists, religion scholars, and faculty from multiple disciplines to participate in workshops, seminars, and courses in which they will exchange insights and expertise from their respective fields. The project bolsters the voices of journalists and scholars while also exploring how religious actors and organizations contribute to democratic culture—locally, nationally, and as part of global civil society.

Northwestern University

Principal Investigators: Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Political Science) and Brannon D. Ingram (Religious Studies)
Talking “Religion”: Publics, Politics, and the Media

This project—Talking “Religion”: Publics, Politics, and the Media—is motivated by two overarching and intersecting questions: How can scholars and journalists doing cutting-edge work on religion, politics, and public life communicate their findings to, and learn from, each other? And how can they communicate their work and its insights to a variety of public audiences in a way that is accessible and appealing without sacrificing nuance and complexity? With this grant, Northwestern University is establishing a basis for sustained collaboration and exchange between Northwestern faculty in the humanities and social sciences and faculty in journalism, and between both faculties and the public at large. This mutually beneficial collaboration provides scholars of religion with new avenues for publicizing their work, and offers journalists new ways of understanding, theorizing, and conceptualizing religion in their reporting. This is being carried out through a range of programs: a workshop on “talking religion,” a master class on religion and the media, visiting speakers, a team-taught undergraduate course, and graduate religion and media fellowships. These activities build on and expand connections that have already been fostered between scholars in the humanities and social sciences and journalism faculty by Northwestern’s interdisciplinary research group, Global Politics and Religion, within the Buffett Institute for Global Studies.

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Principal Investigators: Susan B. Ridgely (Religious Studies) and Michael W. Wagner (Journalism)
Interactive Skill Building to Improve Religious and International Affairs Storytelling in Local Journalism

In an era when religion has a vital role in foreign and domestic policy, religious studies scholars and journalism professors alike often feel frustrated with the superficial reporting on issues involving religion and international relations in local news coverage because it impedes citizens’ ability to thoroughly understand how religious beliefs and practices influence multiple levels of policymaking. This Luce/ACLS grant supports a two-year series of workshops to address these issues. The workshops are alternately led by School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) faculty and religious studies faculty and offer local journalists as well as SJMC faculty and graduate students a deeper understanding of how religious beliefs and practices are influencing the actors in national and international events. Simultaneously, religious studies faculty learn journalistic techniques of story writing to develop their op-ed writing ability, foster connections with various local journalists, and learn to be effective sources for stories about international affairs. Each academic year will end with two mini-conferences in which faculty experts will work together to foster interdisciplinary research collaboration, curricular development in the SJMC’s MA reporting program, and improved depth and breadth of reporting about religion and international affairs among local journalists.

2016 University Grantees

Columbia University

Sufis, Salafis, and the Public Square
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.

Indiana University

Perceptions of Religion
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. 

Northeastern University

Reporting Religion
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.