Religion & International Affairs
News & Events
Selected Project Profiles
News & Events
Duke University Press publishes “Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Genealogies”
Duke University Press has published a special issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly, entitled “Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Genealogies.” By examining the contexts in which the right to religious liberty emerged in early modern Europe, in liberal political thought, during the Cold War, and in contemporary American evangelical movements, the special issue questions dominant narratives of this right as a universally shared and fundamentally neutral principle. Other essays focus on the emergence and exercise of the right to religious liberty in South Asia and the Middle East. “Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Genealogies” was edited by Professors Saba Mahmood and Peter Danchin, two organizers of the University of California, Berkeley's “Politics of Religious Freedom” Project, which a received three-year grant from the Luce Foundation in 2010.
Conference examines “Media and Religion: The Global View”
On January 9th-12th, the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado, Boulder, hosted the fifth in a biennial series of conferences designed to explore the intersection of media and religion. The presentations included research papers from 13 countries. A plenary session on “Religion and Digital Media: Scholarship, Journalism and the Spaces in Between,” was organized by the Social Sciences Research Council and supported by a special grant from Luce Foundation to the University of Colorado. The session included editors, writers, and scholars who are using the online environment as a new context for the dissemination of knowledge and discussions about the changing world of religion. The Center’s next conference, focusing on media, religion, and gender, is planned for January, 2016, also in Boulder.
News series “Fault Lines of Faith” to screen in Washington, D.C.
The Bureau for International Reporting will host two screenings of “Fault Lines of Faith: Reporting from Myanmar, Bosnia and Northern Ireland” in Washington D.C. this February, the first on February 5th at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the second on February 10th at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs.
Part of a series created for PBS NewsHour, "Fault Lines of Faith" features recent reporting from Myanmar, where greater levels of political freedom have given rise to strife between Buddhist nationalists and the country’s Muslim minority. Comparing these events to religious tension in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, reporters Kira Kay and Jason Maloney explore how sectarian conflict often has origins in long-term political marginalization and in questions of national identity. The Bureau of International Reporting received a two-year grant from the Luce Foundation in 2011 for reporting on religion and international affairs.
(Courtesy of Human Rights Watch)
Two Luce grant recipients report on religious controversy in Egypt
Luce Foundation grantee Public Radio International (PRI) has featured a piece this week by a fellow Luce grantee, Faith Matters, covering efforts by the Egyptian government to control the country’s small, private mosques. The broadcast details how Egypt’s minister of Religious Affairs has revoked the preaching licenses of tens of thousands of imams, requiring that all licensed imams be graduates of the historic university Al-Azhar. Commentators speculate that the regulations are politically minded, since Al-Azhar, like the military-backed government, opposes the Muslim Brotherhood. Faith Matters received a three-year grant from the Luce Foundation in 2013 for its radio magazine, Interfaith Voices; Public Radio International’s program “The World” received a three-year grant in 2011 to increase coverage of religion and international affairs.
Natasja Sheriff receives the Investigative Fund’s Stone Award
Natasja Sheriff, a Luce Research Fellow at the NYU Center for Religion and Media, has been selected to receive the Investigative Fund’s Stone Award for emerging journalists. The Investigative Fund, an organization devoted to improving the scope and quality of American investigative reporting, will provide funding and editorial guidance for Sheriff as she develops a story on U.S. mining regulations. Sheriff, who serves as the international editor at The Revealer, presented a paper on the rise of independent news coverage in Malaysia at NYU’s “Religion in the Digital Age” conference earlier this year. The Center for Religion and Media received a two-year grant from the Luce Foundation in 2011.
New report calls for pluralism in campaigns for women’s rights
The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict has released “Religion and International Affairs: Through the Prism of Right and Gender.” The report features a multidisciplinary series of essays that examine the role that religion plays in global discussions of gender rights. One common theme of the report is the need for flexibility and pluralism in the pursuit of legal reform. Many contributors challenge the “presumption that rights and religion are antithetical,” and instead argue that religion can be an important factor in securing authentic local involvement in major social changes. Carolyn Warner, co-director of the project and head of the political science faculty at Arizona State University, notes that “The human rights community seems to have fallen into the trap of thinking that religious traditions, doctrines and practices are static and permanent, [but] religious beliefs and traditions can be vital to supporting women’s rights.”
International Town Hall explores political Islam in Egypt’s path to democracy
This October’s episode of the documentary radio series America Abroad connected panelists in Los Angeles and Cairo to examine the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, popular religion, and the military on Egypt’s nascent and fragile democracy. Co-hosted by America Abroad’s Madeline Brand and Egyptian channel ONTV host Ramy Radwan, the town hall included commentary from Sarah Eltantawi, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley specializing in political Islam, from Raouf Saad, Former Assistant to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, and from the live audiences in Cairo and Los Angeles. America Abroad, which broadcasts on public radio stations nationwide, has received three grants from the Luce Foundation since 2007 to support public radio programming on religion and international affairs.
NYU hosts Religion in the Digital Age Conference
On September 27th-28th, New York University’s Center for Religion and Media hosted Religion in the Digital Age II: Mediating the Human in a Globalizing Asia.” The conference focused on the roles of religion and digital media in Asian political movements, exploring how digital platforms - ranging from cell phone communication to international news coverage - can amplify, distort, or transform religious messages and religion’s role in political protests. The Center for Religion and Media received a two-year grant from the Luce Foundation in 2011.
Brooklyn Law School hosts Religious Freedom and Equal Treatment: An International Look
On October 11th and 12th, Brooklyn Law School hosted the conference, Religious Freedom and Equal Treatment: An International Look. The event brought together members of the academic and advocacy communities to look at the tensions between religious liberty and equal treatment. Attendees discussed theoretical and practical approaches to navigating these tensions, with a particular emphasis on differing international points of view. The event was co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, Brooklyn Law School and its Journal of Law and Policy, the newly-formed International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations, and the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice in the Information Society Project at Yale Law School.
Journalism Fellows Share Experience of Working on Religious Issues Overseas
On October 15th, the International Reporting Project welcomed back five recipients of the IRP Fellowship in International Journalism, who spoke about their experience reporting on religious issues overseas. Their projects ranged from Los Angeles Times reporter Kate Linthicum’s examination of Buddhist-Muslim tensions in Burma, to radio reporter Rowan Moore Gerety’s investigation of faith healing in Nigeria, to freelance journalist Liana Aghajanian’s report on Iranian refugees in Germany. The New Yorker has recently featured a piece by one participant, Katie Orlinsky, which describes Timbuktu’s efforts to return to a semblance of normal life following a year of occupation by Islamist insurgents. The International Reporting Project, housed at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, provides opportunities to U.S. journalists to go overseas to report on critical issues that are under covered in the U.S. news media. The School of Advanced International Studies received a three-year grant in 2012 to strengthen media coverage of religion and international affairs.
Workshop on “Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices,” Northwestern University
The capstone workshop of a three-year project on the "Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices," will be held at Northwestern University on October 17-18, 2013. The project, funded by a grant from the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs (to the University of California, Berkeley), has engaged academics, jurists and policy makers in a series of global conferences to look at differing international conceptions and practices of religious liberty. This final workshop will include a series of roundtable discussions on critical themes and topics that have emerged in the course of the project, including an attempt to find new, multinational ways of posing and considering questions involving religion and the law. The workshop will feature a panel of junior scholars working on the topic, as well as a presentation of legal cases and commentaries involving religious freedom that have been compiled as part of the project.
India China Institute hosts conference on religion and sustainability in the Himalaya
On March 7-8, 2013, the India China Institute (ICI) at the New School in Manhattan hosted a two-day conference to examine changing religious and environmental practice in the Himalaya region. The conference, entitled Everyday Religion and Sustainable Environments in the Himalaya and supported by a grant from the Luce Foundation, brought together together over 40 international scholars for sessions addressing Identity, Materiality, and Health; Practice in Sacred Landscapes; and Connections, Provocations and Policy. Speakers included Elizabeth Alison, Anil Chitrakar, Mukta Singh Lama, Charles Ramble, and Eklabya Sharma as well as ICI fellows Li Bo, Georgina Drew, and Mahendra Lama.
“The Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices” hosts a workshop in Cairo
The third international workshop of this project, based at the University of California, Berkeley, took place in Cairo in January 2013. The meeting opened with a session devoted to the situation of the Copts in Egypt, and included representatives of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights as well as scholars. Other sessions explored comparative perspectives from India, Lebanon and South Sudan. In addition to organizing workshops and presenting papers at more than a dozen conferences, the organizers have curated a series of online essays on The Immanent Frame, and have published op-eds and articles for wider audiences in the Chicago Tribune, The Globe and Mail (Canada), and the Boston Review. Two journals will publish special issues, co-edited by project organizers, later this year.
Columbia University’s “Who’s Afraid of Shari’a?” project hosts a workshop in Paris
Among the projects supported by an HRLI grant to Columbia University is “Who’s Afraid of Shari’a?” co-sponsored by Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference (CSSD). Under the direction of anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod, a workshop was held in Paris in January 2013. Scholars and activists from Morocco, South Africa, Iraq, Turkey and Europe shared research and debated the promise and pitfalls of new forms of Muslim women’s activism in diverse political contexts, from the tense racial politics of France, to communal conflict in Iraq, to cosmopolitan gatherings in Malaysia where feminists and legal experts promote reform. The university’s new initiative, “Women Creating Change,” will include an expansion of the HRLI project, now named “Gender, Religion and Law in Muslim Societies.”
“Fault Lines of Faith” documentary screened at Council on Foreign Relations conference
The Bureau of International Reporting (BIR), whose PBS NewsHour series “Fault Lines of Faith” launched in February 2012 with support from the HRL Initiative, was invited to present its documentary on the Southern Thai insurgency at a forum this November at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC. The forum, entitled “Shadows and Mist: The Persistent Southern Thailand Insurgency, its Drivers, and its Future,” included as panelists Kira Kay, founder of BIR; Joshua Kurlantzick, CFR Fellow for Southeast Asia (a position supported by the Luce Foundation’s Asia program); and Paul Stares, Director of the Center for Preventive Action. A screening of the short film was followed by a discussion with representatives from the Thai and Malaysian embassies. Other “Fault Lines of Faith” stories have covered sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland, and the election campaign of Narendra Modi, controversial chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat.
The Other Half of Tomorrow to kick off Margaret Mead Film Festival
On November 29th, The Other Half of Tomorrow, a series of linked documentary shorts offering a portrait of contemporary Pakistani society through the eyes of Pakistani women, will debut at the opening night of the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC. The film, directed by Sadia Shepard and Samina Quraeshi, follows the lives of seven Pakistani women working to bring positive change to their communities, from the captain of the Pakistan National Women’s Cricket Team to a school principal in the embattled Swat Valley, to a dancer determined to preserve Pakistani classical dance despite a government ban on dance performance by women. Produced with a grant to the New England Foundation for the Arts, the film is part of a multi-media project focusing on the challenges of daily life in the context of religious, economic, social and political forces that are fracturing Pakistani society.
Digital Religion: Knowledge, Politics and Practice—Events at the Center for Religion and Media
Two fall events held by the Digital Religion: Knowledge, Politics and Practice project at the Center for Religion and Media at New York University place the spotlight on the Middle East. On October 11, author Amahl Bishara discusses her new book Back Stories, an examination of the contributions of Palestinian journalists to U.S. news. And on October 18, a showing of The Light in Her Eyes, a documentary about a girls’ Qur’an school in Damascus, offers viewers a window into the meaning of women’s rights advocacy in a conservative Muslim society, as well as a glimpse of pre-civil war Syria.
Symposium on Religious Exemptions in U.S. Healthcare
On October 5, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University held a one-day symposium to examine the constitutional, public policy, political, and ethical issues raised by the practice of religious exemptions, also known as “conscience clauses,” in U.S. healthcare. Religious exemptions allow healthcare professionals to refuse to perform otherwise legal medical services on account of religious beliefs or issues of conscience. The symposium, co-presented with NYU's Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, was organized as part of a larger project on Religion and Politics in the Americas.
New installment in PBS NewsHour series "Fault Lines of Faith"
A new report on sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland aired on PBS NewsHour on July 11, 2012 as part of an ongoing series highlighting international religious conflict, produced by The Bureau for International Reporting. The series, entitled "Fault Lines of Faith," began this February with a segment on religious conflict in Southern Thailand. As part of its work in Northern Ireland, the BIR has created a video diary project that aims to bridge the gap between Protestant and Catholic youth in Belfast.
International Reporting Project awards 2012 fellowships
Four journalists — Emily Brennan, Kimberly Burge, Jesse Dukes, and Alexis Okeowo — have been selected by the International Reporting Project for fellowships that will send them to Haiti, South Africa, Guatemala, and Nigeria respectively to report on religion-related topics. These journalists are the second group of IRP Fellows in two years to receive fellowships supported by a grant from the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs to promote international reporting on religion. In 2011, four other journalists were selected for HRLI-supported fellowships in Ethiopia, Ireland, Swaziland, and Thailand, and their stories were featured on the BBC, Colorado Public Radio, WAMU-FM, and various print and online publications. The IRP, based at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, has sent nearly 200 journalists to over 100 different countries since 1998.
Book Launch at Georgetown’s Berkley Center
On May 1, 2012, Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs hosted the launch of a new volume: Rethinking Religion and World Affairs (Oxford, 2012), edited by Timothy Shah, Alfred Stepan, and Monica Toft, and produced with support from the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs. The book documents how scholars, policy professionals, and journalists are now grappling with global religious dynamics and influences. The launch of the book will feature the volume's editors as well as three of its contributors: Michael Barnett (George Washington University), Thomas Farr (Berkeley Center), and Katherine Marshall (Berkeley Center). The panel will ask: How much real progress has been made in "rethinking religion and world affairs" in the worlds of scholarship and policy making? And what further progress is needed, particularly in terms of new concepts, methods, and research agendas?
Book Publication: Religion, Identity, and Global Governance
A new book, edited by Patrick James, director of the Center for International Studies at the University of Southern California, asks how we can establish when religious identity is a relevant factor in explaining or understanding politics; when and how religion can be applied to advance positive, peace-oriented agendas in global governance; and how governments can reconsider their foreign and domestic policies in light of religious resurgence around the world. Created with support from the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, Religion, Identity, and Global Governance: Ideas, Evidence, and Practice (University of Toronto Press, 2011) contends that global governance cannot and will not improve unless it can find a way to coexist with the powerful force of religion.
Conference on Religion and International Affairs at Arizona State University
The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University held a conference on March 15-16, “Religion and International Affairs: Through the Prism of Rights and Gender.” An interdisciplinary group of scholars and practitioners gathered to explore and rethink paradigms about the relationships between religion, secularism, gender, and rights. The conference was open to the public and included keynote speakers Martha Nussbaum, Saba Mahmood, and Hauwa Ibrahim. Panelists from abroad joined with ASU faculty who have been participating in an ASU project supported by the Luce Foundation, which has included faculty seminars, visiting scholars and practitioners, and interdisciplinary graduate seminars.
PBS airs first in a new series of stories from The Bureau for International Reporting
The first report in a new PBS NewsHour series, “Fault Lines of Faith,” was aired on February 21. Produced by The Bureau for International Reporting, the story focused on the insurgency in Southern Thailand, where conflict between minority Muslims and majority Buddhists has resulted in the deaths of 5,000 people since 2004.
Digital Religion: Knowledge, Politics and Practice—Events at the Center for Religion and Media
The Digital Religion: Knowledge, Politics and Practice project at the Center for Religion and Media at New York University held two spring events. “Tahrir Square, 2012: Women and Religious Minorities”—short films, digital media, and discussion with journalist Mona Eltahawy, Coptic filmmaker and scholar Viola Shafik, and Yasmin Moll (Anthropology, NYU)—was held March 1, at NYU. “Blogistan and Beyond: Religion, the Internet, and Politics in Iran,” a conversation between scholars from Columbia University, the University of London, and NYU, took place on February 17.
Students at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Complete 2011 Israel-Palestine Project
Students in Diane Winston’s Reporting on Religion class at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California went to Israel in a unique collaboration with On Being, Krista Tippett’s award-winning radio program. The graduate students’ multimedia reporting was published on the On Being blog, on a class Tumblr page, and in many major publications, and the 2011 Israel-Palestine Project now showcases their work online.
Summer School for Religion and Public Life Held in Cyprus
Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs held the 2011 Summer School for Religion and Public Life in Bulgaria. The theme, "A Mosaic of Margins: Ethnicity, Religion, and Belonging," gave fellows the opportunity to focus on problems of marginality in contemporary social life.
(Photo: Tony Schnitter)
Last year's summer institute, held in Cyprus, focused on the theme of "Divided Cities." A New York Times article about the project is available here.
SSRC Dissertation Workshop
In early June, the Social Science Research Council's program on religion and the public sphere convened twelve advanced graduate students and five distinguished professors for a five-day dissertation workshop on religion and international affairs. Over the course of the workshop, students shared their ongoing work, considered critiques from student and faculty participants, and debated the coherence of the very banner under which they had been gathered. Throughout the summer, a group of these students have been blogging regularly for The Immanent Frame, sharing notes and reflections on their emerging research, as well as other insights and questions, ruminations and observations. Read all of their contributions to Notes from the Field.
Venice Workshop Examines Politics of Religious Freedom
The “Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices,” a three-year project based at the University of California, Berkeley, and Northwestern University, held its first workshop in Venice in July 2011. A report is available here. The workshop brought together academics, human rights and civil society organizations, plus jurists and policy-makers who have helped to reshape national and international debates on religious freedom. Invited participants considered the relation between European debates and the legal governance of religious difference in other parts of the world including the Middle East, Africa, the United States, and Asia. The workshop also built on an intensive summer course on the politics of religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities co-taught by the project team at the European Inter-University Center for Human Rights and Democratization (EUIC). The project organizers were Saba Mahmood (UC-Berkeley), Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Northwestern), Winnifred Sullivan (SUNY-Buffalo Law), and Peter Danchin (University of Maryland Law).
Knight Luce Fellowship Recipients Announced
The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism announced the recipients of the 2011 Knight Luce Fellowship for Reporting on Global Religion. From a pool of more than 50 applicants, seven American journalists were chosen to receive stipends from $5,000 to $25,000 to report and write stories illuminating how religion crosses geographic, temporal and ideological borders. The fellowship is sponsored by the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California and funded by a grant from the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.
Woodrow Wilson Center Holds Seminar on Religion and Politics
On Monday, February 14, 2011, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. held a seminar entitled
“Religious Revival in the 21st Century: What Impact on Politics?” The seminar featured a diverse group of fellows supported over the past three years by a grant from the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, offering presentations on topics such as “The Counter-Jihad,” “The Appeal of the Al Qaeda Message,” “Religious Revival in China,” and “Religious Politics in Latin America.” The Woodrow Wilson Center seeks to memorialize Woodrow Wilson by providing a forum for neutral dialogue on important national and international issues.
Orfalea Center at UC-Santa Barbara Hosts Workshop on Role of Religion in Civil Society in South/Southeast Asia
On Saturday, January 15, 2011, the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies at the University of California - Santa Barbara hosted an all-day invitational workshop as part of a Luce Foundation-sponsored initiative to examine the role of religion in global civil society. This workshop brought together academic experts on South and Southeast Asia with practitioners from international NGOs working in the region to discuss the role that religion plays in civil society within this regional context.
Center on Law and Security at NYU Holds Conference on "The Constitution and National Security"
On Friday, November 5, the Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law held a conference supported by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs. The conference, titled “The Constitution and National Security: First Amendment Under Attack?”, featured scholars, journalists, policymakers, religious leaders and other experts; they explored issues such as “Free Speech and Incitement,” “The Humanitarian Law Project,” and “Islam in America.”
Berkley Center at Georgetown Releases Reports on Global Development and Faith-Inspired Organizations in Southeast Asia
Two new publications have recently been released by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University , supported by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs. “Global Development and Faith-Inspired Organizations in Southeast Asia” summarizes a conference that took place on December 14-15, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, while “Faith-Inspired Organizations and Global Development Policy” provides background information by “mapping” social and economic development work in the region. The initiative aims to explore the role of faith-based organizations in Southeast Asia, highlighting best practices and policy issues.
NYU Holds Public Conference on Religion and Politics in the Americas
On November 4-5, 2010, New York University hosted
"States of Devotion: Religion, Neoliberalism and the Politics of the Body in the Americas." The conference aimed to promote and strengthen interdisciplinary dialogue about the changing role and place of religious discourses and practices in the wake of the transformations wrought by neoliberal globalization upon communities, societies and polities across the Hemisphere. The event was part of a multi-year project on "Religion and Politics in the Americas" funded by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.
American Abroad Media Holds Roundtable on "Africa's Holy Healers"
On Friday, November 5, American Abroad Media held a roundtable discussion on Africa’s Holy Healers , its one-hour documentary on faith-based public health services and religious healers in sub-Saharan Africa. The event, held at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, was supported by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.
New School's India China Institute Holds Workshop in Kathmandu
From October 24 to 28, 2010, the New School's India China Institute (ICI) hosted the inaugural planning retreat of Everyday Religion and Sustainable Environments in the Himalayas, a project supported by the Henry Luce Foundation. The workshop took place in Kathmandu, Nepal. The project is a three-year initiative that seeks to foster interdisciplinary inquiry on the interrelationship of religion, environment, and international development in the Himalayas.
"Faith and Public Health in Africa" Featured on American Abroad Media Website
American Abroad Media's website currently features an interview with Dr. Anne Peterson on “Faith and Public Health in Africa” on its AAM Insight exclusive web interview series. AAM's Faith and Public Health program was funded by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.
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