Grants for Harvard Faculty

Recent Grant Recipients

The 2014 CSWR spring conference grant has been awarded to Anne Monius, Professor of South Asian Religions at HDS. The conference is titled "Studying Religion across the Disciplines," and its goal will be to initiate a lasting conversation, primarily at Harvard and in the Cambridge/Boston area, among scholars who study religion across the disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and cognitive sciences.

The 2013-14 CSWR faculty grants have been awarded to Giovanni Bazzana, Associate Professor of New Testament at HDS, and Dan McKanan, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Senior Lecturer in Divinity. Bazzana's research project is titled "Biblical Translation: Theory and Practice." McKanan's research project is titled "Worldly Magic: Bringing Esoteric Economics and Ecology into the Ethical Conversation."

Previous Grant Recipients

Faculty projects funded by Center for the Study of World Religions grants in previous years include:

Religious Videoscapes: Tourism, Media, and the Production of Transnational Santeria

Aisha Beliso-De Jesús's research examines religious discursive landscapes in Cuba. The grant supports the Ford Foundation Award that she received this year. Beliso-De Jesús will present an ethnographic study structured as a visual "tour" of the religious mobility and religious imaginations of transnational Santeria. (2011-12)

Nigerian Evangelicalism

Jacob Olupona will travel to Israel, Europe, and parts of the United States to investigate and write a book on Nigerian evangelicalism and the regional, global, and political role played by Nigerian evangelicals. A central focus of the project is to explore the transnational dimension of Nigerian evangelical movements, that is, the linkages and flows of religious ideas, cultures, and materials between Nigerians and the rest of the world. Olupona will explore features of Nigerian evangelicalism such as the literal interpretation of the Bible as the true word of God, the embrace of socially conservative beliefs and ideologies, and the commitment to mission and evangelization both within and outside the geographical space of Nigeria. As an example of the study of ethnic evangelicalism, the book will break new ground and will be a very important contribution to understanding global Christianity. (2011-12)

The Americanization of Islam

Jane I. Smith was awarded a grant to continue work with her longstanding colleague Yvonne Haddad of Georgetown University. They will collect, analyze, and describe various forms of Islamic literature produced in the United States and examine how these efforts are contributing to the emergence of an "American Islam." The materials that Smith and Haddad will examine include categories such as the Qur'an and its interpretation (for example, in the United States, the Qur'an is read mostly in English, and includes official versions as well as feminist translations), pluralism (on whether or not Islam as a religion allows for pluralism or whether the Qur'an can be considered pluralistic), gender (on how an American Islam for American women allows them to negotiate the demands of religion and culture), Fiqh for minorities (the implementation of Sharia in contexts that are not Islamic), and interfaith issues (on demonstrating the openness of Islam to interfaith dialogue). (2011-12)

The Enigma of Anteriority

Michael Jackson's book project, begun with an earlier CSWR grant and to be published this year, will be supported in its final stages of editing. The book is a set of reflections on the idea of firstness, that is, the hold that stories of origin have over individual lives. Blending ethnography, history, philosophy, and literature, the book touches on the ways that personal stories are interwoven with social and historical events. (2011-12)

A Poetics of Difficulty: Attention and Engagement in Contemporary American Poetry

Amy Hollywood, Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Studies, HDS, along with HDS students and others, explored the close correlations between contemporary poetic practice and religious practices of reading and writing. Through the generation of an annotated bibliography, a faculty-student-community workshop, and visits from poets, the project team worked toward an understanding of the relationship between these practices. Please visit the Poetics of Difficulty website for more details. (2010-11)

Learning and Teaching about Islam and Muslim Civilizations: Piloting a Peer-Scholar Model with Middle and Secondary School Teachers

Diane L. Moore, Professor of the Practice in Religious Studies and Education, HDS, collaborated with several others to create a pilot teacher education initiative aimed at providing public school educators with the content and skills required to teach about religion (Islam for this pilot) in intellectually responsible and constitutionally sound ways. The project built on previous efforts in this area by Moore and Ali S. Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim Languages and Culture, Harvard University, and continued their work together. The Harvard Extension School and the Outreach Center of Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies also supported the project. (2010-11)

Collaborations in the History of Religions in Asia

James Robson, Associate Professor of Chinese Buddhism, FAS (East Asian Languages and Civilizations) and Charles Stang, Assistant Professor of Early Christian Thought, HDS, collaborated with Max Deeg, director, Centre for the History of Religion in Asia (CHRA), Cardiff University, during the fall semester. Deeg gave a public lecture, participated in Robson's graduate student seminar, and consulted with Stang over their respective interests in the eighth-century Nestorian stele of Xi'an (a facsimile of which hangs in the CSWR lobby stairwell). Deeg and Stang also offered a workshop for faculty and students (HDS and FAS) on the Nestorian Christian documents from China. (2010-11)

Shaping the Third Wave of Comparative Religious Ethics: Editorial Workshop

Jonathan Schofer, Associate Professor of Comparative Ethics, HDS, in collaboration with Elizabeth Bucar, Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, UNC-Greensboro, and Aaron Stalnaker, Associate Professor, Departments of Religious Studies and of East Asian Languages and Culture, Indiana University, conducted an HDS faculty workshop to write the theoretical and historical frameworks in a new volume on comparative ethics for which the three are principal editors. The three also offered a public lecture on comparative religious ethics, discussing the centrality of cultural and moral diversity to analysis in this field. The grant also provided support for assistance in final preparation of the manuscript for the edited volume. This further developed the work in comparative ethics begun at the CSWR with the 2008-09 themed series, "Moral Worlds and Religious Subjectivities," and continued in 2010 with workshops led by the editors. (2010-11)

Postcolonial-Gender-Race-Queer Theory in Practical Theology Consultation

Susan Abraham, Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies, HDS, convened a closed consultation to examine the significance of critical theory, particularly developments arising from considerations of gender, race, sexual orientation, and colonialism as they intersect the teaching of Christianity in the formation of ministry students in a pluralistic world. Collaborators on the project include Wonhee Anne Joh, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary; Kwok Pui-lan, Episcopal Divinity School; Stephanie Mitchem, University of South Carolina; Mayra Rivera, Pacific School of Religion; and Laurel Schneider, Chicago Theological Seminary. They are continuing their conversations about this topic. (2009-10)

Translating the Tiruvaymoli of Satakopan: Preliminary Collaboration

Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology, HDS, collaborated with Archana Venkatesan, Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature and Religious Studies Programs, University of California, Davis, in translating Tiruvaymoli from Tamil to English. This important medieval Hindu text, consisting of 1102 verses in Tamil, is the most important work of Srivaisnava Hinduism, with significance for the larger Indian devotional tradition. It covers a wide range of themes and genres, including philosophical reflection on the nature of God and language about God, ways of approach to God, divine action in myth and avatara, holy temples and pilgrimage sites and, using the genre of ancient Tamil love poetry, the experience of a woman and her beloved as illumining the drama of the divine-human relationship. A good English translation, both accurate and poetic, has long been desired, and this collaborative project aimed at meeting this need. (2009-10)

Teaching Pluralism: Case Studies for the Theological and Religious Studies Classroom

Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, FAS, member of the Faculty of Divinity, and the Pluralism Project staff in consultation with others, continued work funded by an earlier faculty grant on using the case-study method in teaching pluralism. The grant funded student research on four additional cases and two workshops and include collaboration with Rabbi Justus Baird of Auburn Theological Seminary and other religious leaders. (2009-10)

Christianity along the Silk Road

Charles Stang, Assistant Professor of Early Christian Thought, HDS, developed new curricula in world Christianity, focusing on the history of the Church of the East, with attention to premodern Christian communities in Persia, India, Central Asia, China, Tibet, and Mongolia. The grant funded research assistance, research travel, and visits to Harvard by Dr. Christoph Baumer, Dr. Sidney Griffith, and others. Professor Stang also gave a public lecture on the so-called Nestorian monument, an eighth-century Chinese stone commemorating a seventh-century mission to China by East Syrian Christians. A facsimile of the monument hangs in the CSWR lobby. Professor Stang eventually hopes to extend his research to other religious traditions along the Silk Road. (2009-10)

Revisiting Village Christian and Hindu Culture

John Carman, Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Religion Emeritus, HDS, collaborated with Dr. Chilkuri Vasantha Rao of the Andhra Christian Theological College in Hyderabad to study the interaction between Christians and Hindus in villages in the Wadiaram Pastorate, Church of South India. The project, primarily consisting of interviews with villagers, explored developments in daily life, religious activities, and spiritual beliefs to update the 1959 research captured in the book Village Christians and Hindu Culture, by P. Y. Luke and Carman. The findings of the study was also the basis for a collaborative spring 2009 HDS course entitled "Christian-Hindu Interaction in Some South Indian Villages," cotaught with Dr. Vasantha Rao, CSWR Senior Visiting Fellow for that semester. (2008-09)

Televised Redemption: Media and Social Change in the African Diaspora

Marla Frederick, Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and of the Study of Religion, Department of African and African American Studies, FAS, traveled to South Africa to observe the first globalized Mega Fest Conference organized by televangelist T. D. Jakes to further her research on the influence of African American televangelists in the African diaspora. Additionally, she hosted a four-day meeting at the CSWR with anthropologists John Jackson, Associate Professor of Communication and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, and Carolyn Rouse, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Princeton University, on their collaborative book project on religious broadcasting. The meeting was held in April 2010 and included a public brown bag luncheon panel discussion. (2008-09)

Buddhist Resources for Womanist Reflection

Charles Hallisey, Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, HDS, held an invitational weekend workshop, where womanist writers, black Buddhists, black humanists, and Buddhism scholars read and discussed selected Buddhist texts collectively for the purpose of exploring how they might complement and enrich womanist concerns and studies. Building on this workshop, Hallisey will produce a volume of Buddhist texts and interpretive essays on them in collaboration with a womanist colleague, Melanie Harris, Assistant Professor, Texas Christian University. (2008-09)

A New Global History of Christianity

David Hempton, Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies, HDS, conducted research on Christianity from 1650 to 1830 for the volume he is contributing to the new seven-volume History of Christianity. The volume is comprehensive and multidimensional in scope, covering Christianity throughout the world as practiced by persons from all social strata and including women and children. The extensive use of secondary sources required the work of a research assistant. Professor Hempton presented some of his thinking for the book at an informal CSWR faculty session. (2008-09)

Navigating the Past: Firstness and Secondness as Antipodean Tropes

In Australia and New Zealand, indigenous peoples typically invoke notions of first settlement in making claims for recognition and social justice. Such arguments reflect a universal strategy of giving legitimacy to present claims and convictions by prioritizing the past as cause, genesis, or origin. The same thinking finds expression in adopted children's desire to know their birth parents, in narrative sequencing, in our preoccupation with genealogical, geographical, and genetic backgrounds, and in our notion of childhood as formative years. In the course of conversations with his antipodean interlocutors, Michael D. Jackson, Distinguished Visiting Professor in World Religions, HDS, was led to ask whether there is really something about first experiences that makes all that follows pale in comparison. The field research from this project suggests that we conserve the past even as we bring the new into being, and that analytical models that make hard and fast distinctions between cause and effect, fate and free will do not do justice to the complexities of the human struggle to strike a balance between that which we can and cannot change. This project continues Jackson's exploration of questions of separation and loss with particular focus on indigenous communities and will form the basis of new HDS courses and a book. (2008-09)

Historical and Contemporary Responses to Battering: A Comparative Religious Perspective

Beverly Kienzle, John H. Morison Professor of the Practice in Latin and Romance Languages, HDS, collaborated with Nancy Nienhuis, Dean of Students and Community Life, Andover Newton Theological School, and HDS students to research contemporary narratives of violence against women, the role of religious texts in those narratives, and the response of religious communities. The scholars extended their previous work concentrating on Christianity to include Muslim and Jewish communities in the United States. They convened a panel on the topic open to the community, with local ministers from those three religious traditions. The research will also be used to complete a book draft and a proposed HDS course. (2008-09)

Religious Leadership in Central European Democracies: Rethinking Collaboration and Resistance

Ronald F. Thiemann, Bussey Professor of Theology, Harvard Divinity School, travelled to Toronto, the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic to examine religious leadership in the Czech and Slovak Republics prior to the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" in order to undertake a reconsideration of the ethical categories of "religious resistance and collaboration." The project documented the ethical behavior of key religious figures in pre-and post-revolutionary Czechoslovakia and further refined the ethical categories used to analyze that behavior. Professor Jan Sokol, one of the sources for this research, was named the CSWR Senior Visiting Fellow for fall 2009. (2007-08)

Medical Ethics in Pastoral Care

Cheryl A. Giles, Peabody Professor of the Practice in Pastoral Care and Counseling, Harvard Divinity School, hosted a spring 2008 roundtable discussion of religious leaders and scholars from the U.S. and Germany in order to examine the critical ethical issues facing healthcare chaplains and providers across major religious and spiritual traditions. Collaborating with the pastoral care department at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Frankfurt, Giles has helped form a task force to examine this important topic. One fruit of this work is a collection of essays, Medical Ethics in Health Care Chaplaincy, published in 2009 by LIT Publishers. (2007-08)

Teaching Pluralism: Case Studies for the Theological and Religious Studies Classroom

With the aid of the Pluralism Project staff, Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Member of the Faculty of Divinity, distilled some of the research and thinking of the Pluralism Project into case studies for the theological and religious studies classroom. Professor Eck also convened two mini-conferences on using the cases for teaching. Case studies such as those examining controversies over construction of a mosque in a Midwestern town and requests for accommodation for the religious beliefs of Somali taxi drivers enable students—and teachers—to grapple with some of the important issues that society faces in confronting the challenges of religious pluralism. This work will continue through a grant from the Ford Foundation and has been used at Harvard and at Auburn Seminary. (2007-08)

Sacred Knowledge, Sacred Power, and Performance: Ifa Divination in West Africa and the African Diaspora

Jacob K. Olupona, Professor of African Religious Traditions at HDS with a joint appointment as Professor of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, convened a multidisciplinary conference in the spring 2008 with multiple sponsors—including the CSWR and the Committee on African Studies—in order to explore the corpus of knowledge and meaning in the Ifa divination practice and tradition of the West African and African diaspora communities. Ifa divination process and textual materials provide an overarching paradigm for understanding Yoruba political, social, economic, artistic, and religious life. The conference investigated how the interpretation of Ifa divination may generate new insights into African cosmology, ritual practices, healing, arts, and the very meaning of transcendence and the sacred in African culture and society. (2007-08)

Curriculum, Canon, and Interpretive Authority in the Madrasahs of Pakistan

Shahab Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Committee on the Study of Religions, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, studied the curricula of madrasahs in Pakistan to identify what constitutes canonical bodies of knowledge within those curricula. He also explored how the respective canons create competing authoritative claims about normative Islam in the public sphere and the attitude of madrasahs to interpretive difference. Professor Ahmed reported on his research in a talk at the CSWR in the fall of 2008. (2007-08)

Justice and Mercy in Jewish and Christian Tradition and American Criminal Law

Sarah Coakley, former Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity at HDS, and Carol Steiker, Howard J. and Katherine W. Aibel Professor of Law and special advisor for public service at Harvard Law School (HLS), collaborated on a joint research, teaching, and publication project to investigate the religious roots and points of interaction of religion with contemporary legal issues of mercy, justice, punishment, and atonement. The project, co-funded by HLS, included one public lecture and a one day conference, held in spring 2007. The connection to the study of religion was focused on the concept of "mercy," its religious connotations, and its increasing importance in contemporary legal debate. (2006-07)

From Roman to Early Christian Thessalonikē: A Conference on Religion and Archaeology

Laura Nasrallah, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at HDS, convened an interdisciplinary conference focused on questions of social, political, and religious life in Roman and early Christian Thessalonikē, foregrounding material culture. With additional support from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and the University of Texas, Austin, the May 2007 conference brought together Greek archaeologists, international specialists on the topic of Thessalonikē in antiquity, and scholars in the classics, the religions of antiquity, and New Testament Studies. (2006-07)

Race and Ethnicity and Early Christian Studies: A Symposium

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Stendahl Professor of Divinity, HDS, convened a conference on race and ethnicity in New Testament and Early Christian studies in collaboration with Laura Nasrallah, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, HDS. The spring 2007 conference and its proceedings generated new data and new methods for the study of race and ethnicity; encouraged reconsideration of the discipline of Early Christian studies and New Testament; and underscored the importance of the categories of race and ethnicity to the study of religion as a whole, both in antiquity and today. (2006-07)

Maori and Biotechnology: The Logic of Belief and the Theory of Practice

Michael D. Jackson, Distinguished Visiting Professor in World Religions, HDS, researched the ways that New Zealand Maori experience biotechnological interventions in their everyday lives, including the interplay between actual practices and core beliefs concerning the sanctity of life-forms whose essences should not be mixed. (2005-06)

The Harvard Divinity School Study on Teaching About Religion in the Schools (H‑STARS)

Diane Moore, Professor of the Practice in Religious Studies and Education and director of the Program in Religious Studies and Education at HDS, collected data about the incorporation of the study of religion in secondary school curricula. With the assistance of Ali S. Asani, Professor of the Practice of Indo-Muslim Languages and Culture, Harvard University, she also facilitated a training initiative for local educators to introduce them to the academic study of religion through the lens of Islam, paying particular attention to the diversity of political, cultural, social, and religious expressions that are represented in the tradition. (2004-06)

Towards an Intellectual History of Religion in Southern Asia: Kashmir at the End of the First Millennium, 800-1100

Parimal G. Patil, Assistant Professor of the Study of Religion and of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University, created this lecture series as the first part of a project that seeks to understand the ways in which intellectuals belonging to different sectarian groups, primarily Hindu and Buddhist, interacted with each other in premodern South Asia. (2005-06)