Seed grants break new research ground

Apocalypticism. Climate Change. Moral Capital. Refugees.

With a combination of Center seed funding and external support, the Center is launching a series of faculty seminars and research projects to address these and other challenges. These new projects engage faculty and graduate students in collaborations that cut across disciplinary boundaries and advance new scholarship and public engagement. 

“Apocalypticism, Climate Change, and the American Imagination” brings together the Global Futures Laboratory and Narrative Storytelling Initiative into a new Center collaboration. Led by religious studies professors Gaymon Bennett and Tracy Fessenden and journalism professor Steven Beschloss, the project aims to strengthen understanding and generate new stories about the power of apocalyptic narratives and other religious visions to shape responses to the climate crisis.

Philosophy professor Joan McGregor and religious studies professor Tracy Fessenden will lead a faculty seminar on “Recovering Our Moral Capital” that will further the Center’s work on religion and civic life. Funded by the National Institute for Civil Discourse, the seminar which includes faculty from a variety of fields and different political and intellectual orientations. The goal is to explore the role that civility, moral values, and civic norms and practices play in American life. In a complementary project beginning in 2020, faculty affiliates and journalists will team up to explore the moral and civic foundations of democratic life with “Recovering Truth: Religion, Journalism and Democracy in a Post-Truth Era.”

The Center has provided seed funding for two projects related to our work in religion and peace studies. In his new project, “Strangers in Our Midst: Muslim Refugees in South Asia,” religious studies professor and Center faculty affiliate Chad Haines  will advance research in Pakistan and India on the cultural values held by communities towards strangers, particularly refugees designated as “other.” This research is part of a larger, collaboration with Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies Yasmin Saikia that explores the history and politics of coexistence different ethnic and religious populations in South Asia.

Sujey Vega (School of Social Transformation) and Christiane Reves (School of International Letters and Cultures) are leading the project “Faith-Based Responses to Migrants and Refugees.” Their research explores global questions on migration by comparing the role faith-based networks play in responding to migrants and refugees in Berlin, Germany, and Phoenix, Arizona. This seed grant continues the Center’s commitment to these issues as previously demonstrated in the critical work of sociology professor Douglas Kelley, a 2018 seed grant winner.

Political scientist David Siroky also received seed funding for “The Etiology of Violence in Cultures of Honor,” aproject that develops a theory of about the role honor plays in conflict—an often overlooked factor in conflict studies. Siroky looks at how insults to honor, and the need to restore it through blood revenge, can be a major factor in violence. Contrary to certain assumptions, religion is not an essential feature of honor killings and blood revenge.

In addition to these projects, 2020 will also see the expansion of long-standing and cutting-edge work on religion, science and technology with a new grant from the Templeton Religion Trust.

Since its inception, the Center has awarded over $260,000 in seed funding that has generated nearly $8 million in externally funded grants. More importantly, these investments promote the growth of new ideas, new methods, and new responses to the complex array of challenges in contemporary global life.