Twelve UC Berkeley Graduate Students Awarded 2015 Summer Research Grants in Religion


The Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion (BCSR), an academic center for independent and innovative research in religion, announces the twelve recipients of the 2015 Graduate Student Summer Research Grants. These projects explore a rich variety of topics in religion, from transnational Sufi practices to Puritan theology to the influence of religion on post-war military operations. The twelve recipients were drawn from a competitive pool of promising proposals received from an open call to UC Berkeley graduate students. Over $58,000 in awards was distributed.

“Berkeley graduate students pursue the most creative, interdisciplinary work on religion anywhere – we are delighted to support such an innovative group of projects in field all across the humanities and social sciences.” – BCSR Co-Directors Mark Csikszentmihalyi and Jonathan Sheehan

The following twelve students and their research projects were awarded:

Kris Anderson, Buddhist Studies
Anderson’s research focuses on the development over time of the Sarvadurgatipariśodhana tantra and its related ritual literature and practice traditions in Indian, Newar, and Tibetan Buddhism. She will spend the first part of the summer doing additional research in Kathmandu, Nepal, where she has been based for the past year. In the remainder of the summer she will visit the Royal Asiatic Society Library in the U.K. to obtain and work with additional relevant manuscripts held there.

Youssef J. Carter, Anthropology
This summer, Carter plans to continue an ethnographic study of the way in which bodily performances play a part in the dissemination of knowledge and recognition of spiritual authority for Muslims of varying African descent who are part of a transnational Senegalese Sufi tradition – the Mustafawiyy Tariqa. Designed primarily as a multisite project that takes place in both Moncks Corner, South Carolina and in the country of Senegal (particularly in Thiés and Dakar), this project will attend to how language plays a part in interactions between students, and between student and teacher, in order to determine whether, and to what extent, the use of Wolof (for example) in common speech with and among Wolof-speakers and non-Wolof speakers in South Carolina informs how Muslims of varying ethnicities imagine themselves as a members of a widening diasporic network. This study will shed light upon how people and materials themselves move between varying sites of pilgrimage and how a shared sense of spiritual cultivation bears upon students within the Sufi order as they strive to increase their own religious knowledge. Secondly, Carter will gain a deeper sense of the relationships between people, place and history, in relation to questions of embodiment, remembrance, and healing practices.

Kathryn Crim, Comparative Literature
Crim’s dissertation, “Mobile Reformations: Faith and the Counterfeit in Early Modern Writing,” is a comparative reevaluation of the relationship between iconic and evidential reading in 16th and 17th century English and French literature. With the support of the Summer Research Grant, she will do archival work at the British Library and the Royal Society, in London, and at the Bibliothèque Nationale, in Paris; and visit churches and other sites of post-Reformation iconoclasm in London, Exeter, and the Isle of Wight.

Katherine Ding, English
Ding is interested in the insistent call for honesty throughout William Blake’s works as terrain for rethinking this term without resorting to an essentialist concept of a “true self.” In the wake of the postmodern deconstruction of the subject’s authenticity how can honesty and sincerity still be meaningful? Can honesty signal something other than the mark of its own erasure, the lament for its own impossibility? This summer, Ding will be visiting the Blake holdings at the Fitzwilliam Museum, the British Library and the British Museum to prepare for two chapters that respectively explore Blake’s concept of confession without subjectivity and embodied inspiration that deactivates the demand for self-possession which currently undergirds all notions of sincerity as an exhibition of one’s true self or real intentions. (Yeary Endowment)

Maggie Elmore, History
Elmore’s dissertation, “‘Building Community through Politics’: the Church, the State, and Ethnic Mexicans in the US Southwest, 1933-1986” examines the impact of the symbiotic relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the US federal government on ethnic Mexicans. In addition, the project shows how ethnic Mexicans made strategic use of that relationship to combat political, economic, and social inequality. She will spend the summer in Washington, DC, conducting research at the Catholic University of America, the archival headquarters for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Kathryn Heard, Jurisprudence and Social Policy
With the support of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, Heard will conduct archival research aimed at elucidating: 1) how legal actors use discourses of reason to regulate the public life of religion in liberal democracies and 2) what impact this has on the material and metaphysical lives of devout individuals. By examining the depositions, oral arguments, and personal correspondence pertaining to three key Supreme Court cases, she will endeavor to show how the positive public accommodation of religious conduct rests on the practitioners’ performance of a particular – and ultimately disenfranchising – form of secular reason. (Yeary Endowment)

Jason Klocek, Political Science
Klocek’s dissertation examines the impact of religion on the strategic decision making of counterinsurgent forces, with a focus on British operations during the early post-war period. It demonstrates how military planners’ perceptions of religion shapes both the way they construe and fight rebel groups. This summer he will collect and analyze new micro-level quantitative and qualitative data on the Cyprus and Kenya Emergencies from several military archives in the United Kingdom. These data will contribute to chapters on each conflict, respectively.

Sara Ludin, Jurisprudence and Social Policy
Ludin’s dissertation examines the Protestant Reformation in the early modern German lands at the level of dispute resolution in courts. At the center of these cases between clergy and reforming princes and magistracies was a question intended to clarify the jurisdictional competence of a court in a given case: is the dispute a “matter of religion” (Religionsache)? Ludin’s dissertation uses case files to consider how routine modalities of settling individual disputes produced “religion” as a modern legal category. This summer, Ludin will travel to several archives in Germany to continue reading case files.

Milad Odabaei, Anthropology
Milad Odabaei’s research concerns the practices of reading and translation of Western though in modern Iran. He examines the contemporary post-Revolutionary translation efforts in contradistinction to translation in nineteenth century Iran prior to the Constitutional Revolution, and in the twentieth century around the 1979 Revolution. His research thematizes translation in relation to the Shi’a Islamic tradition, and its forms of religious critique, and ijtehad (“learned judgment”) in the modern period. Drawing on the support of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, he will be conducting ethnographic and archival research and writing in Tehran and Qom, Iran.

Spencer Strub, English and Medieval Studies
Strub’s dissertation, Publishing before Print: Sins of the Tongue and the Public of Middle English Poetry, explores how a commonplace of medieval Christian religious instruction, the so-called “sins of the tongue,” came to play a central role in late medieval English poets’ sense of their own vocation and audience. Strub will travel this summer to the Bodleian Library, the British Library, and the Cambridge University Library, where his research will focus on manuscripts of catechetical and pastoral writing on speech.

Rachel Trocchio, English
My dissertation considers how Puritan literature produced ways of thinking that manifest its particular theology of grace. Specifically, it asks how a people who held that God determined one’s salvation or damnation before the beginning of time endeavored to represent both divine majesty and the failure of human intellection. Exploring the work and function of that representation across generation and literary form in the writing of Thomas Hooker, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards, I suggest that failure becomes visible as a distinctly Puritan idea when we attend to the styles it engenders, both of rhetoric, and through rhetoric, of thought. (Yeary Endowment)

Hannah Waits, History
Waits’ dissertation, “Missionary Positions: American Evangelicals and the Transnational History of the Culture Wars,” is the first comprehensive history of US missionaries in the late twentieth century, and the project explores a paradox – how did white US Christians become more progressive in their critiques of racial hierarchies, yet more conservative in their politics of gender and sex? By examining post-colonial changes in the Global South during the 1950s-1970s and the American culture wars of the 1960s-1990s, this project uses a transnational frame to show how the biggest domestic processes were embedded in international ones – how the US culture wars were but a local phase of a global transformation. Waits will spend the summer on research trips to conduct oral history interviews and ethnographic work in Guatemala and Honduras, and to conduct archival research in missionary organizational archives in Orlando, Florida.


Support for the BCSR Student Summer Research Grants was provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award granted to Professor Thomas Laqueur and the Frank and Leslie Yeary Endowment for Ethics in the Humanities.