Global Religion Research Initiative
Postdoctoral Fellowship Application Deadline
December 18, 2017

Round 1 Award Recipients

Congratulations to the Round 1 Global Religion Research Initiative award recipients! The GRRI received more than 150 research proposals from scholars at 100 colleges and universities around the world in the first round of competition, which closed in mid-October. The submissions were reviewed by leading social science scholars and 48 of the proposals were awarded funding this round.

The GRRI will accept two more rounds of funding proposals. Second round proposals will be due in October 2017.

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Book Leave Fellowships
Postdoctoral Research Fellowships
Project Launch Grants
Project Title
Explaining Belonging: The Strength and Salience of Religious Identification in Turkey
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Why is religion a more central component of social identity for some people than others? Although we know a great deal about the factors behind religiosity, little has been done to assess the strength and relative salience of identification with religion. Curtis and Olson propose to conduct an original, nationally representative survey in a non-Western, majority-Muslim pilot county (Turkey) to better understand whether, when, and why religious identity becomes psychologically significant to an individual’s sense of self. Given religious identity’s connection to a range of social and political behaviors, it is essential to understand how religious (non)identification forms at the individual level.
K. Amber Curtis
Assistant Professor of Political Science at Clemson University
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About the Researcher
K. Amber Curtis (Ph.D., University of Colorado Boulder) is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Clemson University. She specializes in comparative political behavior, incorporating psychological and contextual approaches to better understand the causes and consequences of collective identities. Her work appears in The Journal of Politics, International Organization, Comparative Political Studies, European Union Politics, and International Interactions.
Laura Olson
Professor of Political Science at Clemson University
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About the Researcher
Laura R. Olson is a Professor of Political Science at Clemson University and editor-in-chief of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Her research focuses on contemporary religion, civic engagement, and American politics. Her work has appeared in leading scholarly journals, including Political Research Quarterly and Social Science Quarterly. She also is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of nine books, most recently Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices (Westview, 2013).
Dissertation Year Fellowships
International Collaboration Grants
Project Title
Opportunities and Challenges in Studying Asian Religions
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Many surveys in East Asia include measures of religion yet they are often inadequate for capturing the complexity of religious identity and practice in each country. Some surveys rely on questions originally designed to measure religion in North America and Europe. Survey researchers who craft measures for East Asia may have little opportunity to receive input from religion experts about how questions could be improved. To advance the state of the art, on October 11-12, 2017 Pew Research Center will host a conference for leading survey researchers and religion scholars to discuss "Opportunities and Challenges in Studying Religion in East Asia." GRRI funding will provide travel assistance so participants from Asia can attend.
Conrad Hackett
Senior Demographer, Assistant Director of Research at Pew Research Center
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About the Researcher
Conrad Hackett is associate director of research and senior demographer at Pew Research Center. His expertise is in international religious demography, sociology of religion, and how religion relates to characteristics including gender, fertility and education. He is an author of The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050, Religion and Education Around the World, The Global Religious Landscape, The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World, Global Christianity, The Global Catholic Population and various other studies of religious demography.
Jibum Kim
Associate Professor at Sungkyunkwan University
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About the Researcher
Jibum Kim is the director of the survey research center and an associate professor of sociology at Sungkyunkwan University in Korea. He is principal investigator of the Korean General Social Survey (KGSS) and a General Secretary of the East Asian Social Survey (EASS). The KGSS, established in 2003, is the Korean version of the American GSS and aims to understand changes in attitudes in Korea. The EASS, collected since 2006, is a collaboration of GSS type surveys in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan and has promoted comparative studies of East Asia.
Nena Sahgal
Associate Director at Pew Research Center
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About the Researcher
Neha Sahgal is associate director of research at Pew Research Center, specializing in international polling, particularly on topics related to interreligious relations and political Islam. Before joining the Pew Research Center, Sahgal worked at The Asia Foundation in San Francisco. She received her doctorate in government and politics, with a concentration in the comparative politics of the Middle East and South Asia, from The University of Maryland in 2008. She is an author of studies on the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims around the world, Christian-Muslim relations in sub-Saharan Africa and religion in Latin America.
Anna Sun
Associate Professor of Sociology at Kenyon College
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About the Researcher
Anna Sun, Associate Professor of Sociology and Asian Studies at Kenyon College, is currently a Berggruen Fellow at Harvard Divinity School. Her research focuses on conceptual and methodological issues in the study of Chinese religions. Her book Confucianism as a World Religion: Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities (Princeton: 2013) received the "Distinguished Book Award" from the Sociology of Religion Section of the American Sociological Association, and the "Best First Book in the History of Religion Award" from the American Academy of Religion. A Co-Chair of the Chinese Religions section of the American Academy of Religion, Sun is working on her new book The Social Life of Prayer in Contemporary China.
Project Title
Cross-cultural Assessment of Religious Language
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This project will produce a review of religious language and will validate an assessment instrument of religious language in both English and Spanish. The assessment instrument will focus on pragmatic measures of religious language but sample fluency, grammar and referential aspects of language as well.
Thomas Holtgraves
Professor of Psychology at Ball State University
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About the Researcher
Thomas Holtgraves is a professor of Psychological Science at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He conducts interdisciplinary research into multiple facets of language and social psychology and is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Language and Social Psychology.
María Magdalena Giordano Noyola
Professor at Institute of Neurobiology-Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
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About the Researcher
Magda Giordano is Professor at the Instituto de Neurobiologia of the National University of Mexico (UNAM), and currently works on Neuropragmatics using behavioral and neuroimaging methods. Her previous published research includes studies on animal models of injury, transplantation, behavioral pharmacology and neurotoxicology.
Patrick McNamara
Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion
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About the Researcher
Patrick McNamara is Associate Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and Professor Northcentral University. He is co-founder of Institute for biocultural Study of Religion and the journal "Religion, Brain and Behavior". He is the author of "Neuroscience of religious experience (CUP, 2009) and numerous other papers and books in the scientific study of religion.
Project Title
Religious Mobilization in Indonesian Houses of Worship
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This project seeks to examine the potential links between religious institutions and political mobilization through the lens of houses of worship in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Through a combination of research methods, including observing sermons in houses of worship, monitoring media, and conducting a survey of worshippers across different mosques and churches in the city, the scholars carrying out this project hope to more deeply understand how religion influences political life in the world's largest Muslim-majority democracy. The scholars plan to disseminate their findings in a variety of forums in both English and Indonesian-language sources.
Danielle Nicole Lussier
Assistant Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College
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About the Researcher
Danielle N. Lussier is an assistant professor in political science at Grinnell College, Iowa. Her research focuses on democratization, public opinion and political participation, and religion and politics, which a particular emphasis on Eurasia and Indonesia. Lussier is the author of Constraining Elites in Russia and Indonesia: Political Participation and Regime Survival (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
Muhammad Najib Azca
Lecturer and Vice Dean at Universitas Gadjah Mada
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About the Researcher
Muhammad Najib Azca is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Gadjah Mada in Indonesia and currently the Head of the Graduate Program of Sociology, and the Director of the Youth Studies Centre. He earned his PhD from the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on youth radicalism and post-conflict violence in Indonesia.
Mohammad Ahnaf
Head of Academic Affairs of the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies at Universitas Gadjah Mada
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About the Researcher
Mohammad Iqbal Ahnaf is a faculty member at the Centre for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS) Graduate School, Gadjah Mada University. He earned a Master degree in conflict transformation at the Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University (USA) and Ph.D. in Strategic Studies, Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). His works cover various topics on religion, violence and peaceful coexistence. He is the author of The Image of the Enemy: Radical Discourse in Indonesia (2006), a dissertation titled From Revolution to Refolution: Hizb al-Tahrir: Its Changes and Trajectories in Democratic Context of Indonesia (2011), a working paper titled Contesting Morality Youth Piety and Pluralism in Indonesia (2012). He recently completed an article, "Little China in a Javanese Muslim Town: How the Culture of Coexistence Survived Communal Tensions." He serves as a country coordinator of Democracy (V-Dem), in international research collaboration for creating an alternative democracy index co-hosted by the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden; and the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre Dame, USA. Iqba's role in this project is administered by the Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg.
Hakimul Ikhwan
Faculty of Sociology at Universitas Gadjah Mada
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About the Researcher
Hakimul Ikhwan in on faculty in the Department of Sociology at the University of Gadjah Mada in Indonesia. He earned his PhD in Sociology from the University of Essex in 2015, and was a research fellow at the Kennedy school of Government at Harvard in 2013 - 2014. He studies conflict and security in Indonesia.
Project Title
Women's Living Hinduism and Islam Project (WLHIP)
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The project will bring together a multi-disciplinary network of scholars working in the US, India and Pakistan to advance the study of lived religions and gender in relation to Islam and Hinduism. This research network will create the Women’s Living Islam and Hinduism Project (WLIHP) by collecting life narratives of women from India, Pakistan and the South Asian diaspora in the US, with the purpose of documenting the variety of lived practices that make up these religions.
Anjana Narayan
Associate Professor of Sociology at California State Polytechnic University Pomona
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About the Researcher
Anjana Narayan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at California State Polytechnic University Pomona. Her areas of interest include ethnicity, gender and migration. She is the co-author of Living Our Religions: Hindu and Muslims Asian American Women Narrate their Experiences (2009) and co-editor of Research Beyond Borders: Interdisciplinary Reflections (2012)
Bandana Purkayastha
Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies at University of Connecticut
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About the Researcher
Bandana Purkayastha is a Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her research on the intersections of gender/racism/class/age; transnationalism; violence and peace; and human rights has appeared in eleven books and over fifty articles and chapters since 2000. She was most recently awarded the 2016 American Sociological Association Contribution to the Field Award, which recognizes scholars who have worked to build the fields of Asian, and/or Asian American Studies within their institutions and the discipline at large.
Durre Sameen Ahmed
Chairperson and Senior Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Gender and Culture, Pakistan
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About the Researcher
Durre Sameen Ahmed is the Chairperson and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Gender and Culture in Lahore, Pakistan. Ahmed’s research focus is the socio-psychological, transnational, and cultural dimensions of Islam and Muslims. She is an contributing author and editor of Gendering the Spirit: Women, Religion and the Postcolonial Response. (London, ZED books, 2002).
Neela Bhattacharya Saxena
Professor of English at Nassau Community College
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About the Researcher
Neela Bhattacharya Saxena is a Professor of English and Women's Studies at Nassau Community College in New York. She is the author of Absent Mother God of the West: A Kali Lover's Journey into Christianity and Judaism and In the Beginning IS Desire: Tracing Kali's Footprints in Indian Literature. She writes a blog called "Stand Under the Mother Principle".
Asha Mukherjee
Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Visva-Bharati University (India)
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About the Researcher
Asha Mukherjee is a Professor of Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Visva-Bharat, Central University in Santiniketan, India. She is also the Founder-Director of the Women's Studies Center there. Her areas of specialization are Analytic Ethics, Applied Ethics, Logic, Jaina Philosophy and Religion and Gender Studies. She has edited numerous books and published more than 50 articles in Indian and International journals.
Farhan Navid Yousaf
Assistant Professor of Sociology at International Islamic University (Islamabad, Pakistan)
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About the Researcher
Farhan Navid Yousaf is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan. He was a Fulbright PhD scholar (2011-16) in the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, USA. Farhan has extensive research experience in the areas of gender, human rights, human trafficking, and transnational migration.
Project Title
Gender and Divorce among Muslims in Contemporary Indonesia
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Divorce rates are rising in Indonesia and many other majority Muslim countries. This collaborative study seeks to understand the reasons for this shift and what it tells us about changes in marriage, gender, and religion in Muslim settings. As in more affluent parts of the world, more women in Indonesia, especially those who are well educated, are now able and willing to support themselves without a husband. But this change has happened alongside an embrace by many Indonesians of more conservative interpretations of Islam and an increasing institutionalization of Islamic law.  We will conduct in-depth interviews with divorced women and men, interviews with judges in Islamic courts, and observe cases in Islamic courts in order to understand the changing dynamics of divorce in Indonesia. 
Rachel Rinaldo
Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Colorado Boulder
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About the Researcher
Rachel Rinaldo is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her interests include gender, culture, religion, globalization, and qualitative methods. Her recent book, Mobilizing Piety: Islam and Feminism in Indonesia (Oxford 2013), is an ethnographic study of Muslim and secular women activists in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
Eva Fahrun Nisa
Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington
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About the Researcher
Eva Nisa is currently Lecturer of Religious Studies at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She received her PhD in Anthropology from Australian National University in 2013. Before commencing her current position, she was a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Amsterdam for the Problematising ‘Muslim Marriages’ project, focusing on unregistered marriage, online siri (secret) marriage, temporary marriage, and online Shari’a-compliant matchmaking platforms. Her other research interests are social media and da’wa(proselytisation), face-veiled women and Muslim activism, Muslim youth, Muslim fashion, migrant domestic workers, Muslim refugees and philanthropy.
Nina Nurmila
Senior Lecturer at the State Islamic University in Bandung, Indonesia
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About the Researcher
Nina Nurmila is a Senior Lecturer at UIN Sunan Gunung Djati Bandung (the State Islamic University), Indonesia. Her first degree was from UIN Bandung (1992), her MA was from Murdoch University (1997) and her PhD was from the University of Melbourne (2007). She is the author of Women, Islam and Everyday Life: Renegotiating Polygamy in Indonesia (London; New York: Routledge, 2009&2011).
Project Title
Cross-cultural Investigations into the Science-Religion Relationship
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Our project takes a social-psychological approach to investigating whether and to what extent the associations between religiosity and distrust/disinterest in science, commonly observed among Christians in the West, are also present among Muslims in the Middle East. We plan to conduct a longitudinal study of whether first-year Christian students at Ohio University and first-year Muslim students at American University of Sharjah demonstrate changes in their trust/interest in science and perceptions of religion-science conflict (versus compatibility) over time, as a function of their initial religiosity and their exposure to science courses. In two additional studies, we plan to experimentally manipulate perceptions of religion-science conflict to determine if such perceptions exert a causal influence on trust and interest in science, and whether the results depend on national/religious context.
Kimberly Rios
Associate Professor of Psychology at Ohio University
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About the Researcher
Kimberly Rios is an Associate Professor and Director of Experimental Training in the Department of Psychology at Ohio University. She received her PhD from Stanford University and previously held faculty appointments at the University of Chicago and The Ohio State University. Her research focuses on how individuals respond to stereotypes about and threats to their group identities, particularly their religious (or non-religious) identities.
Mark Aveyard
Assistant Professor of Psychology at American University of Sharjah
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About the Researcher
Mark Aveyard is an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Studies at American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. He earned his PhD in Psychology from Florida State University. He studies religious and moral behavior.
Tom Smith
Senior Fellow/Director at NORC at the University of Chicago
Project Title
A Proposal to Promote International Collaboration Related to a Cross-national Study of Religion
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About the Project
Smith’s project will develop international collaborations around the International Social Survey Program’s (ISSP) Religion IV study in 2018. The immediate goals are to form collaborations with social scientists in countries representing non-Western religions who are interested in and able to participate in the design,collection, and analysis of the new round of the ISSP cross-national study of religious background, behaviors, and beliefs and how those religious factors influence non-religious attitudes, values, and behaviors. Over the longer-term, the goal is to establish sustained collaborations about comparative religion and its role in current and future global development. Three regions that will be focused on are:1) Islamic countries in North Africa and the Middle East, 2) countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 3)countries in South and Southeast Asia.
About the Researcher
Tom Smith is the Director of the General Social Survey, the Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Society, and a Senior Fellow at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. His recent publications focus on research methodology and the use of big data in urban studies.
Curriculum Development Grants
Course Title
Psychology of World Religions Course and Electronic Resources
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Tsang and her colleagues are planning a psychology of religion course from the perspective of social psychology that incorporates much of the recent research on global world religions, including Buddhism and mindfulness, Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, and Protestantism. They plan to provide syllabi, reading lists, assignment lists, and contact information for potential Skype guest lecturers in an online repository for use by other instructors.
Jo-Ann Tsang
Associate Professor of Psychology at Baylor University
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About the Professor
Jo-Ann Tsang is Associate Professor of Psychology at Baylor University. She is a social psychologist who studies gratitude, forgiveness, and the psychology of religion.
Wade C. Rowatt
Professor of Psychology at Baylor University
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About the Professor
Wade C. Rowatt is a Professor of Psychology at Baylor University and an Associate Editor of the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. He teaches courses in social, personality, and psychology of religion. The psychology of religion class focuses on empirical research about the development and functions of religious-spiritual belief and behavior.
Daryl Van Tongeren
Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hope College
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About the Professor
Daryl Van Tongeren is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hope College. He is a social psychologist who studies the psychology of religion, meaning in life, and virtues, such as humility and forgiveness.
Eric Wesselmann
Assistant Professor of Psychology at Illinois State University
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About the Professor
Eric Wesselmann is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Illinois State University. He earned his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2011. His research focuses on social influence within groups, in particular negative impacts of and reactions to ostracism.
Adam Cohen
Associate Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University
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About the Professor
Adam Cohen is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His main research interests fuse cultural, social, and personality psychology. He is interested in how religious differences function as cultural differences. He is the associate editor of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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