Global Politics and Religion Research Group

Graduate Fellows

2016 Graduate Fellows

Jeffrey Wheatley

Jeffrey Wheatley Headshot

Jeffrey Wheatley is a doctoral student in American Religions. Jeff examines the relationship between religion, race, colonialism, and the state, with a focus on the United States in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Related focal points include theory and method, secularism, and the history of the study of religion. He is currently conducting historical research that examines the United States’ collection, classification, and regulation of religious practices in the Philippines in the early twentieth century. With the assistance of the Global Politics and Religion Summer Research Fellowship in Summer 2016, Jeff was able to visit government archives to see how military and civil experts studied and assessed beliefs and practices of animists, Catholics, and Muslims living in the Philippines shortly after the United States claimed sovereignty over the archipelago in 1898. Research in these archives, including the National Archives and the Library of Congress, helped further his dissertation project by providing a glimpse at the political significance of religious and racial identifications in direct relation to US policing, military operations, law, and diplomacy.

Vanessa Watters 

As a Global Politics and Religion Summer Graduate Research Fellow, I spent 8 weeks conducting introductory interviews and participant observation with Catholic and Pentecostal-charismatic welfare organizations in the capital cities of Accra, Lomé, and Cotonou. I focused on Caritas Internationalis – the official Roman Catholic confederation of social service organizations present in each city – and three distinct Pentecostal-charismatic social outreach and development offices across the capitals, due to prior familiarity with them, as well as the aim of broadening my scope of the overall Pentecostal-charismatic field. Of the three main research questions guiding my proposed dissertation research, I focused on the first of these during my 8 weeks of summer research: investigate the different narratives of welfare, prosperity, and poverty alleviation that Catholic and Pentecostal-charismatic organizations employ, and how they draw on historical positioning and involvement in the region. This allowed me to incorporate material from introductory meetings and follow-up interviews, as well as digital and print materials available in church and organization offices, websites, radio, and billboards throughout the city. Three particular findings from the summer will shape the trajectory of my dissertation research which I will begin this fall: 1) the significance of the Caritas office in Cotonou for coastal francophone West African countries, and the newly opened (June 2016) Caritas office in Accra; 2) a separate archive focused on the relations between Ghana and Togo during the 1955-1965 decade; 3) the potential importance of religious radio stations in coastal West Africa for shaping and disseminating particular messages of social and economic welfare. The GPR summer research fellowship provided me the opportunity to begin sketching a geography of the distinctions between Christian welfare discourses across these coastal cities.