Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad

Graduate Research

The Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad project supports graduate students engaged in dissertation research.

2017 Summer Research Fellows

Jacob Boss (Indiana University)

Jacob BossMy research concerns the religious and ethical dimensions of integrating technology into human bodies and lifestyles, including how religiously rooted discourses of purity and the idea of natural bodily configurations patrol the boundaries of the human form. Thanks to the support of the Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad I was able to travel to Las Vegas in July of 2017 to Defcon, the world's largest hacker convention, where I met cyborgs, transhumanists, and hackers of every flavor. It was an extraordinary opportunity to hear directly from people intentionally altering and augmenting their bodies with biotechnology and implantable electronics. The transhumanist project seeks to overcome aging, illness, and death, oriented by the belief that, "Technology is hope." I shared some of my Las Vegas adventures with the Noon Edition program on Indiana Public Media, NPR affiliate WFIU. You can listen here:  http://indianapublicmedia.org/noonedition/microchipping-future-implant-technology/

Andrew Monteith (Indiana University)

Andrew MonteithAndrew Monteith’s work focuses on American religion and concepts of war. His dissertation “Threatening the Very Foundations of Civilization”: Religion and the American Drug War, 1875-1937 argues that the early era of the US War on Drugs was deeply entwined with religious ideologies. Although it may look secular at the surface, the assumptions and assertions of antinarcotic reformers were founded upon postmillennialism and mainstream Protestant moralities. Thanks to funding from the “At Home and Abroad” project, Andrew spent his summer in Washington D.C. digging through the National Archives and the Library of Congress. He found countless sources across multiple collections of government files, private papers, rare books, and the records of international conventions to fully demonstrate his argument. He is now currently in the process of writing his dissertation.  

Aram Sarkisian (Northwestern University)

Aram SarkisianMy work concerns the relationships between religion, migration, identity, and citizenship during the United States’ Progressive Era. My dissertation, The Cross Between Hammer and Sickle: Russian Orthodox Christians in the United States, 1893-1924, places Russian Orthodox believers within American immigration policy and pervasive nativist ideologies from the turn of the twentieth century through the passage of the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which established restrictive quotas that all but eliminated migration to the United States from the Orthodox world. I argue that social movements and state-imposed measures designed to coercively assimilate the foreign-born were in fact malleable and useful tools immigrants frequently used to assert control and maintain traditional institutions within their own communities. A generous research fellowship from the Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad project allowed me to work in the records of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where I consulted the deportation hearing transcripts of Russian Orthodox immigrants arrested on charges of anarchism during the Red Scare of 1918-20. My research shows that these cases concerned suspects referred to federal agents by friends and neighbors in a Russian immigrant neighborhood whose Orthodox parish and related institutions had fractured over the rise of Bolshevism. I was deeply moved as men whose names I knew well from the decade I have worked on this project emerged from the dusty, typewritten pages as nuanced, complex actors deeply conflicted about their changing lives in America. This was particularly poignant as fearful, contemporary debates on immigrants and American immigration policy carried on just blocks from my desk.

Jeffrey Wheatley (Northwestern University)

WheatleyJeffrey Wheatley is a doctoral student in American Religions. He researches race, religion, empire, and state power in the United States, especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Related focal points include pedagogy, theory and method, global Christianity, secularism, the history of the study of religion, and popular use of the octopus as an image for visualizing dangerous others. Jeff’s current project is a cultural and political history of the idea of religious fanaticism in the United States’ colonial and domestic territories from the 1830s to the 1930s. He examines how Christian ideas and debates about excessive religion have influenced broader governmental strategies for policing “unruly,” and often racialized, populations. The historical narrative traces the nineteenth-century popularization of fanaticism in American religious discourse and proceeds to explore how colonial and domestic state institutions deployed this terminology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when religious fanaticism became a key concern for imperial and national security. Jeff spent Summer 2017 in Washington D.C. and Ann Arbor going over state and personal archives to understand better how ideas about “un-modern” religions influenced US strategies of pacification in the Philippines and Haiti in the early twentieth century.