Grants Totaling $225,000 Fund Global Religious Research

UCR scholars play integral role in studies of California religious festivals, religion and human rights activism, Shari’a law in the U.S.

Four researchers

UCR scholars (from left) Mariam Lam, Shahab Malik, Amanda Lucia and Jennifer Hughes have been awarded grants totaling $225,000 for three research projects that will examine global religious festivals in California, the role of religious and secular organizations in human rights activism, and Shari’a law in the United States.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Four University of California, Riverside scholars have been awarded grants totaling $225,000 for three research projects that will examine global religious festivals in California, the role of religious and secular organizations in human rights activism, and Shari’a law in the United States.

UCR faculty will lead two of the four Humanities Studios the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) funded this fall, and a Ph.D. student is a core member of a third team.

These Humanities Studios, organized around the theme “Religions and Diaspora and Global Affairs,” are inspired by the laboratory model of the hard sciences and the studio model in the arts and architecture, and are designed to encourage creativity, innovation and collaborative research, according to UCHRI.

The $75,000 grants, supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, are unique in that they fund research by teams comprised of scholars from multiple UC campuses and international universities, graduate students, artists and journalists. In addition to websites, documentary films and museum exhibits anticipated by the teams, faculty researchers also will lead cyberseminars open to graduate students at all UCR campuses.

The two-year projects in which UCR researchers are involved include:

  • “Global Religious Festivals in Secular Cityscapes: Immigration, Politics, and Religious Performance in California” — Jennifer Hughes, associate professor of history, and Amanda Lucia, assistant professor of religious studies, are co-principal investigators.
  • “Humanitarian Ethics, Religious Affinities, and the Politics of Dissent” — Mariam Beevi Lam, associate professor of comparative literature and director of Southeast Asian studies, is the principal investigator.
  • “Shari’a Revoiced: Documenting American Muslims’ Experiences of Islamic Law” — Shahab Malik, a Ph.d. student in anthropology, is a core member of the team based at UC Santa Barbara.

“We are enormously proud of our scholars, and these grant activities are off to a wonderful start,” said Georgia Warnke, director of the Center for Ideas and Society, through which research activities will be coordinated at UCR.

Hughes and Lucia said their project will document the influence of public religious festivals in the secular landscape of California, examining how the sacred and sacred spaces are negotiated in urban environments among immigrant groups. In addition to book and article projects, the researchers plan to create a series of short documentary films.

“Public religious festivals have proliferated in California in the last 10 years and are becoming essential to California identity and politics,” Hughes said. “Our team of researchers will be looking at the place of religion in the public sphere and how it is shaping our public and civic culture.”

Hughes and Lucia began their project this fall with a team of scholars in the field in Orange County, looking at the political and spiritual dimensions of the innovation of the Day of the Dead festival there.

Lam’s project will study the role of religious and secular nongovernmental organizations in global human rights activism, particularly how transnational networks convey notions of freedom, ethics and humanitarianism. The team will create a website with news about human rights and religious protests as well as commentaries.

“We hope to orchestrate conversations around religiosity, secular value systems, humanitarian ethics and the politics of dissent by focusing on specific, but variously localized, global and transnational religious associations and organized networks,” Lam said.

As part of the core team examining the practice of Shari’a law in California, Malik will participate in interviews and other research activities in Muslim communities in both Northern and Southern California. The team plans to create a website, museum and art exhibits, and perhaps a book by the end of the two-year project.

“We plan to look at the multiplicity of practices, secularization, and ideas of modernity projected in practice. In the U.S. the application of Shari’a law applies mostly to marriage and divorce,” said the graduate student whose doctoral research focuses on Shari’a law in Southern California and Egypt.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Jennifer Hughes
Tel: (951) 827-5401

Amanda Lucia
Tel: (951) 827-2137

Mariam Lam
Tel: (951) 660 3365

Shahab Malik

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