back to news Aug. 16, 2016

American Religious Sounds Project awarded $200,000 grant from Henry Luce Foundation

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The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded a two-year, $200,000 grant to The Ohio State University Foundation for support of the American Religious Sounds Project, a collaborative, multidisciplinary project of Ohio State and Michigan State University.

The project is housed within the Center for the Study of Religion at Ohio State. Its co-directors are Isaac Weiner, associate professor of comparative studies and associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Ohio State, and Amy DeRogatis, professor in Michigan State's Department of Religious Studies. Project teams at both universities comprise faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students.

“This generous grant will allow us to continue to develop and expand the program,” said Weiner. “We are really thrilled to receive this kind of recognition and support for the work we’ve done and for what we hope to achieve.”

The American Religious Sounds Project leverages the opportunities afforded by the new digital environment to consider what religion sounds like in the United States, as well as how our understanding of religion’s place in American life might be transformed by using auditory perception as a source of knowledge.

“In its best sense,” Weiner said, “the project brings together research, pedagogy and community involvement to generate innovative scholarship on American religious life.” He said it will result in an interactive resource for use by the public, and will offer valuable experiential learning opportunities for students.

“The College of Arts and Sciences places a priority on research in the humanities and arts. Thus we are very pleased the Religious Sounds initiative has received this funding and endorsement from the prestigious Luce Foundation,” said Peter Hahn, divisional dean of arts and humanities. “The project will strengthen public engagement and create new community partnerships, while shedding light on the diversity of religious life in the United States.” 

 Bell ringing

Formerly known as the Religious Soundmap Project of the Global Midwest, the project’s name was changed last year to reflect its expanded geographical focus, goals and objectives. The project now centers on:

  • Construction of a unique sonic archive, documenting the diversity of American religious practice through newly produced field recordings, interviews, oral histories and other related materials; and
  • Development of a new digital platform that will integrate sound, image and text to offer new insights into the complex dynamics of religious pluralism in the United States.

“By focusing on sound, we hope to investigate what constitutes religious practices in everyday lives,” DeRogatis said. “America is becoming more religiously diverse. With that comes new sounds that can shape communities. We want to know how religious communities make themselves heard.”

Adds Weiner, “Sound invites us to think more expansively about where religion happens, to move beyond traditional religious institutions. Our hope is that when our digital platform is completed and people listen to these sounds, they hear the religious diversity of their own communities in new ways.”

The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc. Based in New York, the foundation seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.

Photo of Amy DeRogatis and Isaac Weiner by Mike Jenkins; Hindu bell ringing photo by Lauren Pond

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