Since the project began in 2019, Lived Religion in the Digital Age has offered a variety of collaborations through Research Fellowships, Teaching Fellowships, Graduate Fellowships, and Undergraduate Fellowships.
Our research initiative works with local and regional religious communities, museums, parks, schools, and other civic organizations to develop deeply-considered, multisensory inventories of lived religion. We invite scholars trained in fields across the humanities, fine and performing arts, social sciences, or other related fields to participate in these efforts through competitive research support fellowships.
See the current calls for Research and Teaching Fellowships.
Digital Stories Fellows
We are excited to announce our new Digital Stories Fellows in collaboration with the Pandemic Religion project at George Mason University. These competitive fellowships were awarded to individuals in a variety of stages in their careers, academic or otherwise. In addition to contributing to the archival sources at Pandemic Religion, Digital Stories Fellows will use their findings on religion during the time of COVID to curate a diversity of media-rich spaces – to tell Digital Stories – within our website.
Kijan Bloomfield is an Assistant Professor in Religious Studies at Rhodes College, located in Memphis, TN. Dr. Bloomfield received a Ph.D. in religion from Princeton University in 2018. Her research interests include Africana Religion, Global Pentecostalism, and Caribbean Studies. Her forthcoming manuscript is an ethnographic project on religion and politics in Jamaica.
Linda Aristondo is a Latinx bilingual woman of color and attorney championing the needs of vulnerable populations, so often also Brown and Black people. Her field of interest is collaborating with nonprofit service organizations dedicated to serving the legally disenfranchised, including vulnerable undocumented immigrants and refugees. Linda is passionate about the power of storytelling by, and not for, people of color whose narratives too frequently are told by others. Linda, a Harvard educated attorney, is published in The Hill. She is also a Union Theological Seminary (UTS) MDiv candidate.
Religion & Public Life Fellows
The Religion & Public Life Graduate Research Fellowship is a competitive fellowship awarded to a doctoral student in the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. The Religion and Public Life Fellow works as part of the Lived Religion in the Digital Age’s Saint Louis University team and contributes to the project’s objectives through local fieldwork, university teaching, archival research, and the planning of scholarly and community events. In particular, the Religion & Public Life Fellow develops expertise in collaborative research methodologies, digital humanities, and the role of religion in American public life.
Elizabeth Eikmann is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Saint Louis University with interest in public humanities, including museum work, interpretive tourism, and teaching courses on American visual culture. Her dissertation in progress, “From Footnote to Foreground: The Visualizing of Race and Gender in St. Louis, 1857-1920” seeks to investigate the ways white practitioners of photography depicted and constructed the boundaries that came to define race in nineteenth and early twentieth-century America. In doing so, it will uncover the way ideologies of racial difference were naturalized in images and mobilized for social and political gain.
A scholar of constructive theology, Deepan Rajaratnam studies the intersection of ecclesiology and pneumatology with a particular interest in the laity. Building on the foundation laid by Yves Congar and incorporating ideas from Ormand Rush, Rajaratnam’s work focuses on the sensus fidelium in relation to local church. Employing a framework of communion ecclesiology and ecclesial synodality, Rajaratnam engages ethnography to further assess the sensus fidelium within local churches. Rajaratnam is currently a PhD Candidate at Saint Louis University where he was selected as the 2019-2020 Religion & Public Life Fellow. Previously, he studied at Boston College where he earned a Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.).
David Justice is a PhD Student at Saint Louis University who studies liberation theology, womanist theology, and the theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Through scholarship he works to shine a light on racism and discrimination in the white American church and advocate for the reform necessary to make racial reconciliation possible. By studying theology and tactics of liberators movements and theologians, he aims to contribute to the ongoing struggle for justice equality.
Utilizing historical, ethnographic, and digital research methods, Lived Religion in the Digital Age promotes sustained conversation across disciplines, professions, and communities to develop richer understandings of religion (broadly defined) in place and to develop research models better situated to understand the translation of lived, local experience into digital products. Pursuing a diversity of interests, our Research Fellows further these interdisciplinary conversations and add to our digital publications and exhibits.
2021 Research Fellows
Max Dugan is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on Islamic materiality in the digital age, especially in North America. Max's dissertation examines contemporary Halal consumption in Philadelphia and Islamic tattooing discourse on social media to understand how things come to feel authentically Islamic. This project combines digital humanities and ethnographic methods to speak to issues of class, gender, ethnicity, and communal authority, while offering insight into non-elite, lived Islam in the material and digital world.
Kimberly Akano is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religion at Princeton University. Using ethnographic and historical methods, she examines how the increasing presence of African immigrants in the United States transforms contemporary conceptualizations of Black religious identities. In particular, Kimberly considers how religion and migration influence the lived experiences of twentieth and twenty-first century Nigerian immigrants as they negotiate questions of race, place, and belonging within a racialized U.S. context. Kimberly is especially interested in tracing the religious networks of Nigerian immigrants to explore their transnational socio-political engagement.
Emily D. Crews is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her dissertation is an ethnographic investigation of the relationship between religion and the formation of personhood in Nigerian Pentecostalism. She is particularly interested in the ways that women's reproductive bodies and embodiment affect their access to an ideal form of Christian womanhood, and the changing significance of that type of womanhood in diaspora. In addition to her dissertation research, Emily is currently at work on a project that examines the role of digital media in rituals of healing in Nigerian Pentecostal churches.
Cori Tucker-Price (Ph.D., Harvard University) is a Guarini Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration in the U.S. Context in the Department of History at Dartmouth College. Her research and teaching focus on African American history, religion and the American West, migration studies and religion, and media. Her current book project, In the Land of Milk, Honey, and Hollywood! Religion and Black Urban Life in Los Angeles, 1903-1953, traces the historical and social forces that shaped the practices of African American religious institutions in Southern California.
Andrea Stanton is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Chair of Religious Studies at the University of Denver. Her research takes a lived religions approach, focusing on 21st-century Islam and intersections between digital media forms and personal piety. Recent publications include articles on Saudi Ministry of Hajj apps and on online debates over emoticon usage, and a chapter on the Malaysian reality television program “Young Imam”. She has received grants from the American Academy of Religion, the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the US Institute of Peace.
Darby Ratliff is a PhD student in American Studies at Saint Louis University. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and higher education administration from Canisius College, where she first discovered a passion for studying the relationship between Catholicism and American culture. She is particularly interested in exploring the effects of the role that the Catholic Church played in the colonization of America as well as its reconciliation efforts in the 20th and 21st centuries. Her project for Lived Religion in the Digital Age focuses on race, Catholicism, and the missionary work of Fr. Francis X. Weninger, S.J. in 19th century America.
Aysha Khan is a Boston-based journalist focused on U.S. Muslim communities, lives, and histories. She is currently a graduate student in Islamic studies at Harvard Divinity School. Her reporting has appeared in the Religion News Service, Associated Press, Washington Post, NBC News, and other national outlets. She has been awarded fellowships with the GroundTruth Project, the Journalism & Women Symposium, the Muslim Women and the Media Institute, and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
2020 Research Fellows
Heidi A Campbell is Professor of Communication, affiliate faculty in Religious Studies, and a Presidential Impact Fellow at Texas A&M University. She is also director of the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies. Her research focuses on intersections between technology, religion and digital culture, with emphasis on Jewish, Muslim & Christian negotiations with digital media. She is co-editor of Routledge’s Religion and Digital Culture book series, and author of over 100 articles and books including When Religion Meets New Media (2010), Networked Theology (2016) and Digital Creatives and the Rethinking Religious Authority in Digital Culture (2020).
Ambre Dromgoole is a PhD student in the Departments of Religious Studies and African American Studies at Yale University. She graduated from Oberlin College & Conservatory in 2015 with a B.A. in Musical Studies and Religion where she was the recipient of the Jonathon Kneeland Prize for Religion and the Africana Studies award for Artistic Excellence and Community Service upon graduation. She then obtained an M.A. in Religion from Yale Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music with a concentration in Black Religion and the Arts receiving the Hugh Porter Prize of Distinction. Ambre is interested in the convergence of Black religion and popular culture, focusing on the emergence of various musical genres from women in the Black Holiness-Pentecostal tradition.
Gavin Feller (PhD, University of Iowa) is a postdoctoral research fellow in digital humanities at Umeå University (Sweden). His research uses the intersection of technology, religion, and culture to explore questions of community, power, gender, and identity. He is currently completing a book on the cultural history of Latter-day Saint/Mormon media.
Madeline Gambino is a PhD candidate in the Religion Department at Princeton University. Her dissertation considers institutional decline as a dynamic component of religious change within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She is interested in how the city’s Catholics perceive and creatively respond to aging or declining parish membership, aging church properties, and the sexual abuse scandals as markers of Catholic decline. In addition to geospatial analysis of parish closures in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, her research employs ethnographic methods to examine how several communities engage age, gender, race, and space and place in their practices and articulations of authority and belonging in today’s Church.
Carlos Ruiz Martinez is a PhD student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. Making use of ethnographic and historical research methods, his work focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century U.S. Catholicism. He is currently working on two projects. The first is a history of Catholic nuns in the U.S. Sanctuary Movement. This project seeks to highlight the gendered dynamics of sanctuary and to critically reconceptualize the Sanctuary Movement as an extension of the American carceral state. The second focuses on the lived experience of Latino Catholics in Ferguson, Missouri, with close attention to how the parish functions as a site of gender and ethnic identity formation.
Kelly L. Schmidt is a PhD candidate in United States History and Public History at Loyola University Chicago, where her dissertation focuses on the lived experience of enslaved people held in bondage by the Jesuits in the United States. She also serves as Research Coordinator for the Slavery, History, Memory, and Reconciliation Project, an initiative of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. Through her research, she endeavors to share a more complete account of the history of adults and children enslaved to the Society of Jesus. She also works to trace the lineages of enslaved people to the present, so that their descendants can lead the Jesuits and their institutions in conversation about how to address the injustices wrought by their past slaveholding.
Ryan Tobler is a historian of North American religions and a Ph.D. Candidate under the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University. His current project, “American Sacraments: Religion and Ritual in the Nineteenth-Century United States,” probes the evolving meanings of religious ritual within traditions like Catholicism, Mormonism, and Judaism; its complex antagonisms to evangelical Protestantism; and its contested place in a modernizing age. Tobler’s partnership with Lived Religion in the Digital Age centers on visual artifacts and the optics of religious practice in the nineteenth-century United States.
Andrew Ventimiglia (Ph.D., University of Callifornia - Davis) is Assistant Professor of Mass Media in the School of Communication at Illinois State University. His research explores the history and cultural effects of intellectual property with a focus on the role of copyright and trademark law in American religion. His first book, Copyrighting God: Ownership of the Sacred in American Religion was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. He has articles published or forthcoming in outlets including the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Cultural Critique, Enterprise & Society, and KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge.
2019 Research Fellows
Chris Babits is a historian and an Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. His work examines the intersections of lived religion, medicine, gender, and sexuality in the modern United States. Chris’ dissertation, “To Cure a Sinful Nation: Conversion Therapy in the United States,” examined the medical and political background of gender identity therapies and efforts to change sexual orientation. This ongoing project traces the fluid and incompletely structured religious, intellectual, and cultural world of not only change therapists and their supporters, but also those of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) activists.
Adam Bajan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University. Formerly employed in marketing and public relations his research focuses on the influences of digital culture on religious organizations and how these organizations utilize digital media and corporate branding techniques to maintain market share under the religious economies model of secularization. Originally from British Columbia, Canada, Adam holds a master’s degree in communication from Simon Fraser University. His master’s thesis, Coastal Church: Community Through Connectivity encompassed a lengthy ethnographic study on how non-denominational churches use digital media for community building.
Dustin Benac is a practical theologian who studies religious organizations during times of transition and uncertainty. He received his Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) from Duke Divinity School in 2020. His dissertation, “Adaptive Church: A Practical Theology of Adaptive Work in the Pacific Northwest,” completed the first extended study of a novel form of organizing religious life, a hub, in the Pacific Northwest. Working at the intersection of practical theology and organizational theory, his broader research and writing explore the ecclesial ecology that nourishes Christian organizations and institutional leadership. Service within and connection to congregations, nonprofits, theological education, and religious philanthropy enlivens his teaching, writing, and institutional service. He currently serves as a Postdoctoral Associate at Duke Divinity School, where he supports The Everything Happens Project as a Practical Theologian & Community Manager. You can find him online at Twitter (@dustindbenac) or at www.dustindbenac.com. View his CV here.
Jordan Bratt is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and a historian of nineteenth century America with specialties in religious and digital histories. His research focuses on religious conversion, migration, lived religion, digital mapping, data analysis, and digital pedagogy. His dissertation is entitled “‘The Convert to Zion’: Mormon Conversion and Migration in the Nineteenth Century” and explores the changing narrative experience of conversion for Mormon laity during a period of time when Mormonism grew from a new religious sect to a formidable minority faith.
Travis Cooper holds a double PhD in Religious Studies and Anthropology and lectures at Butler University. His dissertation and book project, The Digital Evangelicals: Contesting Authority and Authenticity after the New Media Turn, examines boundary maintenance strategies in the Internet era. His current research focuses on the various social architectures that structure everyday American lifeworlds, rituals, and traditions—systems ranging from media ideologies and print culture to urban design and the built environment. An ethnographer of the American Midwest, he studies (sub)urban habitudes, religious architecture, and the anthropology of the modern.
Aneesah Ettress is a poet and graduate student based in Chicago. Presently, she is working on her Master of Divinity at the University of Chicago, with an interest in early Christian visual culture and narrative connections that inform religious placemaking. Moved by the complex interrelationships between art, religion, and the digital she seeks to uplift marginalized narratives and reinvigorate them in the collective consciousness. Through her poetry, digital projects, and research she hopes to communicate that art in all forms is the fruition of beauty working to invigorate the soul.
LRDA aims to develop rigorous and impactful teaching at the intersections of religion, public life, and digital culture. Our Teaching Fellows contribute to this effort through ground-breaking course design and contribution to LRDA’s pedagogical library. Our Teaching Fellows’ innovative courses focus on local religion and public life, incorporate local fieldwork or site visits into course learning assessments, or utilize digital technologies as principle research and/or teaching tools. LRDA aims especially to support course development that brings students into interaction with religious diversity through site visits; urban, community, or neighborhood studies; and/or digital storytelling, including the integration of GIS skills and methods, podcasting, digital journalism, and video editing.
2021 Teaching Fellow
Elinor (Ellie) Pierce is the Research Director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, where she also serves as the head case writer. Ellie engages in place-based field research and manages digital media production at the Project, including On Common Ground: World Religions in America, the Webby Award-winning pluralism.org website, and the documentary film Fremont, USA. Outside of the Project, Ellie has worked as a film festival director and advisor; she co-produced two short documentaries, with a third currently in pre-production. Pierce’s partnership with Lived Religion in the Digital Age explores digital storytelling through the podcast “Hometown Stories.”
2020 Teaching Fellows
Torang Asadi is a social scientist and UX researcher, splitting her time as both a PhD candidate at Duke and a Senior UX Researcher at Lenovo. She also teaches at Duke and Elon and serves as a program coordinator for Duke’s innovative pedagogy program LAMP. With a focus on North American religions, her research is mainly focused on a combination of the religious/spiritual/secular, technology, and the body. Her dissertation, “Quantum Regimes: the Bodily Technologies of Holist Healthcare in Northern California,” considers the role of cybertechnologies, race, and spirituality in shaping conceptions of health and the human body in the New Age.
Courtney Dorroll is a professor of Middle Eastern and North African Studies and Religion at Wofford College. She is the Co-Coordinator for Wofford’s Middle East and North African Studies Program. This year Prof. Dorroll serves as a Mellon Diversity and Inclusion Pedagogical Fellow. Prof. Dorroll edited the recently published volume Teaching Islamic Studies in the Age of ISIS, Islamophobia, and the Internet (Indiana University Press 2019) which has several chapters that offer teaching strategies and concrete examples of classroom assignments. Her work focuses on the scholarship of teaching and learning Islam, area studies and self-care pedagogy.
Isaac Arten is a Ph.D. candidate in Modern Historical Theology at Saint Louis University. His theological research is in the area of theological anthropology and examines the intersection of religion and culture in the history of theology. Isaac’s dissertation examines the entanglement of religious and economic concepts, vocabulary, and discourse in the construction of theological accounts of human nature and human fulfillment during the Industrial Revolution. More broadly, his research raises questions about the formation of defaults in the Christian imagination. Isaac holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology (University of Missouri–Saint Louis, 2011) and an M.Div. (Duke Divinity School, 2015).
Benjamin Gordon is an assistant professor in Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on the material culture and history of ancient Jewish communities in Israel-Palestine. At Pitt he teaches courses on biblical traditions, the history of monotheism, and nature spirituality. His book, Land and Temple: Field Sacralization and the Second Temple Priesthood, is forthcoming from De Gruyter.
Dr. Rachel Kranson is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pittsburgh, with research specialties in American Jewish history and the history of women, gender, and sexuality. She is the author of Ambivalent Embrace: Jewish Upward Mobility in Postwar America (University of North Carolina Press, 2017) and coedited A Jewish Feminine Mystique: Jewish Women in Postwar America, (Rutgers University Press, 2010).
Community Engagement Fellows
In partnership with YourWords STL, Lived Religion in the Digital Age has sponsored five competitive positions. These Community Engagement Fellows aim to strengthen university-community ties as well as enhance religious literacy in primary school children. This collective project will culminate in elementary school students photographing and writing about their respectively chosen “sacred” objects.
My name is Anna Redmond, and I have many passions including people, world religion, history, and music! I am almost finished with a Masters in Religious Studies at Missouri State University and will be pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching at UMKC beginning this summer. I intend to teach high school social studies once I finish all of my schooling and will always continue to promote learning about religion.
Bailey Lape is currently pursuing her MA in Religious Studies at Missouri State University. Her primary research interests involve religion and American society and culture and address the intersections between religion, American popular culture, and politics. After completing her MA, she hopes to pursue a PhD in Religious Studies and eventually teach.
Chelsea Trotter is a PhD candidate in the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, where she specializes in Christianity in antiquity with an emphasis on the formation of orthodoxy and heresy in the early Christian church. Her dissertation, “The Devil Beyond the Bible,” examines the diverse portrayals and functions of the devil in fourth-century Christian circles and investigates how these portrayals were used by early Christian writers to respond to perceived disturbances in their local communities. She is also interested in biblical exegesis, papyrology, Queer Theology, Women and Gender Studies, and the intersection of religion and gender identity.
Joshua Lopez was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina and is the youngest of three children. He studied Supply Chain Management and Accounting at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Communication at Saint Louis University. Joshua worked corporately for The Boeing Company St. Louis for three and a half years in Finance and Supply Chain. He currently is a Teaching Assistant at Saint Louis University instructing public speaking.
Natalie Whitaker earned her B.A. in History with emphases in Latin, German, and Anthropology and her M.A. in Literature from Missouri State University. After gaining experience teaching college composition courses, she realized how much she loved working with students on their research and decided to pursue a degree in Library Science. She earned her M.L.I.S. from the University of Missouri, specializing in digital humanities and academic libraries. Natalie is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Saint Louis University finishing her dissertation on women’s anger in early medieval English literature, looking at how philosophical and religious ideas of morality influence the gendering and politics of anger. Natalie has fallen in love with the St. Louis community and plans on pursuing her library career in St. Louis and being a part of building bridges between the community and educational institutions.
Undergraduate Research Fellows
LRDA Undergraduate Research Fellows contribute to the development of an interactive digital database of religion in St. Louis, using ethnographic, archival, and digital research methods to study religion as it is lived in this particular place. As members of the LRDA research team, our Undergraduate Research Fellows independently or in collaboration identify research sites, recruit subjects, and collect, synthesize, and deliver research data.
Riley Mack is an undergraduate at Saint Louis University studying communication with a focus in journalism and a minor in global studies and Spanish. She is incredibly passionate about newswriting, as she is the News Editor of SLU’s newspaper, The University News. Through her degree, she hopes to someday travel the world and write about her experiences. She also volunteers her time at a local St. Louis shelter because of her love for animals – starting with her beloved rescue pit bull, Ivy Jean. She is a newly baptized Christian that can’t wait to discover more about all the different religions in her favorite city, St. Louis.
Safa Siddiqui is an Undergraduate student at Saint Louis University. She is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Economics and will go to law school after completing her Undergrad. Given her concentration in business, she hopes to practice corporate law. Her contribution to the project consists of actively conducting ethnographic field research by exploring religious spaces and studying the behaviors, emotions, and thoughts of individuals in these spaces. Her involvement will help her in the field of law by allowing her to develop ways to gather valuable information and converse with subjects efficiently. These skills will be imperative to her legal research as she hopes to best serve large corporations.
Nathan studies public health and biology and will be starting at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in August 2021. His research focused on the intersection of religion and healthcare, particularly through the lenses of abortion and hospital chaplaincy. Nathan works as a chemistry laboratory assistant and as an organic chemistry supplemental instruction leader and is from St. Charles, Missouri.
Amaka Mgboh is a sophomore and Health Equity major at Rhodes College. As a pre-medical student, she is committed to researching and improving racial disparities and their effect on low-income communities. In the future, I plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in Health Policy.