2019 Research and Teaching Fellows

Lived Religion in the Digital Age is delighted to announce our 2019 cohort of research and teaching fellows.

See the call for applicants for the 2020-2021 Research Fellows and Teaching Fellows.

Teaching Fellows

Isaac Arten, Historical Theology, Saint Louis University

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, Religious Studies, University of Pittsburgh

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.

Rachel Kranson, Religious Studies, University of Pittsburgh

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).

Research Fellows

Chris Babits, History, University of Texas at Austin

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, Communication, Texas A&M University

Adam Bajan is a 3rd year PhD student in 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, Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

Dustin D. Benac is a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) Candidate in Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School. He works at the intersection of theology and organizational theory to explore the ecclesial ecology that supports religious organizations and institutional leadership. His current research considers the Christian practical wisdom that is required to support and sustain collaborative approaches to Christian organization, education, and leadership that enrich the ecclesial ecology of the Pacific Northwest. His writing has appeared in Reading Religion, Christian Scholar’s Review, The Journal of Religious Leadership, Faith & Leadership, Christian Higher Education, The Cresset, and The Bonhoeffer Legacy. Awards from The Franklin Humanities Institute, the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, and Duke Interdisciplinary Studies have supported his research and training.

Twitter: @DustinDBenac

Facebook: @DustinBenac

Jordan Bratt, History and Art History, George Mason University

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, Religious Studies and Anthropology, Butler University

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. Find out more about his research and publications here.

Aneesah Ettress, Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture, University of Chicago

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.

Undergraduate Fellows

Riley Mack, Undergraduate Research Fellow

Riley Mack is a soon-to-be junior 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, Undergraduate Research Fellow

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.