2019 Research and Teaching Fellows

Lived Religion in the Digital Age is delighted to announce our 2019 cohort of research and teaching fellows.The call for applicants for the 2019-2020 cohort of research and teaching fellows will be posted later this spring.

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.

Miles Adam Park, U.S. History and Ethnography, Saint Louis University

Miles Adam Park is a historian and ethnographer of U.S. history and culture. His research and teaching focus on gender, race, and violence in American religions. In addition to his Research Fellowship, he teaches in the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. His current book project, Savage Saints: Muscular Christianity, Human Nature, and Fighting in America, 1900-2018, shows that American protestants have routinely advocated for and engaged in boxing, wrestling, eastern martial arts, and contemporary mixed martial arts; and such Christians championed a proudly aggressive theology, assuming an innate, God-given human proclivity for physical confrontation that was both natural and good. His popular writings can be found on Sport in American History and Religion in American History.