Religious Pluralism and Civil Society: An Interfaculty Working Group at Harvard University Fall 2003

Proposal Description

We have received a renewal of our Interfaculty Collaboration grant for the coming academic year. We have followed through with our focus on “Immigration, Religious Pluralism, and American Civil Society” and are continuing to develop and expand our collaborations in this area of “Religious Pluralism and American Civil Society.”
Over the past few years, funds from the Harvard Provosts’ Grant for Interfaculty Collaborations have enabled us to convene a series of lunch discussions with faculty across the university who are interested in Immigration, Religious Pluralism, and American Civil Society. The Interfaculty group includes professors from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Faculty of Divinity, the Kennedy School of Government, the Graduate School of Education, and the Harvard Law School. The Pluralism Project plays an important role in being able to draw professors and researchers from a wide range of Harvard’s schools and programs into discussion about critical issues.

In 2003, we generated a new series of lunchtime colloquia that has steered into practical issues of “Religious Pluralism and American Civil Society.” We have experimented with outreach beyond the original Interfaculty group and have involved new people whose scholarly work offers opportunities for collaboration. It is distinctive to the work of the Pluralism Project that our contact with scholars is amplified by our contact with women and men who are leaders in their respective religious communities. We have had presentations from and have included members of diverse religious communities, particularly those with acute concerns about current policy issues. This interface between religious communities and the academy is unique to our work, and the reservoir of trust and relationships we have enables us to convene just this kind of program.
The Spring 2003 series included the following topics:

  1. Challenges Facing Muslim Communities
  2.  Challenges Facing Sikh Communities
  3. Religious Diversity in the Workplace
  4. Christian-Muslim Relations in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States

This academic year we are continuing collaborations and further expansion of our network in this new direction of “Religious Pluralism and Civil Society.”

To review the original 2000-2001 Interfaculty Working Group proposal, click here.

To read about the Interfaculty Working Group participants, click here.

The Schedule of Meetings for Fall 2003 is:

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Luncheons will be 12-2 p.m.

October 22, 2003
12-2 p.m., Common Room, Center for the Study of World Religions (42 Francis Avenue)
For the first gathering of the Fall Pluralism Project Interfaculty luncheons, Karen Armstrong will be speaking.

Subsequent meetings will be held at the Harvard Faculty Club:

October 29, 2003
12-2 p.m., Harvard Faculty Club
For the second gathering of the Fall Pluralism Project Interfaculty luncheons, Ralph Singh, Spokesperson of Gobind Sadan USA, will be speaking on “Arson, Forgiveness and Healing in a Post September 11th world: An ongoing story of intentional community building.” Participants are also invited to view the film “North of 49” (Richard Breyer and David Coryell) at 7 p.m. in the Common Room of the Center for the Study of World Religions. It is being shown as part of the CSWR film series, Faces of Religion in America, which is being held throughout November and December.

November 12, 2003
12-2 p.m., Harvard Faculty Club
For the third gathering of the Fall Pluralism Project Interfaculty luncheons, Omid Safi, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Colgate University, will present on “Progressive Islam: A Muslim Quest for Social Justice, Gender Equality, and Pluralism.”



Interfaculty Group Leader:

Diana L. Eck
Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Director, The Pluralism Project


Collaborating Faculty:

Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf

Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf “is a Sudanese anthropologist and Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Over the course of the coming year, she will continue her focus on the development of policy recommendations for improving the experience of war-displaced women. Her primary fields of interest are security, human rights protection, and the cultural strategies adopted by displaced women to cope with the trauma of violence and dislocation. Abusharaf’s work has received support from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations, as well from the Center for International Studies at MIT. She is the author of numerous publications, including Wanderings: Sudanese Migrants and Exiles in North America (Cornell University Press 2002), and is the editor of Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives (forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press).”


Afeosemime Adogame

Afeosemime Adogame, “currently a research fellow in African studies at the University of Bayreuth (Germany), comes to the Center [for the Study of World Religions] to examine, comparatively, the proliferation of African migrant churches in the United States. First, he will examine African migrant churches in the United States to assess how and to what extent specific local conditions and cross-cultural influxes shape the growth, development, and worldview of the churches. Second, in recognition of the continuing and multiple ties that African new immigrants maintain with their countries of origin in Africa and with their host, Adogame will examine this religious group to develop insights into these “transnational” processes based on the concrete historical experiences of its members. He will explore how continued links maintained by the religious group within this “triad relationship” transform religious practice and worldview and thus lead to globalized discourse and relations. A comparative perspective of the religious practices and representations of African new immigrants and the significant place of religion within the context of migration processes may lead to an understanding of religion as an “engine” of Africans’ diaspora-building, a feature which is lacking in current analytical paradigms that predominate in migration and diaspora studies.”


Leila Ahmed
Professor of Women’s Studies in Religion, Harvard Divinity School

“Specializing in women and gender in Islam, [Leila Ahmed’s] current interests include developments in feminist and post-colonial thought and, in particular, issues in Islam and in feminism, religion and gender in cross-cultural perspective.” (Divinity School Website)


Kecia Ali

Kecia Ali is a Visiting Scholar in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School. She “previously served as a senior research analyst for Brandeis University’s Feminist Sexual Ethics Project where she wrote about women and gender in Islamic texts and Muslim communities. Her current book project focuses on marriage in early Islamic jurisprudence, investigating some of the ways in which a specific hierarchical view of marriage came to predominate between the seventh and twelfth centuries ce. She engages the jurists’ textual production in Islamic law in order to explore and historically situate the norms governing Muslim marriage. She received her PhD in Religion (Islamic Studies) from Duke University, with a dissertation entitled “Money, Sex, and Power: The Contractual Nature of Marriage in Islamic Jurisprudence of the Formative Period” and she has published many articles in journals and edited volumes. Aside from her writing on Islamic law, she frequently lectures educators and the general public on topics related to women and gender in Islamic discourses and Muslim societies.”


Karen Armstrong

“Karen Armstrong, a prolific writer, television broadcaster and prominent figure on the London media scene, came to the Middle East by a circuitous route that began when she took the vows of chastity and poverty at age 17 and entered a Roman Catholic convent as a novice nun in 1965. Her intensive exposure to the three Abrahamic religions began during her seven years within religious orders, which included a stint at Oxford University, where she earned a B.A. in literature. At some point in her university studies, she acknowledged her own inability to live up to the demands of the monastic life for which she had opted, and she parted ways with her order amicably. In 1981 she published Through the Narrow Gate, a candid account of her life in the convent, which fast became a bestseller in Britain. This was soon followed by Beginning the World. Having established her place in the literary firmament, she was invited by Channel 4 of London in 1984 to make a six-part documentary television series on the life and work of Saint Paul. This assignment took Karen to Jerusalem several times to do on-location filming. As always, this scintillatingly intelligent and energetic writer began to observe and ask questions of those among whom she was working. Her seven books include Through the Narrow Gate, Beginning the World, The First Christian, Tongues of Fire, The Gospel According to Woman, Holy War and Muhammad, Armstrong has written a great many articles on related subjects in The Sunday Times, The Times, The New Statesman, The Observer and The Daily Telegraph. Her next book, A History of God: From Abraham to the Present. A 4,000 Year Quest For God, is scheduled for release in England in early 1993 and will be published in the U.S. in October by Alfred J. Knopf.”
M. M. Ali, Washington Report: On Middle East Affairs, “Karen Armstrong: A Profile in Literary Diversity” © Copyright 1995-1999, American Educational Trust. All Rights Reserved.


Dorothy Austin
Associate Minister, The Memorial Church, Harvard University

Rev. Dr. Austin writes, “Cultural and ethnic diversity within the broadly conceived Christian tradition is increasingly apparent in the life and ministry of The Memorial Church, given the unique role that the Church plays in the life of the College and University; and we welcome it. In my own area of scholarly interest and training, in religion and psychology, and medicine, in the healing arts, generally speaking, issues of immigration and pluralism are of vital importance to clinical training and practice and the education of health care practitioners and religious practitioners alike. Even something as fundamental as teaching psychiatry residents how to take a ‘religious history’ in today’s religiously pluralistic world, and the clinical significance of that data for therapeutic treatment, is the sort of issue that interests me as we think about the clinical education of health care professionals and clergy.”


Preeta Bansal
Preeta Bansal is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Politics, Kennedy School of Government. She “is the former Solicitor General of the State of New York, a position she held during the first three years of Attorney General’s Eliot Spitzer’s administration. As Solicitor General, she helped supervise a staff of six hundred lawyers in the New York Department of Law, and directly oversaw forty-five lawyers in the Solicitor General’s Office. During her tenure as Solicitor General, Ms. Bansal focused on strengthening the credibility of the Attorney General’s office, and the Solicitor General’s office in particular, with the courts and public relationship-building with the New York state and federal court systems and judges.

Ms. Bansal is a magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe College, and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. She served as a law clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court (1990-1991) and to Chief Judge James L. Oakes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1989-1990). Prior to her appointment as New York Solicitor General, Ms. Bansal practiced First Amendment/media and appellate law with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in New York City (1996-1999), and previously with Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. (1991-1993). She served in the Clinton Administration (1993-1996) as Counselor in the U.S. Justice Department and as Special Counsel in the Office of the White House Counsel, She also served as Counselor to Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein (now Chancellor of the New York City school system) in the U.S. Department of Justice (Antitrust Division).

Preeta has received awards and recognition from several local and national legal associations and immigrant community groups, and has been active in numerous community and social service activities. She is a regular volunteer at community soup kitchens, has served as a life skills mentor to inner New York City children, and serves on the national boards of several nonprofit organizations. She was born in India and immigrated with her family to the American Midwest at the age of three. She currently is on sabbatical and teaching constitutional law as a Visiting Professor in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska.”


Linda Barnes
Lecturer, Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Director, Spirituality and Child Health Initiative, Boston Medical Center
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine

Professor Barnes writes, “My work builds on a model that integrates the culturally grounded religious worldviews and related approaches to healing (what we might also conceptualize as complementary and alternative medicines, once these groups are in the United States), on the part of immigrant groups and other racial ethnic minorities. I am currently planning an urban ethnographic project, inspired by and modeled on the Pluralism Project, to study the landscape of healing practices in the African Diaspora communities served by Boston Medical Center. My other research and writing explores the social history of American responses to Chinese healing practices, beginning with the earlier expeditions to China and the Americas and moving to the present.”


Jocelyne Césari
Jocelyne Césari “is a Visiting Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department and at the Divinity School, and Research Associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard. Her training, professional experience, and academic expertise are in political science, the Middle East area and Islamic studies, and she has written numerous books and articles on Muslim minorities in France and in Europe, and their transnational links with the Muslim world at large. For the European Commission, Césari is currently coordinating “The Network On Comparative Research: Islam Muslims in Europe” (“Nocrime,” online at: Since 1998, she has held several fellowships and professorships at Harvard and Columbia Universities. Césari is currently developing a research project on Muslim minorities in Europe and in the U.S., and she chairs the Islam in the West Study Group, which is co-sponsored by [The Center for European Studies] and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.”


Nathan Glazer
Professor of Education and Social Structure, Emeritus

“Nathan Glazer, Professor of Education and Social Structure, Emeritus, was born in New York City, and attended The City College of New York. He worked on the magazine Commentary as an editor from 1944 to 1953, was a book editor at Doubleday and Random House, traveled in Japan and wrote books (American Judaism, The Social Basis of American Communism, Beyond the Melting Pot), received a Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University, and entered academic life at the University of California at Berkeley in 1963, coming to Harvard as a professor in the Graduate School of Education in 1969. His most recent books are Ethnic Dilemmas, 1964- 1982; Clamor at the Gates, an edited work dealing with immigration issues; The Public Face of Architecture, another edited collection, and The Limits of Social Policy. His interests include: ethnicity, the sociology of American Jews, social policy, urbanism and architecture. He is connected with the quarterly dealing with public policy, The Public Interest, which he has edited with Irving Kristol since 1973. Although recently retired, he is available to see students.” (Sociology Department website)


Swanee Hunt
Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government
Director of Women and Public Policy Program

“Swanee Hunt is Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she teaches. Prior to that appointment in 1997, she focused a decade on American domestic policy, followed by four years as the American Ambassador to Austria, where she led a dialogue about the security structure of a new, united Europe. At the Kennedy School, Hunt leads a new program emphasizing women’s role within the public policy process as citizen initiators of the policy agenda, as policy-makers in the process, and as clients affected by the outcome. It supports research, enhances teaching and materials on women and public policy, and organizes conferences and courses to advance women’s leadership in the public arena (with special attention to women of color), strengthen the advocacy power of grassroots women, and mobilize activists around policy initiatives of concern to women.” (WAPPP website)


Peggy Levitt
Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Wellesley College

Professor Levitt’s research interests include: International migration; Latin America; Transnationalism; Democratization and Civil Society; the Sociology of Religion.


David Little
T.J. Dermont Dunphy Professor of the Practice in Religion, Ethnicity, and International Conflict Faculty Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

“David Little is a student of religious ethics and sociology of religion, with a special concentration on international religious freedom, and human rights and ethno-religious conflict. As a senior scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, he has been engaged in a multi-year study of religion, nationalism, and intolerance.” (Divinity School website)


Lowell Livezey
Visiting Lecturer on Ministry and Director of the Metropolitan Congregational Studies Project, Harvard Divinity School

“Lowell W. Livezey studies, teaches, and writes about the agency of religious organizations-especially churches, synagogues, mosques, and other worship centers-in large urban areas. Using ethnographic data assembled in collaboration with colleagues and students in Chicago and Boston, he argues that the “religion factor” is more salient than often recognized in the economic, demographic, and spatial restructuring of modern industrial cities. Livezey is a lecturer on ministry at Harvard Divinity School and director of its Metropolitan Congregational Studies Project. Before coming to Harvard in 2001, he was director and principal investigator of the Religion in Urban America Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is editor and an author of Public Religion and Urban Transformation (2000), author of Neighborhoods in Change: Congregations Making a Difference (forthcoming), and a co-author of Religion and the New Urban America (forthcoming), which examines the roles of religion in the reconfiguration of Chicago from a classic industrial city to an “informational” and “global” city. He is organizing a conference on “Faith in Boston” at Harvard Divinity School in April 2004 as an initial public presentation of research on how religious organizations contribute to the future of Greater Boston.”


John Mansfield
John H. Watson, Jr., Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Professor Mansfield’s research interests include comparative law, constitutional law, and evidence. In the Spring of 2000, Professor Mansfield taught a course entitled “Church and State” and the seminar “Law and Religion in India.”


Martha Minow
Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Member of the Faculty of Education
Co-Chair of Social Science Research Project, “Free Exercise of Culture”

Professor Minow writes, “As Co-Chair of a Social Science Research Project affectionately known as the ‘free exercise of culture,’ I am working with other scholars to study how western democracies respond to religious and culture practices that depart from those established in public institutions and laws; how members of minority groups respond to the risk of conflict with informal and formal social rules; and how legal and cultural norms should change. My own work focuses especially on the issues raised in childrearing practices.”

Brian Palmer
Lecturer on the Modern West in the Study of Religion, Harvard University

Palmer’s current research interests include humanitarian engagement and national identity, cosmologies of the global market, the poetics of political satire, and the cultural construction of moral conscientiousness. His dissertation, which examined the efforts of Swedes to uphold egalitarian values and institutions in the face of an increasingly market-driven national and global order, won the 2001 Jepson Award for contributions to leadership studies. Palmer’s ethnographic fieldwork has been supported by the American-Scandinavian Foundation, Council for European Studies, and Fulbright, Mellon, Sheldon, and Swedish Institute grants. His lecture courses include “Personal Choice and Global Transformation,” “Ethnographic Imaginations,” “The Making of Human Sacredness,” and “Globalization and Human Values: Envisioning World Community.” In 2002, Palmer won the Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize for best teaching by a junior faculty member.


Richard Parker
Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government
Senior Fellow, Shorenstein Center

Professor Parker writes, “Having grown up in Southern California, in a community with significant Mexican, Mexican-American, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean minorities, my own adolescent introduction 40 years ago to civil rights came not simply through the struggles of African Americans in the geographically-distant South, but of these other minorities in my own home town. From the lives of my friends, I learned about a world that otherwise eluded the understanding of a white, middle-class boy. That experience led me in the Sixties to the South, where I spent time as both a civil rights worker and a teacher, even as I pursued my undergraduate degree. It has kept me involved in both my work as a journalist (as cofounder of Mother Jones, managing editor of Ramparts, and nowadays as editorial board member of The Nation), and in my political consulting work in the Eighties working for Sen. Kennedy and others. These days, I find it expressed most often not only in my teaching at the Kennedy School but also in my personal involvement in the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. In my work at the Shorenstein Center, I’m especially interested in work on the press and its coverage of a variety of economic issues that, particularly in looking at questions of inequality and growth, go to central questions involving immigration, job markets, and cultural diversity. As an economist, I’m particularly interested in adaptive labor market questions that underpin America’s increasing integration in global capital and job structures.”


Christopher Queen
Dean of Students and Alumni Relations for Continuing Education
Lecturer on the Study of Religion, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

“My work on contemporary Buddhism focuses on the transformation of the tradition as native practitioners, immigrants, and new converts attempt to apply traditional teachings and practices to social, economic, political, and environmental challenges. The emergence of “engaged Buddhism” may be traced to the conversion of India’s untouchables from Hinduism to Buddhism since the 1950s, and to the peace activism of Vietnamese monks and laypeople in the sixties and seventies. In North America, Europe, Australia, and South Africa, Buddhist immigrants and converts are also addressing the dislocations of social change and globalization with new insights and strategies. The resulting blend of Buddhist teachings and western values has been analysed in a series of volumes I have edited: Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia (with Sallie B. King, 1996), American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship (with Duncan Ryuken Williams, 1999), Engaged Buddhism in the West (2000), and Action Dharma: New Essays on Engaged Buddhism (with Charles Prebish and Damien Keown, forthcoming). I am working on a book of stories from the Buddhist conversion movement in India among the followers of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956).


Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco
Professor of Education, Harvard University Graduate School of Education
Co-Director, Harvard Immigration Project
Chair, Interfaculty Committee on Latino Studies at Harvard

Professor Suarez-Orozco writes: “The Harvard Immigration Project is involved in a number of new initiatives in the comparative study of immigration. We are now, for example, conducting a large scale study of immigrant families and children in the United States. The study — the largest of its kind — is interdisciplinary, comparative and longitudinal. We have researchers currently working in approximately 50 sites — both coasts. Our basic question is quite broad: what does immigration do to families and children in terms of their long-term adaptations to the new land. Our work now focuses on Afro-Caribbean, Latino, and Asian immigrant communities.”


Reed Ueda
Professor, Department of History, Tufts University
Co-Editor, New Americans, Harvard University Press Special Project
Steering Group, Inter-University Committee on International Migration

Reed Ueda writes, “My area of scholarship is social and immigration history of the United States. I am involved in editing the Journal of Interdisciplinary History and running the Boston Seminar on Immigration and Urban History at the Massachusetts Historical Society. I love talking about any aspect or period of history, in any region.”


Mary Waters
Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Harvard College Professor

Mary Waters writes, “My current research interest is in young adults whose parents were immigrants to the US–the second generation. I am studying people whose parents came from China, the West Indies, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Korea, Russia, and the Dominican Republic. I am interested in economic, cultural, and social assimilation, and issues of ethnic and racial identity.”