Pluralism Project Newsletter: December 14, 2011

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Celebrate and Donate: Twenty Years of the Pluralism Project

December 14, 2011


Dear Friends,

Greetings in this season of celebration! We here at the Pluralism Project have much to celebrate as we mark our twenty-year anniversary.  Over two decades, we have engaged in groundbreaking research and developed innovative resources on religious diversity in America.  Yet perhaps our greatest accomplishment is cultivating a new generation of scholars, researchers, and activists.  Each year, this group of talented student researchers, affiliates, and advisors expands and extends the impact of this critical work. This November at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion we gathered together researchers from across the country and from several of our affiliate projects in Europe.

Since 1991, hundreds of students and affiliates have participated in the research of the Pluralism Project.  In some cases, we even find two generations of researchers within the same family!  In the late 1990s, David Odell-Scott and his colleague Surinder Bhardwaj launched an affiliate research project at Kent State University to map the religious landscape of northeast Ohio. David explains, “The most immediate impact of working with the Pluralism Project was that I had a network of folks to work with locally and nationally in the study of the changing religious landscape of the United States.” Since becoming an affiliate, David has been recognized for his teaching, published a book on religious diversity, developed the Ohio Pluralism Project, and initiated research on “Buddhism in the Bayou.” 

When David’s affiliate project began, his daughter Megan was still in middle school. She remembers little interest in her father’s mapping of religious centers: “I was much more focused on boy bands and nail polish.” For Megan, religious diversity was a simple fact of life: whether sharing a Passover meal with Jewish  neighbors; spending time with her best friend, who was Hindu; or even visiting Vietnamese Buddhist communities while on a family vacation in Alabama.  She notes, “It wasn't until much later, after September 11, 2001, that I began to realize not everyone is as welcoming of religious pluralism as the family and community that I grew up in.”  When the mosque around the corner from their house was vandalized, Megan and her brother collected signatures of support and donations.  She went on to study religion and theology, with special interest in interfaith relations; Megan later became a summer intern for the Pluralism Project. Today, Megan is completing a project on interfaith organizations in the Midwest, and David continues to involve honors students in field research across Ohio.

David, an early affiliate, and Megan, a recent researcher, link together our past, present, and future: from the earliest mapping projects, to our newest initiative on the Interfaith Infrastructure.  Over these twenty years, our work is grounded in research and strengthened through collaboration, yet remains diverse and dynamic.  Please consider making a special donation, in recognition of our twenty-year anniversary, to ensure that we can continue to engage the next generation of researchers and affiliates.

Thank you for your sustained support, financial and otherwise. While the Pluralism Project is based here in Cambridge, the project of pluralism is our common and critically important work.

All the best,

Diana Eck and The Pluralism Project

P.S.  We are pleased to announce that donations to the Pluralism Project may either be made online or by mailed check. For more information about online giving, please visit our online donation page.