Islamic Traditions and Muslim Societies in World Contexts > Competitions

Islamic Traditions and Muslim Societies in World Contexts

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) awarded $795,307 in grants from the Academia in the Public Sphere grants program in 2011. Ten interdisciplinary centers situated within U.S. universities received grants ranging from approximately $50,000 to $100,000.

The monies were given to support projects that enhance public understanding of Islamic traditions and Muslim societies by bringing sound research and good social science into non-academic spaces.  Part of a multi-year effort supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the overarching goal of the Academia in the Public Sphere grants program is to break down barriers and build connections between academic researchers, journalists, policy-makers, and practitioners concerned with public perception of Muslims and Islam.


Engaging Journalism and Public Policy Students in Muslim Societies: Reporting and Analyzing in the Field while Living the Traditions of Islam
  • Middle East Center for Peace, Culture, and Development, Northeastern University
  • Project Director(s): Sullivan, Denis J.
[ project summary ]
The project leverages Northeastern’s international experiential learning expertise by developing programming with journalists. Meetings funded by this grant will bookend a trip for journalism students to report on events in the Middle East which will enable faculty and professional journalists to work with students in Journalism, International Affairs, and Public Policy to develop publishable stories and policy briefs. Additionally, Northeastern will present a semester-long Open Classroom: America’s Engagement with the Muslim World: Investigating Traditions, Culture, and Contemporary Politics. Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Egypt to be run by Michael Dukakis, Rami Khouri, and Denis Sullivan. The Open Classroom, which each week draws 150-250 students, journalists, government officials, business leaders, and members of the Boston Community, will be conducted over a period of 14 weeks.
Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates
  • Global Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Project Director(s): Schamiloglu, Uli
[ project summary ]
Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates aims to communicate intellectual, cultural, and social aspects of Islam and Muslims in the contemporary world. The purpose of the project is: 1) to enable UW faculty, academic staff, and researchers to share their knowledge of Islam and the Muslim World with publics outside of the university; 2) to deploy the media and technological expertise of UW-Madison and UW-Extension in order to effectively reach out to local, national, and international communities; and 3) to create a space for positive and constructive information on Islam and Muslims in the public sphere through dialogues and debates among Muslims and non-Muslims. The first two cycles of this project focused on the dissemination of knowledge about Islam in an accessible manner to non-academic communities through interactive use of traditional media such as talk radio and new media such as websites, podcasts, blogs, chats and digital storytelling. The current project seeks to broaden and deepen activities thematically and regionally with an eye toward institutionalizing after SSRC funding and maintaining the wealth of informational resources that the project has developed. Specifically, they will build on strengths to develop in-depth resources on cross-cutting themes such as eco-Islam, and will continue to produce engaging and interactive blogs and radio programming while expanding online informational material.
Islam on Main Street
  • The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University
  • Project Director(s): Pintak, Lawrence
[ project summary ]
This project seeks to leverage earlier support of an Islam on Main Street online course for working journalists by producing a companion book based on the curriculum, tentatively entitled Reporting Islam: On Main Street and Beyond; and to expand the access to the online course by placing it on Poynter Institute’s News University, the premier journalism training portal with some 165,000 registered users.
Migrations of Islam: Muslim American Popular Culture in the 21st Century
  • Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University
  • Project Director(s): Hassan, Salah D.
[ project summary ]
This is an interdisciplinary project that emphasizes contemporary cultural expression among Muslims in the US. Its main theme is Muslim American self-representation through popular culture and as a counter-culture to Islamophobia. The project focuses on bringing into broader public circulation knowledge about Muslim American popular culture during the last 10 years. The project extends and enriches the work done on the Islam, Muslims and Journalism Education website ( by adding content related to Muslim self-expression. It also extends the general approach beyond the sphere of journalism education to other areas of social scientific inquiry that focus on collective cultural movements. This project will be organized in Spring and Summer 2011 and programming will take place through the Fall of 2011. The final products will be produced in Spring and Summer 2012. The project proposed here will consist of a series of performances/artist presentations and forums scheduled to run from September 2011 until December 2011. The scheduling of the cultural events is planned to coincide with other events being organized in Michigan more generally to mark the 10th anniversary of September 11. The forum discussions will consist of several sessions in which scholars, artists and journalists will discuss the performances. The events will be videotaped and photographed and regular blog updates will be posted on the IMAJE website along with other materials. A broadcast quality documentary video will be produced in Spring 2012
Muslim and American? A National Conference on the Political and Societal Incorporation of American Muslims
  • Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality, University of Washington
  • Project Director(s): Barreto, Matt A.
[ project summary ]
This project plans to hold a conference in Washington, D.C., in which scholars, policymakers and their aides will be invited, and where three panel sessions will take place. This will be in partnership with New America Foundation.” The sessions will address the question of Muslims and Islam in the U.S. from different angles that will include new ways that are meant to present the role of Muslims in U.S. society, historically and contemporarily.
New Media and Scholars of Islam: A Partnership between Religion Dispatches and the American Academy of Religion
  • Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University
  • Project Director(s): Laderman, Gary M.
[ project summary ]
This project, with Religion Dispatches (RD) partnering with the American Academy of Religion (AAR), will lead directly to enhanced public writing on Islam from many voices disseminated through RD, and also help to create a culture of public engagement by scholars of Islam that will be sustained well beyond the terms of the grant. They propose to: 1) hire a dedicated contributing editor to increase the quantity and quality of our coverage of matters related to Islam; 2) invest in writers and communications by identifying and hiring a number of scholars of Islam who will write stories, op-eds, blogs and commentaries for our magazine; 3) support two major media training workshops to inform and train scholars of Islam in the new media landscape and effective strategies for public communication in this rapidly expanding milieu; 4) plan and organize two conferences that bring together scholars of Islam, media experts and journalists to explore the challenges and resources for covering Islam, nationally and globally; and 5) build AAR’s online resource for media outlets that seek out scholarly expertise on Islam.
Project on Middle East Political Science
  • Institute for Middle East Studies, George Washington University
  • Project Director(s): Lynch, Marc
[ project summary ]
The Project on Middle East Political Science, housed at the George Washington University's Institute for Middle East Studies, is a network designed to support the academic, policy and public engagement efforts of academic specialists in the political science of the Middle East. Launched in March 2010 with support from the SSRC’s Academia in the Public Sphere program, it has already demonstrated significant success with policy seminars bringing academics together with top U.S. officials and with the academic contributions to the Middle East Channel on It will continue support for several key areas of related policy engagement, outreach, and collaborative network building. First, it will continue its policy seminar series to bring academic Middle East specialists to Washington DC, where they give a public presentation, have a private discussion with relevant policy officials, and publish an article on the Middle East Channel based on their talk. Second, the project will also support contributions by academic political scientists to the Middle East Channel on, which has established itself as the leading online portal for informed analysis and debate about the region. Third, it will increase the amount of multimedia content on its website, including video of events and podcasts and webcasts of interviews and commentary with experts. Fourth, it will organize a junior scholars conference, which would integrate advanced graduate students and recent PhDs into the network’s activities and help build the field. Together, these activities are powerfully contributing to the increased public engagement by Middle East political scientists.
Scholarship on the Contemporary Muslim World: Presenting New Perspectives to Middle America
  • Northeast Ohio University Consortium for Middle East Studies, Case Western Reserve University
  • Project Director(s): Moore, Pete W.
[ project summary ]
The newly established Northeast Ohio University Consortium for Middle East Studies (NOUCMES) proposes to manage a broadly accessible speakers series in which scholars working on the Muslim world present their research to the Northeast Ohio community and media. In partnership with the oldest free speech venue in the country, the City Club of Cleveland, and the newest nonprofit organization committed to extending public engagement, the Civic Commons, they propose hosting six eminent scholars, activists, artists and journalists, and sponsoring twelve engaging events organized around three inter-disciplinary and general themes: Muslim Voices and Publics, Women in the Muslim World, and Muslim Societies in Transition. Invited speakers will address one theme through presentations of their research in two accessible forums. The first forum will be a general public address at the City Club of Cleveland, which provides multiple possibilities for expansive dissemination including the potential for a national platform. A second forum will offer a more engaged conversation in which the speaker discusses some work or production with students, faculty, and the public.
The Shari'a, Laws of War, and Post-Conflict Justice Project
  • Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, Syracuse University
  • Project Director(s): Banks, William C.
[ project summary ]
This project seeks to produce and disseminate two important intellectual products with U.S. policymakers, practitioners, and the news media: 1) a Declaration of Principles & Guidelines on the Shari’a, Laws of War, and Post-Conflict Justice, and 2) an interactive online portal exploring the compatibility between Islamic notions of justice (in the Qur’an, hadith, and Sunnah) and humanitarian rules governing conflict and justice (in international humanitarian law, human rights law, and international criminal law). These products are currently being developed through a triad of workshops (two completed, one pending) by a partnership of institutes and our interdisciplinary group of participating scholars, practitioners, theologians, journalists, human rights advocates, international lawyers and thought leaders. The purpose of both products is to raise the visibility of this important rapport between Islamic and international law, advance the public national discourse on the subject, and provide a resource for researchers, students, media professionals, and practitioners (from the USAID, diplomatic, military, and NGO communities) to learn from one another, develop networks of understanding, and create new projects.
Turkey at the Center of the Muslim Revival
  • Center for Global Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Project Director(s): Kolodziej, Edward A.
[ project summary ]
UIUC's Center for Global Studies, in cooperation with five UIUC units, will collaborate with the College of Media to develop an international reporting field program focused on Muslim societies. The first installment of this ongoing program will be an in-depth examination of Turkey’s central role in determining the trajectory of the global Muslim revival and its growing political and economic influence in the Northern Tier and in the Middle East. The program will feature close collaboration among journalism faculty, UIUC area studies scholars, journalism students, and professional journalists with expertise in covering Islamic societies. Additionally the project will support the dissemination of student reporting through radio documentaries, TV products, and news articles, to be scheduled for distribution through multiple national and international media outlets. The program also will include an intensive workshop to train UIUC scholars of Muslim society how to better engage the media, including the production of news articles and Op-Eds.