SSRC Awards 13 Grants to Improve Public Knowledge on Islam and Muslim Communities
The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) today announced the award of $908,513 in grants aimed at enhancing public dialogue on Islam and Muslim societies. These grants support university projects that promote public engagement by scholars who have specialized knowledge honed through years of research and language training.
"The grants program looks to develop scholarship on Islam as a public resource," said Thomas Asher, a program officer at the SSRC. "The funds create new channels for the distribution of high-quality expert knowledge so that it might directly inform journalism, policy, and public discourse."
Thirteen centers on university campuses received grants ranging from approximately $35,000 to $100,000 for projects that will help revitalize the public mission of universities by addressing topics of critical importance to ongoing national debates and policy. These centers, known as Title VI National Resource Centers, are funded through the Department of Education and specialize in area studies and language training. The SSRC grants program complements this federally-supported network, and was made possible by Carnegie Corporation of New York in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Department of Education Title VI programs.
This year, grants were awarded to centers that address regions as disparate as the Middle East, Eurasia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. This range of regions reflects a commitment by the SSRC to communicate the diversity of Islamic civilizations and Muslim communities and to bring attention to regions and issues that have been largely neglected in public discourse.
Projects funded through the SSRC grants program this year:
- PROJECT: "Contexts and Connections:
Islam, Scholarship, and Media"
INSTITUTION: Duke University
NRCs: Center for International Studies, Islamic Studies Center, DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The project establishes three five-week fellowships for journalists who cover Islam and the Muslim world. The fellows, part of the DeWitt Wallace Media Fellows program, will attend courses offered at Duke University and participate in symposia bringing together journalism faculty/students and Islamic studies scholars.
- PROJECT: "Islam in Latin America"
INSTITUTION: Florida International University
NRCs: Latin American and Caribbean Center
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The project will support basic research by FSU faculty on the increasing presence of Muslims in Latin America, a result of both conversion and migration. This research will position scholars to engage policymakers and journalists.
- PROJECT: "Islam and Muslims in World
Contexts: Eurasian Web Resources"
INSTITUTION: Georgetown University
NRC: Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The project aims to enable policymakers, advocacy groups, and researchers to better understand the relationship between Islam and central Asian political systems formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The centerpiece of the project will be an online archive of Eurasian resources, created in partnership with the Library of Congress and open to researchers around the globe. Six hundred active seeds will operate in six collections and capture over 20 million documents in Russian, Turkish, and English.
- PROJECT: "Beyond Voices and Visions:
Islam and Muslims from a Global Perspective"
INSTITUTION: Indiana University
NRCs: Center for the Study of Global Change, African Studies Center, East Asian Studies Center, Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center, Russian and East European Institute, West European Studies Center
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: During this second year of funding, the project will continue its 3–5 minute award-winning podcasts for local public radio station WFIU. In addition, the project will collaborate with public television affiliate WTIU on a series of 3-5 minute videocasts, which will be broadcast throughout the month of Ramadan.
- PROJECT: "Reporting about Muslim Peoples
and Islam: An Online Resource for Professional Journalism Education"
INSTITUTION: Michigan State University
NRCs: African Studies Center
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: Islamic studies scholars and journalism faculty will collaborate to develop online professional journalism curricular material addressing the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in both American and international media (including print, digital, broadcast, and photography). The project seeks to produce accessible material for use by accredited journalism programs across the country, particularly at the master’s and Ph.D. levels.
- PROJECT: "Iran Social Science
INSTITUTION: Princeton University, Syracuse University
NRCs: Near Eastern Studies Program (Princeton), NRC for South Asia (Syracuse)
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: Scholars from the two universities will work together to translate and present better, more accurate information on Iranian government and society than is available in the U.S. to date.
- PROJECT: "Understanding Islam: Bridging
the Worlds of Academia and Journalism"
INSTITUTION: University of Arizona
NRCs: Center for Middle East Studies
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The grant will support panel discussions among Islamic studies scholars and journalists at newspaper associations in Arizona and New Mexico. The grant also will support the development of a cross-listed Journalism/Near Eastern Studies class on international opinion writing.
- PROJECT: "Islam in Circulation: New
Media and Youth Culture in the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast
INSTITUTION: University of California - Berkeley
NRCs: Center for South Asia Studies, Center for Middle East Studies, Center for Southeast Asia Studies
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The project will develop a series of public events in San Francisco and Silicon Valley centered on the topic of youth culture and new media in the Middle East and South Asia. The funds additionally support a public festival in the East Bay area on the topic of youth, Islam, and the arts.
- PROJECT: "Understanding Muslim Community
Resources in the Rocky Mountain Region"
INSTITUTION: University of Colorado at Boulder
NRCs: Center for Asian Studies
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The grantees will map key constituencies and resources in the Rocky Mountain region and develop an online regional gazetteer aimed at local media.
- PROJECT: "Bringing Africa into the
Discussion: Enhancing Public Engagement on Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa"
INSTITUTION: University of Florida
NRCs: Center for African Studies
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The participants will film a documentary exploring Eid-al-Fitr as celebrated along the Swahili Coast and the Hausa-speaking region of northern Nigeria. The filmmakers will develop written educational material to supplement this documentary, which will be screened at the World Affairs Council, the United Nations Association, and public libraries.
- PROJECT: "Understanding Muslims and
Islam in Michigan and Beyond"
INSTITUTION: University of Michigan
NRCs: Center for Middle East and North African Studies, Center for Russian and East European Studies, Center for South Asian Studies, Center for African Studies, Islamic Studies Initiative
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The funds enable scholars and journalists to develop five one-hour programs exploring Muslim communities in Michigan for broadcast on local public radio affiliates during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. In addition, the grantees will develop this material as interstitials to be broadcast on public television affiliate WFUM, serving southeast and central Michigan.
- PROJECT: "Building Muslim Spaces in a
INSTITUTION: University of Pennsylvania
NRCs: African Studies Center
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The project will support forums bringing together faculty in Islamic and African studies and local representatives of African Muslim communities in Philadelphia. Forums will include public meetings at the Free Library of Pennsylvania and radio programming that features researchers and representatives of advocacy groups.
- PROJECT: "Inside Islam: Dialogues and
INSTITUTION: University of Wisconsin-Madison
NRCs: Global Studies, African Studies Program, Center for South Asia, Center for South East Asian Studies, Center for European Studies, Center for East Asian Studies, Center for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: Funds will support the continuing development of one-hour programming by scholars at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Wisconsin Public Radio program Here on Earth: Radio without Borders, which explores issues ranging from the rise of heavy metal bands in Muslim-majority countries to Senate hearings on engaging Muslim communities around the world.
For more detail on the above projects, particularly their plans for public engagement, download Grantee List 2009-10 (pdf: 3 pages, 60KB).