Jonathan VanAntwerpen is director of the Council’s new Digital Culture program, director of the Religion and the Public Sphere program, and editor-in-chief of The Immanent Frame. Originally trained as a philosopher, he received his doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Since joining the SSRC in 2006, he has developed and directed an array of initiatives on religion and public life, with a particular focus on religion, secularism, and international affairs. An earlier project on politics and spirituality led to the collaborative and experimental Frequencies, while a grants program on the interdisciplinary study of prayer is linked to Reverberations. In 2012-2013, VanAntwerpen served as the SSRC’s interim director of communications, and for the past several years he has been a visiting scholar at New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge.
In concert with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Interfaith Center of New York, and Princeton University, VanAntwerpen organizes exploratory consultations and other events on religion and the United Nations, bringing together academic researchers, NGO actors, and representatives of UN agencies. He led the SSRC team that developed plans for the Council’s African Peacebuilding Network, and he is a senior advisor for Contending Modernities, a multi-year, interdisciplinary research and education initiative based at Notre Dame University’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
VanAntwerpen is coeditor of a series of edited volumes on secularism and religion, including Habermas and Religion (Polity, 2013), Rethinking Secularism (Oxford University Press, 2011), The Post-Secular in Question (NYU Press, 2012), The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere (Columbia University Press, 2011), and Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age (Harvard University Press, 2010). He has also written on secularism and transitional justice, philanthropy and the politics of reconciliation, American higher education, and the history of sociology.
My dissertation research seeks to narrate and explain the genesis, consolidation and diffusion of an increasingly global model for the formation of transitional bodies known as truth commissions. Originating in Latin American commissions, this model has been more frequently adopted by recent transitional bodies, and was consolidated and transformed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, under a rubric of “reconciliation through truth." Through extended field research in South Africa, I will investigate the social and cultural sources of this global model, along with the dynamic public processes that both contested and shaped it. I will also analyze the model's transnational diffusion, examining its transformative mimicry by subsequent truth commissions. Reaching into the detailed debates of South Africa's public sphere, I will simultaneously reach out to the growing transnational field in which the construction of truth commissions has been situated. Thus, my research will contribute not only to the comparative study of truth commissions, but also to a growing interdisciplinary literature on the sources and processes of global culture.