Nationwide scholar network expands to strengthen public scholarship on religion, culture, and politics

image2WASHINGTON – The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, today announced an expanded cohort of eleven scholars who are joining PRRI’s Public Fellows Program. This diverse, interdisciplinary group of outstanding scholars will work with PRRI researchers and staff to produce data-driven dialogue, thought leadership, commentary and teaching on contemporary issues at the intersection of religion, culture, and politics.

“This distinguished group of scholars will enrich PRRI’s research, and we’re excited to be supporting their public scholarship,” said PRRI Founder and CEO Robert P. Jones. “This diverse group brings expertise from political science, sociology, human rights law, and religious studies, and the cross-pollination across disciplines promises to produce important new insights about religion and politics in America.”

The PRRI Public Fellows Program is made possible through a generous grant from The Henry Luce Foundation. Returning Public Fellows joining the 2019-2020 cohort are Engy Abdelkader, Esq., Dr. Ruth Braunstein, Dr. Jenna Reinbold, Dr. Stella M. Rouse, Dr. Rebecca Todd Peters, Dr. Janelle Wong and Dr. Grace Yukich. The new Public Fellows for this academic year are Dr. Zareena Grewal, Dr. Eric McDaniel, Dr. Andra Gillespie and Dr. Andrew Lewis.

Engy Abdelkader, J.D., is based at Rutgers University where her teaching and research explores religion, race, and gender at the intersection of law, politics, and society—both domestically and internationally. She has collaborated with the UN, the U.S. State Department, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the American Bar Association, among other organizations. Her writing has appeared in CNN, HuffPost, TIME, the Christian Science Monitor and numerous outlets.

Ruth Braunstein, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut and a cultural sociologist interested in the role of religion and morality in American political life. She is the author of “Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy Across the Political Divide,” and co-editor of “Religion and Progressive Activism: New Stories About Faith and Politics.” Her current research project, “The Moral Meaning of Taxes,” explores how the practices of taxpaying and tax resisting are linked to contested understandings of political community, good citizenship and morality in the United States. During 2019-2020, Ruth is the recipient of a Louisville Institute Sabbatical Grant for Researchers and is also a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Religion.

Andra Gillespie, Ph.D., is the Director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute and an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Emory University. Her research and teaching portfolio focuses on race and politics, with a current focus on the political leadership of the post-civil rights generation. In addition to her academic work, she maintains an active public profile and provides regular commentary for local and national news outlets, including Atlanta’s local ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS and PBS affiliates, as well as CNN, NPR and FamilyNet. Dr. Gillespie is the author of “The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark and Post-Racial America” and her editorials have been featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post, and Politico.

Zareena Grewal, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University. A historical anthropologist and documentary filmmaker, her research focuses on race, gender, religion, nationalism and transnationalism across American Muslim communities. She is the author of “Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority” and the forthcoming “Is the Quran a Good Book?” She is also the director of “By the Dawn’s Early Light: Chris Jackson’s Journey to Islam.”

Andrew Lewis, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Lewis’ research looks at the intersection of politics, religion and law in America with a focus on Evangelicals and politics, church-state relations and conservative legal activism. His book, “The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics: How Abortion Transformed the Culture Wars,” won the 2018 Hubert Morken Best Book in Religion and Politics Award from the American Political Science Association.

Eric McDaniel, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on how and why Black religious institutions choose to become involved in political matters and the role religious institutions play in shaping Black political behavior. Dr. McDaniel is the author of “Politics in the Pews: The Political Mobilization of Black Churches.”

Rebecca Todd Peters, Ph.D., is a Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Poverty and Social Justice Program at Elon University. She is the author or editor of eight books, including her most recent book, “Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice.” She received the 2018 Walter Wink Scholar-Activist Award from Auburn Seminary in recognition of her work as a public scholar and activist on a wide range of social justice issues. In addition to her books, Peters has published more than 25 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, written the “To Do Justice” blog on the Progressive Christianity page of Patheos, and published op-eds in HuffPost, ReWire, Christian Century and newspapers across the Southeast.

Jenna Reinbold, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Religion at Colgate University where she studies contemporary intersections of religion and politics, the separation of church and state in the U.S., religion and the “culture wars,” and religion and human rights. She received her BA at Portland State University and her MA and PhD at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Her recent book, “Seeing the Myth in Human Rights,” received an Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion.

Stella Rouse, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics, Director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, and Associate Director of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll at the University of Maryland. Her research focuses on Latino politics, minority politics, millennial politics, state politics and immigration. She is the author of two books: “Latinos in the Legislative Process: Interests and Influence,” which was voted as one of the best political science books of 2013 by HuffPost, and “The Politics of Millennials: Political Beliefs and Policy Preferences of America’s Most Diverse Generation.” Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Hill, Reuters and NBC News. She also serves as an editorial board member of the journals Political Behavior and Social Science Quarterly and the initiative “Women Also Know Stuff.”

Janelle Wong, Ph.D., is a Professor of American Studies and a core faculty member in the Asian American studies program at the University of Maryland. Wong is the author of “Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change” and “Democracy’s Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions,” and the co-author of two books on Asian American politics. She was a co-principal investigator on the 2016 National Asian American Survey, a nationwide survey of Asian American political and social attitudes.

Grace Yukich, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Quinnipiac University. Her research examines race, immigration and religion and public life in the United States. She is the author of the forthcoming book “Religion Is Raced: Understanding American Religion in the 21st Century and One Family Under God: Immigration Politics and Progressive Religion in America.” She is the Book Review Editor for the journal Sociology of Religion and a National Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture.

About PRRI:

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture and public policy.