The Center for Religion and Media at New York University is one of ten Centers of Excellence funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts from 2003–2007. The Center continues with an endowment from NYU to stimulate innovative research and teaching in the interdisciplinary study of religion. The Center seeks to develop interdisciplinary, cross-cultural knowledge of how religious practices and ideas are shaped and spread through a variety of media. It provides a space for scholarly endeavor, a stage for public educational events and an electronic interface with scholars, journalists and the public through its innovative web journal, The Revealer: a review of religion and media, edited by Kali Handelman. While this project was conceived before September 11, that event and its aftermath have dramatized the need for understanding the spread of religious ideas and practices through a variety of media.
The Center is a joint project of the Religious Studies Program (Angela Zito, Director) and the Center for Media, Culture, and History, (Faye Ginsburg, Director). Kali Handelman is the editor of the Center’s innovative web journal, The Revealer: a review of religion and media.
The Center started officially in May 2003. In the summer of 2003, we collaborated with Diana Taylor and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at NYU in hosting an international “encuentro” on Spectacles of Religiosity: Religious Mediation in the Americas.
Each year The Center focuses on a specific theme, hosting several Working Groups and planning public events that will illuminate its issues:
In 2003/2004 the annual theme was Confession, Testimony, Witnessing. In May 2004 we hosted a three-day interdisciplinary conference: Religious Witness: the Intimate, the Everyday, and the World.
For 2004–2005, the annual theme was Religious Experience: Memory, Media, Marketing. In May 2005, we presented, along with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, The Museum of Modern Art First Nations/First Features: A Showcase of World Indigenous Film and Media.
For 2005–2006, as we started the year themed Religion, Media, and Body Politics, we were faced with the disastrous human response to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. We immediately began planning a May 2006 conference called Body Counts/Bodies Count.
The theme for 2006–2007 was Secularization, Media and the Globalization of Religion. A range of challenges to “secularism” emerging in contemporary forms of religious community and identity position themselves within and against secular regimes associated with modernity. We explored various media through which these challenges are mounted, pursued, and performed, and through which they acquire social weight.
The theme for 2007–2008 was Religion and the Politics of Culture.
The theme for 2008–2009 was Culture, Religion and the Politics of Change.