Mission Statement

“Humanitarianism, Religion, Protest” seeks to generate
conversations and debates among university-level students and faculty around
the intersections of humanitarianism and religion. It is meant as a forum for cross-
campus dialogs and as a public platform for students and faculty to produce short,
accessible, yet insightful commentary on historical and contemporary instances of
religious and secular notions of the humanitarian good. Our goal is to intervene in
predominant U.S. imaginaries of global crisis that relegate “atrocity” and “religious
conflict” to the Global South, while producing the U.S. and its European allies
as humanitarian actors par excellence. Rather than pitting human rights and
humanitarian intervention against religious fundamentalism, then, we instead wish
to consider how religious affiliations and movements are in conversation with and
are themselves humanitarian actors, and how religious organizations may produce
alternate visions of justice and the common good.

About Us

Funded by a two-year University of California Humanities Research Institute-Luce Foundation Grant on “Religion in Diaspora
and Global Affairs” (2013-2015), our Humanities Studio seeks to put discussions
of humanitarianism and religion that take place in the university classroom in
conversation with such discussions taking place in the media and in politics. We not
only see this as an opportunity to develop innovative pedagogical methods, but to
disrupt existing understandings of what constitutes humanitarianism and religion
in mainstream U.S. media and public discourses.

Considering the important role that both religion and notions of the humanitarian
good play in shaping answers to the question of who should intervene into instances
of crisis and violence, and when to intervene, generating such a conversation is
timely and important. Our studio begins from the premise that the links between
humanitarianism and religion extend beyond the historical connection of religious
groups to humanitarian action. Indeed, campaigns that link humanitarian action
to the development of human rights can in and of themselves be viewed as
evangelizing, demanding the world’s faith in singular notions of humanity, rights,
accepted values, normalcy and justice. Our group thus also wishes to highlight how
people protest against such singular notions of justice, and how religious affiliations
contribute to such modes of protest.

Features of the “Humanitarianism, Religion, Protest” Web Portal

The site consists of three components, all of which work in concert to create new
approaches to religious action and the humanitarian realm.

First, the site features original solicited articles, opinion, and editorial pieces
written by University faculty, students, journalists, and humanitarian actors. These
500-2000 word pieces can take various formats, such as interviews, commentaries
on existing news stories, reviews of documentaries, art exhibits, and new books,
blogs by authors of new books on the topic, or analyses of secular or religious
humanitarian organizations or interventions. From time to time, the site will feature
a cluster or pieces organized around a special issue or problem, to be curated by
individual members of the Humanities Studio core group.

Second, the site is an expanding archive that categorizes and provides links to
existing opinion and editorial pieces, critical and scholarly works, documentaries
and films, and art exhibits contending with the relationship of humanitarianism and
religion. The Humanities Studio members, their students and colleagues, and site
users will all have the opportunity to contribute to this archive-in-progress. All of
the archived sources can also serve as a springboard to generate discussion, and
might be the source about which students are asked to participate in an online chat.
Third, the site serves as an experimental pedagogical space by being the platform
through which students can learn in non-traditional ways. For instance, the site will
from time to time feature live feeds of talks happening at various college campuses.
We will also invite journalists and religious and secular humanitarian actors to
participate in live-chats with students. Finally, the site can allow students to work
collectively on group assignments across campuses.

All three components aim to generate networks among students and faculty
across campuses as a starting point for creating a broader, public forum for such
discussion. Moreover, the features of the site will juxtapose different and often
competing imaginaries of what humanitarianism is, and what its histories are (and
how these link to imperial legacies and the division between the religious and
secular realms).

While the site’s audience and contributors will initially consist of students and
faculty housed in the Humanities Studio participants’ home institutions, and
their existing academic and activist contacts, our goal is to eventually expand the
site to include participants from other institutions, the broader U.S. pubic, and
international audiences.

Humanities Studio Members:

Mariam Lam (University of California, Riverside)
Neda Atanasoski (University of California, Santa Cruz)
Natalie Avalos (University of California, Santa Barbara & Connecticut College)
Cecilia Lynch (University of California, Irvine)
Andrew Lam (New America Media)
Angilee Shah (Public Radio International)
Leshu Torchin (University of St. Andrews)



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