The Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, or BCSR, announced a $1,000,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation in support of a collaborative four-year project with the Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative, or APARRI, on Monday.
Campus associate professor of ethnic studies Carolyn Chen, the grant’s principal investigator, said that when it comes to the academic study of religion, BCSR serves a particularly significant role on campus, as UC Berkeley does not have an official religious studies department. The center supports scholarship and interdisciplinary collaboration on religion among scholars, according to its website.
“BCSR is a center on campus that really brings together and supports research on the study of religion at UC Berkeley,” Chen said. “We host and sponsor talks and events, we support the research of faculty and have working groups for students.”
The grant promotes BCSR’s partnership with APARRI, a community of scholars with the goal of advancing scholarship and public understanding of Asian Pacific American, or APA, religion, according to Chen.
Chen added that the funding will allow APARRI and BCSR to carry out various efforts to promote knowledge of APA religion nationwide. They plan to bring APARRI’s three-day annual conference to UC Berkeley for the next four years, provide grants to scholars and working groups, help APA scholars publicize their work, sponsor workshops and encourage collaboration between scholars, students, artists and community members.
“It’s a very unusual collective of scholars,” Chen said. “We represent scholars who study a myriad of very different religious traditions and come from different institutions. We have people who are teaching in seminaries, but also places like UC Berkeley. ”
According to Chen, the funding is being provided by the theology and religion program within the New York-based Henry Luce Foundation, which seeks to promote “public-facing scholarship” that bridges the gap between research institutions and the general public. BCSR received a similar grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to fund the Berkeley Democracy and Public Theology Program in fall 2020.
Chen added that this project holds historical significance as Asian Americans are currently the fastest-growing and the most religiously diverse racial group in the US, but are often left out of the national narrative surrounding religion. She said that within the field of Asian American studies itself, the topic of religion is largely overlooked and hopes the efforts funded by the grant will contribute to making APA religion more visible.
“It’s so important to include the stories and understand the experiences of Asian Pacific Americans,” Chen said. “Race and ethnicity are embedded within our religious experiences in the United States.”