Project creates 'global conversation' on religion

March 25, 2002 1:35 p.m.

As she planned a major project on women, religion and the African diaspora, Marie Griffith reached out to dozens of scholars in different fields. Some studied Caribbean religion and history; others, African-American social history; and still others, African religion. But they had a common refrain: Nowhere was this subject a prime focus of study, where scholars from different disciplines could come together. And they looked to Princeton to change that fact.

Consensus quickly developed to create a "global conversation" that will take place over the next three years at Princeton's Center for the Study of Religion. Funded by a grant of about $700,000 from the Ford Foundation, this interdisciplinary journey of inquiry into "Women and Religious Change in the African Diaspora" attempts to focus long overdue attention on questions of race and gender in the traditional study of religion.

"The conversation is truly vital today, as growing numbers of people are beginning to analyze the role of religion in cultures in diverse lands," said Griffith, associate director of the center. "Yet many scholars told us that they had never been brought together to have a broad comparative discussion about their work in this area, and they were excited at the contribution we could make by doing this."

Data from the 2000 U.S. Census -- with many people identifying themselves as multiracial -- suggest that traditional conversations about "race" and the African diaspora blur important distinctions among people who share a common heritage. With its focus on religious and gender issues, the new project aims to help tell their stories in a more useful, fuller way.

The full story can be read in the Weekly Bulletin.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601