Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America: An NEH Bridging Cultures in Community Colleges Program

Meeting of the World's Parliament of Religions, 1893 World's Fair

Meeting of the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893 World’s Fair. Burrows, John Henry, 1893. B8.057.

Friday, March 23, 2012Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Center for American History and Culture Programs

From the ratification of the First Amendment to the conflict over an Islamic community center near Ground Zero, America has been marked by a profound religious diversity. The variety of religious communities in America, and the tensions that often erupt among them, have shaped the nation’s social, cultural, political, and economic development. “Out of Many,” as the United State’s seal proclaims, there has emerged a shared, if contested, legacy of religious pluralism.

The Newberry Library invites applications from teams of faculty members with sponsoring administrators from community colleges to participate in “Out of Many: Religious Pluralism in America,” an NEH Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges program that focuses on collaborative research for curriculum development. The tension inherent in religious pluralism between ideal and practice—between the ideal of a nation of many people of many faiths, and the real conflicts that religious diversity often generates—animates this Bridging Cultures program. From Spring 2012 through Fall 2013, participating faculty will conduct research in the Newberry’s collections and partake in discussions with prominent scholars to gain a better understating of key moments in America’s past when the nation’s ideal of religious freedom was challenged.

From June 25 to 29, 2012, selected faculty will attend a series of seminars at the Newberry with scholars whose work they will read. In addition to gaining an overview of American religious history, we will also consider the intellectual histories of pluralism, the Pueblo dance controversies of the 1920s, the interfaith efforts of Catholics and Jews during World War II, and the post-9/11 constitutional conflicts around attempted bans of Sharia Law. While at the Newberry, participating faculty will also work with the library’s collections to create new curriculum that integrates religious pluralism into their humanities classrooms. Potential topics for research include, but are not limited to, the library’s strengths in the themes of conflict and conversion (Catholic Missions to North America, the Second Great Awakening, revivalism, missionary efforts abroad), religion and reform (Abolitionism, the Social Gospel, Rescue Missions, utopian communities), interfaith dialogue (the World’s Parliament of Religions, freethought, spiritualism), church and state (the expulsion of the Mormons from Illinois, the religious dimensions of anti-Chinese immigration laws, religion in public education), and comparative studies (hymnody, Native American religions, American Judaism, Chicago’s religious history, religion in literature, church history, the influence of Eastern religions, Pentecostalism, Protestant theology). For more information on readings and topics, see the project’s working Zotero library.

Over the course of the 2012–13 academic year, faculty will implement this new material in their humanities courses and collaborate in an online forum. Through this virtual community, participating faculty will continue to explore religious pluralism through readings and discussions, post reflections on their teaching experiences, and receive support from project scholars and staff on teaching religious history to diverse communities. From June 26 to 28, 2013, participating faculty and their sponsoring administrators will return to the Newberry to continue research, discuss potential campus programming on religious pluralism, and advise in the creation of a website to host the project’s materials. In Fall 2013, faculty will work with the project directors to implement these campus programs.

The Newberry invites applications from teams of 2-4 faculty, along with a sponsoring administrator from the same community college campus or system who will work collaboratively over the course of the program. Faculty members will receive a $1500 stipend in Summer 2012 and an additional $1500 stipend in summer 2013 for their participation.

For further information, including a complete schedule and information on housing arrangements, please see the full Project Description.


Daniel Greene, Vice President for Research and Academic Programs, Newberry Library
Chris Cantwell,
Assistant Director, Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture, Newberry Library

Participating Faculty:

Martin Marty, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity, University of Chicago Divinity School
Diana Eck
, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society, Harvard University Divinity School, and director of the Pluralism Project
Tisa Wenger, Assistant Professor of Religion, Yale University Divinity School
Kevin Schultz
, Assistant Professor of History and Catholic Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago
Aziz Huq
, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School

Application Instructions

Before you apply, please read the full Project Description. Applicants are to apply as a team of 2-4 faculty members, with the support of a sponsoring administrator. Applicants are also expected to participate throughout the project’s duration.

Full-time faculty members, part-time lecturers, adjunct faculty, and administrators at American community colleges are eligible to participate. An applicant need not have an advanced degree in order to qualify. Applicants must be United States citizens, residents of U.S. jurisdictions, or foreign nationals who have been residing in the United States or its territories for at least the three years immediately preceding the application deadline.

A completed application (one application packet per team) includes:

  1. A Newberry Cover Sheet for the entire team
  2. An NEH Applicant/Participant Information Sheet for each member of the team, including the sponsoring administrator. (Applicants must complete the NEH Applicant/Participant Information Sheet to be considered eligible.)
  3. A c.v. of no more than two pages for each team member, including the sponsoring administrator.
  4. A completed essay of no more than 3 pages that explains:
    • The team’s interest in participating in the program, including shared research interests and issues related to your community college campus or system,
    • How the program will impact humanities teaching both in your classrooms as well as across your campus or system, and
    • A proposed research topic that draws on Newberry collections. Note: We anticipate you will spend some time exploring the Newberry’s resources to identify this theme or topic. For a full description of the Newberry’s holdings see our collection guides, the topical outline of our holdings in religion, and the library’s full online catalog.
  5. Letter of support from sponsoring administrator, who will attend a portion of the Summer 2013 meeting at the Newberry and help organize campus programming in Fall 2013. This letter can come from a department chair, dean, or provost, so long as the letter addresses (a) the project’s relevance to the campus or system, (b) support for the faculty team, and (c) the administrator’s ability to contribute to campus programming.

Completed applications should be mailed to scholl@newberry.org by March 23, 2012.

For Questions, please contact:

Chris Cantwell, Assistant Director
Scholl Center, The Newberry
60 W. Walton St., Chicago, IL 60610
cantwellc@newberry.org, 312-255-3541

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.