American Religious Sounds Project Awarded Grant

The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded a two-year $200,000 grant to support a joint religious studies project of Michigan State University and The Ohio State University. 

The American Religious Sounds Project (ASRP) is housed within the Center for the Study of Religion at OSU. The project’s co-directors are Amy DeRogatis, Professor in the MSU Department of Religious Studies, and Isaac Weiner, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies at Ohio State. Project teams at both universities comprise faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students.

Amy_Isaac.jpg“The American Religious Sounds Project leverages the opportunities afforded by the new digital environment to consider what religion sounds like in the United States as well as how our understanding of religion’s place in American life might be transformed by using our auditory perception as a source of knowledge,” DeRogatis said.

Weiner adds, “We’re really pleased with our progress to date. Most importantly, it’s allowed Amy and I to combine our research and scholastics in working with our students, while also increasing their community engagement.“

America is becoming more religiously diverse. With that comes new sounds that can shape communities.

Amy DeRogatis

DeRogatis held a seminar on the project last fall that taught students how to record, interview, edit clips, and create gallery pages. She says incorporating this work into their classes has been a big part of the project.

“This is an exciting and innovative digital humanities project on religious life and practice in the United States,” said Dean Christopher P. Long, College of Arts & Letters. “It is an outstanding example of collaborative scholarship across universities, and an excellent model for integrating teaching and leading-edge research in ways that foster community engagement. We are grateful to the Luce Foundation for its support of this important work. ”

Formerly known as the Religious Soundmap Project of the Global Midwestthe project’s name was changed last year to reflect its expanded geographical focus, goals, and objectives. The project now centers on:

  • Construction of a unique sonic archive, documenting the diversity of American religious practice through newly produced field recordings, interviews, oral histories, and other related materials; and
  • Development of a new digital platform that will integrate sound, image, and text to offer new insights into the complex dynamics of religious pluralism in the United States.

DeRogatis and Weiner say the ARSP project invites new ways of thinking about religion.

“By focusing on sound, we hope to investigate what constitutes religious practices in everyday lives,” DeRogatis said. “America is becoming more religiously diverse. With that comes new sounds that can shape communities. We want to know how religious communities make themselves heard.”

Adds Weiner, “Sound invites us to think more expansively about where religion happens to move beyond traditional religious institutions. Our hope is that when our digital platform is completed and people listen to these sounds, they hear the religious diversity of their own communities.”