Current Projects


From Fisherman to Filipinos: How Massachusetts Ports Experienced and Responded to Religious Globalization. This ethnographic maritime project explores how religion has been present along the working coast of Massachusetts from the 1820s to the present. We explore these questions through historical and ethnographic case studies of port chaplains and missions in Boston with a particular focus on Seafarer's Friend - formerly The Boston Seaman's Friend Society - the New England Seafarers Mission and Mariner's House. We also pay attention to the work of Catholic clergy along the coast and to the lived experiences of seafarers and industrial workers. Their stories bring issues of economic and religious globalization into stark relief as fisherman along the coast have gradually been replaced by the staff of industrial and cruise ships born in the Philippines, China, Greece and other countries who are in port for only a few hours. Portions of this project are being conducted in collaboration with Richard J. Callahan (University of Missouri). 

God on the Fly? The Work of Airport Chaplains. This project explores chapels and chaplaincy at the twenty largest airports in the United States. It considers the history of airport chaplaincy in the States asking how and why it was started, how it spread, and what kinds of religious and spiritual spaces and support are offered to travelers today. Particular attention is paid to how airport chaplains have negotiated and advocated for their work and how they think about religious diversity.

Prayers in the Senate and House of Representatives: A Pilot Study. "In a special way, guide the supercommittee in its challenging work," Senate Chaplain Barry Black prayed on the floor of the Senate in November 2011. Formal prayers - for unity, strength and understanding - are offered as a first order of business on the Senate floor each morning. Dating to 1789, these prayers are offered by the Senate chaplain as well as the chaplain in the House of Representatives, visiting religious leaders, and significant public figures from across the United States and around the globe. This pilot study begins to explore those prayers with an eye towards further research. It is conducted with Laura Olson (Clemson University) and Margaret Clendenen (Brandeis University) with support from a Jack Shand Research Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Reliigon.

Sacred Space in a Secular Nation of Believers. This project brings architects, social scientists and chaplains into conversation about how secular institutions in three sectors - higher education, healthcare, and the miitary - are responding to religious diversity in their built environments in the contemporary United States. It began with an Exploratory Seminar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in October 2012. Participants considered how historical and structural factors in each sector shape the ways indivdiual institutions can and do respond to religious diversity. While the demographics of staff and users shape institutional responses, this comparative approach enables us to consider broader factors that shape how architects and users conceive of the sacred and of diversity and how their conceptions shape their designs. This project is a collaboration with Alice Friedman (Wellesley College) and Karla Johnson (Johnson Roberts Associates, Inc). A website of resources is here.

Jewish-Buddhist Relations. This project explores the relationship between Judaism and Buddhist historically and in the contemporary United States through interiews with senior teachers teaching at their intersections. It considers the factors that led to these interactions, the ways each tradition has impacted the other, and the ways teachers think about their religious and spiritual identities. In addition to materials for academic audiences, we are preparing teaching guides and curriculuar materials that will assist interested faculty in teaching about Jewish-Buddhist relations. This project is being conducted with Emily Sigalow (Brandeis University) and Sara Shostak (Brandeis University) and is supported by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. The teaching materials we designed connected to this project are available here.