Request for Applications: "Learning with Charlottesville" Summer Institute for Scholars of Religion—Deadline: 3/15/22

Ashley  Duffalo's picture
Summer Program
March 15, 2022
Virginia, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, Local History, Race / Ethnic Studies, Anthropology

Learning with Charlottesville: Narratives of Religion, Race & Democracy

A Summer Institute for Scholars of Religion

Application Deadline: March 15, 2022, 11:59 PM EST


  • Stipend: $2,000, plus paid travel; recording equipment and books purchased for all participants
  • Tenure:  7 months, June 9, 2022–mid-January, 2023, and includes:
    • A 3-day virtual training workshop from June 9–11, 2022 called “Introduction to the Documentary Arts,” facilitated by UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art
    • A week-long summer institute in Charlottesville, Virginia from June 13–17, 2022 to rethink “American religions” (including all contemporary traditions in the United States) via religion, race, and democracy
    • The production of a short audio piece in the six months following the summer institute 
    • A virtual convening in January 2023 for participants to share their work and critically reflect on their research experiences
  • Completed applications must be submitted through the online application form no later than 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time, March 15, 2022
  • Notifications will be sent via email by mid-April 2022
  • Contact Lab Manager, Ashley Duffalo at with program inquiries

The University of Virginia’s Religion, Race & Democracy Lab and the Memory Project invites emerging and mid-career scholars of religious studies from across the United States to collaborate with local scholars, artists, and journalists, for a summer institute in Charlottesville, Virginia, called Learning with Charlottesville: Narratives of Religion, Race & Democracy.

The institute seeks to prepare religious studies scholars to produce accessible scholarship that addresses urgent public questions about religion, race, and democracy. Using Charlottesville’s distant and more recent history as case studies and drawing on the work of local experts who have produced compelling public scholarship, the institute will train participants in both the art and techniques of producing public narratives on the relationships between religion, race, and justice in their own communities. In the six months to follow the summer institute, participants will produce a short-form audio piece inspired by a U.S. location of their choosing.  

The Religion, Race & Democracy Lab and the Memory Project, affiliates of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ Democracy Initiative, will collectively lead the project, with Professors Martien Halvorson-Taylor and Kurtis Schaeffer, co-directors of the Religion, Race & Democracy Lab, and Professor Jalane Schmidt, director of the Memory Project, steering the effort. The project leaders are all tenured members of UVA’s Department of Religious Studies, which is the largest at any public university in North America, and a national and international leader in its exploration of the role, and lived reality, of religion in public life.

The project’s goals are: 

  1. to deepen research into the interrelationships of religion, race, and democracy in the U.S.
  2. to train religious studies scholars who study any contemporary religious expression in the U.S. to be engaged as public intellectuals
  3. to shape the field of religious studies, making it more responsive to the dynamic between religion and racism in local and national contexts
  4. to create with the cohort a range of public-facing and well-researched short-form audio pieces on religion, race, and democracy in the U.S. 

Audio production, as the Religion, Race & Democracy Lab’s work on the podcast Sacred & Profane has proven, offers an opportunity to make scholarship public in ways that extend beyond the typical venues for scholarly writing.

The summer institute will be held at Charlottesville’s Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (JSAAHC), an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to highlighting African American history and culture of the African diaspora, and UVA’s Morven Farm, a historic landscape ideally suited for interdisciplinary collaboration, research, and learning. A significant portion of participants’ time will be spent visiting local sites and symbols of historical importance, like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Charlottesville and Albemarle County Courthouse Historic District, and UVA Grounds, to interrogate how memory, race, religion, and democracy are presented in public spaces.

The summer institute sessions will be led by guest lecturers across the fields of religious studies, history, politics, journalism, music, art, and art history, along with two professional audio producers. Participants will receive ongoing mentoring and production assistance from the Religion, Race & Democracy Lab’s co-directors and production staff in the months following the summer institute. Participants are expected to follow a production schedule.


The Religion, Race & Democracy Lab and the Memory Project are seeking 20 participants for Learning with Charlottesville: Narratives of Religion, Race & Democracy.  

Applicants must:

  • Have a PhD, preferably in religion or religious studies, or a relevant field, like history or anthropology
  • Have a research focus in religion, race and democracy in the U.S., inclusive of any contemporary religious expression in the U.S.
  • Have an interest in storytelling and audio production (prior production experience is not required)
  • Participate in both the online documentary arts workshop (June 9–11, 2022) and the in-person summer institute (June 13–17, 2022) 
  • Follow a production schedule in the six months after the summer institute to complete a short audio piece
  • Participate in a virtual convening in January 2023 to share final work with the cohort and critically reflect on research experiences
  • Follow UVA’s Coronavirus policies, which includes providing proof of vaccinations and boosters, masking, and social distancing indoors 

Applicants are not required to hold a faculty position at a college or university.

Evaluation Criteria
  • The applicant’s level of research and engagement with a topic on religion, race, and democracy in the U.S.
  • The project’s capacity to advance public scholarship of “American religions” by addressing significant subjects at the intersection of religion, race, and democracy in the U.S.
  • The feasibility of the project plans, including the ability to access story contributors.
  • The project’s clarity about how a research topic can be translated into an engaging narrative for a public audience.
Application Requirements

Applications must contain the following components: 

Project Pitch, in 3,000 characters or less. The project pitch must:

  • address a big question or idea that touches upon all three themes: religion, race, and democracy in the U.S.
  • demonstrate that there is a compelling story to be told, by clearly stating the central question or conflict to be addressed around a specific time and place
  • identify one potential interviewee for the project—for example: a scholar, community member, or any expert who can address the central topic 
  • identify the project location and the year or time period to be addressed by the project—for example: Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921 
  • be written in clear, informal language that is free of academic and technical speak

Bibliography, Upload doc, docx, or pdf; no more than two pages, double-spaced, in Times New Roman 12-point font. The bibliography should reflect key scholarship from the fields and topics in which the project will intervene.

Short CV, Upload doc, docx, or pdf; no more than two pages single-spaced, in Times New Roman 12-point font.

Interviewee Statement, a screenshot of an email from a potential interviewee, which clearly states their willingness to be involved in the proposed project.

Apply Here

Contact Info: 

Ashley Duffalo

Lab Manager, UVA Religion, Race & Democracy Lab

Contact Email: