Public Theologies of Technology and Presence
Institute of Buddhist Studies and the Graduate Theological Union
May 7, 2018
Starting Date: 
September 5, 2018
Post date: March 6, 2018

Public Theologies of Technology and Presence seeks to identify and cultivate new models of public theology (broadly construed) that powerfully address a central concern of contemporary life: The ways in which technologies reshape human relationships and alter how people are or are not “present” to each other. Scholars of religion and theologians possess powerful toolsets through which to examine, critique, and advise technologists and consumers regarding technology and presence. Yet they rarely participate actively in these public discussions. The framing as “public theology” allows for boundary-crossing work at the intersections of religion scholarship, theology, journalism and popular media, and technology itself. Public theology in this case is about drawing on ideas and resources from the academic study of religion and/or theology in order to speak compellingly about the impacts of technologies on presence. This allows the academic study of religion and theology to lay claim to addressing this issue of great public concern; and it carves out new roles for university departments of religion and theological institutions.

The Institute of Buddhist Studies, with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, invites proposals from scholars across the academic disciplines specializing in any religious traditions, and from theologians from all religious traditions, to participate in a three-year research initiative and series of meetings addressing the impacts of technologies on human relationships.

Sixteen scholars of religion, theologians, and journalists will receive grants of $10,000 each to support research projects and journalistic publications on technologies and interpersonal presence. Grantees will gather yearly to share and hone their work and its applications, explore opportunities for collaboration, and take advantage of significant Silicon Valley and media resources. Detailed requests for proposals have been issued separately for scholars/theologians and for journalists.

Grantees will be expected to: Attend and actively participate in all program meetings, including four in-person meetings at the Institute of Buddhist Studies (costs covered) and an annual dinner meeting held in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion conference; produce a scholarly book, or 3-4 journal articles, or 1-2 journal articles and 3 pieces of popular media; and contribute occasionally to the program’s digital forum. Grantees will also be encouraged to develop and teach a course related to their research on technology and presence, at their home institutions, over the course of the program.

Applicants must have completed the Ph.D. or terminal degree by the time of application. Applications are welcome from scholars in all academic disciplines with specializations in all religious traditions, and from theologians from all religious traditions, including traditions such as Buddhism that are underrepresented in theological study. As such, the grantee cohort will be diversely oriented as to what “theology” and “public theology” mean and entail, including moving beyond traditional definitions. Grantees will come at their research from a wide variety of foci and methodological approaches. They will be unified in their attentions to examining technologies’ impacts on interpersonal presence.

Application Instructions 

Applicants should submit the following materials by May 7, 2018:

  1. Cover letter (1 page max)
  2. Project description (5 pages max). Include: research objectives and methods; planned outputs; rationale for fit in this program, such as interest in engaging grantee colleagues across disciplines and traditions as well as technologists and broader publics.
  3. Project summary (500 words max). Summarize the project in language accessible to an interested general audience. If the project is funded this will be used for publicity purposes.
  4. Project timeline (1 page max)
  5. Curriculum Vitae
  6. Writing sample, ideally a published article or book chapter.

Proposals should be combined into a single PDF document and sent by email attachment to: Confirmation of receipt will be provided. 

For more information, consult the RFP. Please address any questions about the program or the application process to Program Director Dr. Steven Barrie-Anthony:, (510) 500-9722. 

Job, fellowship, and CFP listings are services that are offered by the American Studies Association to support its members in exploring professional opportunities in American studies. Any questions should be directed to the program, department, or center that has posted the opportunity.