The Center for Religion and Media at New York University began its life as one of ten Centers of Excellence funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts from 2003–2007. Today, with an endowment from NYU, we continue to stimulate innovative research and teaching in the interdisciplinary study of religion, especially at the nexus of religion and the mediations of social life. This commitment is threefold: First, to developing interdisciplinary, cross-cultural knowledge of how religious practices and ideas are shaped and spread through a variety of media. Second, we are interested in how media themselves function in our moment of commodified forms of entertainment and digital connection to provide communal and personal identities in ways usually associated with religion. And finally, as the Center provides a space for scholarly endeavor, a stage for public educational events, it also creates its own electronic interface with scholars, journalists and the public through its innovative online magazine, the Revealer: A Review of Religion and Media. While this project was conceived before September 11, that event and its aftermath dramatized the need for a better public understanding of religious ideas and practices through a variety of media.
The Center is a joint project of the Department of Religious Studies (Angela Zito, Chair) and the Center for Media, Culture, and History, (Faye Ginsburg, Director). Brett Krutzsch is the Editor of the Center’s online magazine, the Revealer: A Review of Religion and Media.
The Pew Years, 2003-2007:
The Center officially started in May 2003. We inaugurated ourselves with a collaboration in the summer of 2003 with Diana Taylor and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at NYU in hosting an international “encuentro” on Spectacles of Religiosity: Religious Mediation in the Americas.
Each year from 2003-2007 saw us take on a specific theme, hosting several Working Groups and planning public events that illuminated its issues:
For 2003-2004, the annual theme was Confession, Testimony, Witnessing. In May 2004 we hosted a three-day interdisciplinary conference: “Religious Witness: the Intimate, the Everyday, and the World”.
For 2004–2005, the annual theme was Religious Experience: Memory, Media, Marketing. In May 2005, we presented, along with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, The Museum of Modern Art’s First Nations/First Features: A Showcase of World Indigenous Film and Media.
For 2005–2006, as we started the year themed Religion, Media, and Body Politics, we were faced with the disastrous human response to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. We immediately began planning a May 2006 conference called “Body Counts/Bodies Count”.
For 2006–2007, the theme was Secularization, Media and the Globalization of Religion. We explored various media through which challenges to secularism have been mounted, pursued, and performed, and how they acquired social weight.
Since 2008, the Center for Religion and Media has continued to work closely with our sister center at NYU–the Center for Media, Culture, and History–on the place of religious life in the politics of culture and change. In particular, we have turned to examining Digital Religion with two projects funded by the Henry R. Luce Foundation, Digital Religion: Knowledge, Politics and Practice, (September 2011- August 2013) and Religious Stakes in Digital Times: Scholars and Journalists in conversation (2015-2019). Currently, our central project is the esteemed online magazine the Revealer, published ten times a year. In April 2020, the Center is launching the Revealer podcast as our newest media platform to improve public discussions about religion.