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Four postdoctoral scholars join ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict


Left to right: Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, Schuyler Marquez, Heather Mellquist Lehto and Charles McCrary.

August 18, 2020

Arizona State University's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict’s research impact is getting a boost this fall with the addition of four new postdoctoral scholars. The postdocs are joining two interdisciplinary research teams housed at the center.

Sarah Riccardi-Swartz will be joining the Recovering Truth project. In addition to a doctoral degree in sociocultural anthropology from New York University, Riccardi-Swartz is also a trained documentary filmmaker. By combining methods from the study of media and the study of theology, she is able to explore more deeply the ways in which religion is used to further democracy, or contribute to its demise. In a recent interview with center Director John Carlson, she discussed this approach in relation to her current book project, a study of how converts to the Russian Orthodox Church in the U.S. are enmeshed in expanding global networks of nationalistic theology.

The other three postdocs are joining Beyond Secularization: Religion, Science and Technology in Public Life, a project led by Ben HurlbutGaymon Bennett and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson.

Heather Mellquist Lehto (PhD in anthropology, University of California, Berkeley) and Schuyler Marquez (PhD in anthropology, New York University) will be joining a research group focused on the interplay of spirituality and technological innovation.

Mellquist Lehto’s current project examines the case of South Korean megachurches during the MERS and COVID-19 outbreaks.

“My research shows that people’s visions of progress complicates the neat categories we often draw upon, such as religion/secular, nature/culture, tradition/science,” Mellquist Lehto said. “I am eager to further reflect on the problems and possibilities of these distinctions, as well as how we might think and live otherwise.”

Marquez’s research brings anthropological questions on religion and economy to the study of contemporary food production, enabling her to explore the ways the religious is made through contrasts with categories like the scientific and economic.

“I look forward to collaborating with a research team also interested in identifying the ways those boundaries are sometimes upheld, sometimes traversed in a variety of social contexts,” Marquez said.

Charles McCrary (PhD in American religious history, Florida State University) will be working closely with a research group focused on biotechnology and its relationship to questions of human integrity and dignity.

McCrary’s recent book, "Sincerely Held: American Religion, Secularism, and Belief" (University of Chicago Press), examines the state regulation of religion. His new research, which is what drew him to the project, concerns the history of eugenics, an aspect of biotechnology that many like to forget.

“I am looking forward to turning my full attention to issues of secularism, race, and eugenics, and letting the collaborative atmosphere of the center shape my future work,” McCrary said.

Story by Jennifer Clifton

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