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Center announces international fellow on religion, gender and human rights

March 01, 2012

Zilka Spahić-Šiljak has been named a Luce International Fellow by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.  She will serve a March residency at the center as part of the project, “Religion and International Affairs: Through the Prism of Rights and Gender.”

The project, led by Linell Cady, director of the center and Dean’s Distinguished Professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, and Carolyn Warner, professor and head of political science in the School of Politics and Global Studies, is funded by a grant from the Henry R. Luce Initiative in Religion and International Affairs. The aim of the multi-year project is to develop new approaches to contested issues at the nexus of religion, gender and human rights.

“Because Zilka has worked as both an activist and a scholar at the intersections of religion, gender and rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, she brings a range of insights that engage key empirical and theoretical dimensions of the project,” Cady said.

Spahić-Šiljak is the deputy director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies at the University of Sarajevo. A research scholar and public intellectual, her work addresses cutting-edge issues involving religion, politics, education and gender. She also works in non-governmental sectors on women's human rights, interreligious dialogue and peace-building.

Coming from a post-war society she is motivated to translate ideas and theories on peace, reconciliation and human rights into practice, and provide channels of communications between academia and civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to contribute to the project and add another international perspective to the discussion. I always look forward to interdisciplinary conversations and the value they can have in pushing my research to the next level or in a new direction,” said Spahić-Šiljak.

During Spahić-Šiljak’s residency, she will deliver a public lecture, co-sponsored by the Melikian Center, on March 13 on religious and feminist identities in the Balkans, speak to undergraduate and graduate classes, and meet with faculty, students and members of the community.

She also will serve as the lead-off speaker for a panel discussion on “Religion and Human Rights on the Ground,” as part of an international conference that will take place March 15-16 at ASU. The conference, which also will feature Martha Nussbaum from the University of Chicago and Elizabeth Prodromou of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, will provide a forum for ASU faculty who have been involved with the Luce Seminar to engage international scholars and practitioners in dialogue about the role of human rights in advancing the status of women in the global arena.

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, a research unit of ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the Tempe campus, promotes interdisciplinary research and education on the dynamics of religion and conflict with the aim of advancing knowledge, seeking solutions and informing policy.

Spahić-Šiljak is the second Luce International Fellow named by the center under the grant. Last year, Marzia Basel, director of the Afghanistan Progressive Law Organization, served in this capacity.

In addition to a range of visiting speakers that the Luce Project has brought to campus, the project has also led to the creation of two graduate level classes and seeded a number of new research initiatives by faculty involved with the Luce Seminar.

For more information about the Luce project or to register for the conference, visit or e-mail

Story by Matt Correa, project coordinator