Campus & Community

Grants help Pluralism Project cultivate ‘national conversation

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The Ford Foundation recently awarded a grant of $641,000 in supplemental support to the Pluralism Project for “development of a project that serves as a national research and policy resource on world religions in America.”

For the past two years, funding from the Ford Foundation has enabled the Pluralism Project to generate new research and initiate a public conversation on religious pluralism in American civil society. The Project, developed in 1991 by Professor of Comparative Religions and Indian Studies Diana L. Eck, studies and documents the growing religious diversity of the United States, with a special view to its new immigrant religious communities. It is affiliated with the Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. From its modest offices in Vanserg Hall, and through the Project Web site (, the CD-ROM “On Common Ground: World Religions in America,” and a range of outreach programs, the Pluralism Project has brought this topic to hundreds of classrooms, community and interfaith organizations, the media, the U.S. military, and even the White House.

The supplemental grant will provide funding for the following major areas of Pluralism Project activities over the next two and a half years:

Outreach. The Pluralism Project will continue its efforts as a unique resource to those in education, public affairs, the media, and community and religious organizations.

Grants and Research. Over the past two years, the base of Pluralism Project research has expanded across the United States. Some 30 affiliates are currently at work on case studies and mapping projects, many of which are based in colleges and universities. In the next phase, the Project plans to broaden this base, and to begin offering grants to schoolteachers as well as to college and university students. At the Project’s inception, the research of Harvard students formed the foundation of these study and documentation efforts. Each summer, Harvard students engage in “hometown” research, mapping the new religious landscape of cities and towns across America. Beginning with the fall semester 2000, a new set of grants will be made available so that the Project may, once again, include students in the heart of this work: field research.

Conferences and Meetings. The Pluralism Project’s recent initiative to create and cultivate a national conversation on religious pluralism in public and civil life will continue, with gatherings of affiliates, advisors, and a conference near the conclusion of the grant period in 2002. (For more information on conferences and meetings, see below.)

In addition, the Rockefeller Foundation has provided a grant of $264,000 to the Pluralism Project. This support will enable the Project to further expand the research and outreach goals outlined above over the next two years; however, the focus of the Rockefeller grant will be to initiate a series of meetings that will bring together women from the range of religious advocacy groups active in America today. These women’s consultations will continue the public conversation begun in May 1999 with the Pluralism Project’s Consultation on Religious Discrimination and Accommodation, and the Symposium on Civil Society and Multireligious America, held in November 1999. The Pluralism Project will contribute to this cumulative discussion of American civil society by focusing on the unique role that women’s organizations are playing in multireligious America. The Pluralism Project envisions these meetings as an opportunity for women from diverse religious communities to explore common concerns, advocacy issues, and areas for dialogue. The first gathering, which will include private meetings and public lectures, will be held at Harvard in the spring of 2001.

Finally, the Pluralism Project recently received a $10,000 grant from the Provost’s Fund for Interfaculty Collaboration. This grant will enable the Project to host monthly meetings of the Interfaculty Working Group on Immigration, Religious Pluralism, and Civil Society. Eck convened the group in order to “engage people who are interested in thinking together about the questions raised by the new immigration — historians, sociologists, and scholars of religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, along with colleagues from the Divinity School, Law School, Graduate School of Education, and Medical School.”

For more information about the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, please see the web site at or contact the executive director, Ellie Pierce, at (617) 496-2481.