October 23 2018

by Jack Hunter, University of Bristol

Black and white photograph of 2 men and 3 women around a table, each with one hand on top of it. A spectre of a hand arises from the floor toward the bottom of the table.

Introduction

by Evan Berry, American University

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Pope Francis and his translator on December 2, 2016 in the Vatican. They sit around Pope Francis' desk.

How is scholarly knowledge about religion useful to conversations about public policy? Can—and should—scholars of religion lend their expertise to governments? After a decade of public calls for improved religious literacy in the United States, it seems reasonable to say that the kinds of knowledge produced by AAR members are valuable to policy debates. Perhaps our knowledge can also be useful to policymakers themselves.

I served as a fellow in the AAR-Luce Fellowship in Religion and International Affairs program during the final year of the Obama administration. I worked alongside career foreign service employees, political appointees, and other academic fellows in the Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. There are helpful sources treating the history of this office and the diplomatic work it has advanced, and I hope to supplement these here by describing my particular role and considering how religion scholars’ expertise can be informative for US foreign policy.

The NEH logo

Congratulations to the following AAR members whose projects have been awarded grants funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. We are proud to have their work reach scholars as well as university and K-12 students.

The AAR is a member of the National Humanities Alliance, a humanites advocacy organization and a coalition of scholarly societies, archives and preservation centers, and universities and colleges advancing humanities research, education, and public programs. The NHA has made it easy for individuals to take the first step in helping to maintain and grow the visibility and importance of the humanities in the public sphere.

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