My research project, titled, Secularism and the Religious Return among Palestinians in Chicago, explores the impact of religious revitalization on Palestinian immigrant identities in Chicago. At 80,000 strong, the Palestinian community in Chicago comprises the single largest concentration of Palestinians in North America. The central argument I make in my project is that the religious return among Chicago's Palestinians is multi-directional and indeterminately interrelated with secularization, secularism, and disenchantment. This dynamic is a fundamentally local one that nevertheless interconnects with transnational flows and structures, secular and religious. The theoretical foundations for my argument lie in recent interventions that have criticized globalization theory for ignoring the necessity of “thick description” of lived, embodied practices at the local level. They also lie in new departures in the interpretive sociology of religion that stress the interrelation of secularization and religious revitalization. Yet a third foundation lies in approaches that seek "to slow the quick jump to representational thinking and evaluative judgment" so as to register the indeterminate impact of events and process at the individual level. Initiated in 2010, my fieldwork has entailed dozens of site visits to mosques, churches, and community centers across the city and the completion to date of more than 50 in-depth life-history interviews with individuals from across the social spectrum. Fieldwork continues with the support of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2013-14) and a Senior Fellowship from the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School (2013-14).
Loren Lybarger, Senior Fellow