Divinity School Essay Contest

Essay Contest on Race and Religion (2021)

The Divinity School is pleased to announce the winners of our 2021 Race and Religion Essay Contest, below. We received many excellent submissions and we are grateful for the time and care applicants spent in submitting their work.  First-place winner Prof. Alexia V. Williams will present a public lecture at the Divinity School in Spring Quarter; more info to come. 

First place: "The Archbishop Wears Prada: Heavenly Bodies & Catholicism’s Racial Imagination"
Prof. Williams delivered her lecture on this topic on April 25, 2022.

Alexia V. Williams
Assistant Professor, Department of Religion, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Second place: "Racializing Islam Through Humor"

Samah Choudhury
Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Ithaca College

Third place: "De casu angelorum: Damnation as a Political-Theological Problematic"

Sean Capener
Postdoctoral Fellow in Christianity, Department of Historical Studies, University of Toronto, Mississauga


How have religious traditions historically helped conceptualize the category of race, its predecessors or analogues? How have these traditions produced or reinforced hierarchies of racial difference, or conversely, helped combat such hierarchies? In what ways and to what ends have dominant structures of power (state bureaucracies, colonial courts, scientific laboratories, capitalist modes of valuation, forms of militarism, policing, and incarceration, religious authorities, etc) racialized the practitioners of specific religious traditions? How have racism and religious discrimination become enmeshed with other forms of violence? What resources do religious practice and thought offer for overcoming racism? 

As the historical legacies of racism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination continue to persist in our contemporary world, such questions demand increasing attention from scholars in the study of religion. To this end, the University of Chicago Divinity School invites submissions for an international essay contest on Race and Religion. 

 For questions, please contact Sarah Hammerschlag (sehammer@uchicago.edu) or Alireza Doostdar (doostdar@uchicago.edu).