Announcing the Religions and Public Life Fellows of 2020

September 28, 2020
Religions and Public Life

ANNOUNCING THE RELIGIONS AND PUBLIC LIFE FELLOWS 2020

September 28, 2020

Twelve graduate and professional students from Duke and UNC were selected to be a part of this year’s student working group. The theme this year is Immigration and Religion. Program Director, Malachi Hacohen notes, “At a time when borders are closing and walls are being erected, an interdisciplinary graduate student group is responding with a model of collaboration for our world.

Bringing together students from Divinity to Business to Trinity and campus wide support from the Kenan Institute, Jewish Studies, Duke Islamic Studies Center, and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center graduate students studying divergent regions of the globe will be explore the relationship between immigration and religion, seeking religious paths to the reconstruction of human life.” Over the course of the academic year, in monthly meetings the cohort will discuss and develop their respective projects. Their work will be shared on the Religions and Public Life website at the conclusion of the fellowship.  View the original announcement here.



Alberto La Rosa Rojas

Alberto La Rosa Rojas is a Th.D. candidate in Duke Divinity School. Alberto’s experience as an immigrant from Peru informs and fuels his research which engages the ethical and theological dimensions of migration and the human longing for home. His work weaves together insights from the reformed theological tradition as well as Latinx theology to think about how migrant’s and citizen/natives can cultivate a flourishing common home.



Allison Wattenbarger

Allison is a doctoral student in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Duke Divinity School. She studies hermeneutics and biblical interpretation and is particularly interested in texts of covenant and conquest and their reception in Jewish and Palestinian Christian traditions.


Andrew Carlins headshot


Andrew Carlins

Andrew is a Master of Management Studies student at Fuqua focusing on Management and Technology. His research focuses on understanding more about the role that religion and theology play in refugees' attitudes toward work, to advise policymakers on how to better integrate refugee populations into local economies. Andrew has a bachelor's degree from Duke in economics with a minor in history and a certificate in Jewish studies.


Darwin Perry headshot


Darwin Perry

Darwin is a masters student at Duke Divinity School. His research meets at the intersection of penal reform and public theology. His work explores the role of religion in society, particularly as it pertains to religious advocacy in support of carceral reform.


Ehsan Sheikholharam Mashhadi headshot


Ehsan Sheikholharam Mashhadi

Ehsan is a Teaching Fellow and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Holding master’s degrees in architecture and religion, his work examines the religiosity of non-religious architecture. He draws on urban projects recognized by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture to show how spatial practices function in the construction of religious subjectivities. Ehsan has received recognition from institutions such as the University of Miami, Dumbarton Oaks’s Mellon Initiative, and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute. His work has been published in the American Academy of Religion’s Reading Religion, Maydan, CLOG, and WIT Press. Ehsan also serves as a Graduate Fellow at the Parr Center for Ethics.


Elsa Costa headshot


Elsa Costa

Elsa is an intellectual historian concentrating on Spain and its possessions in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Her dissertation explores how changes in the definition of public happiness accompanied the rise of absolutism in Spain. Originally from Chicago, Elsa has a BA in Latin American studies from Bennington College and an MA in Ibero-American history from Duke. Her other interests include twentieth-century French, German and Brazilian philosophy, medieval theories of pedagogy, and women’s writing in contemporary Latin America. She has published or presented papers on all these topics. Her dissertation research took her to Madrid and to Mexico City on a Fulbright-Hays grant, and she is now Bass instructional fellow and Capper fellow at Duke. In her spare time, she likes exploring walking routes of Durham with her dog Ivo and listening to music, most recently Hamilton Leithauser's new live album.


Iris Gilad headshot


Iris Gilad

Iris is a third-year Art History Ph.D. student specializing in contemporary Middle-Eastern art. Her dissertation examines maps, mappings, and spatial subversions in the artworks of contemporary women Middle-Eastern artists. She is interested in exploring the intersections of gender, race, migration, and cartography.


Joseph Roso headshot


Joseph Roso

Joseph is a PhD candidate at Duke University in the Department of Sociology. He is primarily interested in the sociology of religion, with a specific focus on how religious beliefs and communal worship practices intersect. He is currently studying discourse around immigration issues among evangelical opinion leaders and how that discourse has changed over time.



Joshua Strayhorn

Joshua is a doctoral student of history at Duke University. His research analyzes 19th and 20th century Black Migration in the United States. He is interested in the political, economic, and social factors that made migration possible and questions of emigration, citizenship, and belonging in the aftermath of Reconstruction.


Nurlan Kabdylkhak headshot


Nurlan Kabdylkhak

Nurlan is a History PhD student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His dissertation project explores ethnic and religious transformations in late modern Central Asia.


Perry Sweitzer headshot


Perry Sweitzer

Perry is a Ph.D. student in the Graduate Program in Religion. His research focuses on the intersection between religion and American culture and politics. Currently, he is doing ethnographic research on the contemporary sanctuary church movement, and is concerned with the relationship between religion and citizenship in the US.


Shin-fung Hung headshot


Shin-fung Hung

Shin-fung is a PhD student in Religion (World Christianity) at Duke University. As a native Hongkonger and a Methodist, his current research focuses on the development of Methodism in Hong Kong and China. His area of interest also covers the intersections of Christianity and migration, diaspora study, and Hong Kong study.