Revisiting Religion and Place in Light of Environmental, Legal, and Indigenous Studies Copy

Jun 5 - Jun 23


The National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy Demands Wisdom and the Religion, Race & Democracy Lab (RRD) at the University of Virginia are pleased to announce “Revisiting Religion and Place in Light of Environmental, Legal, and Indigenous Studies,” a three-week residential institute to be held in Charlottesville, VA from June 5-23.

The Institute seeks to bring together 26 faculty and advanced graduate students in religious studies and related fields from across the United States for an immersive exploration of critical new perspectives on the theme of “place.” Given recent, dramatic advances on the study of place in the environmental humanities, social sciences, legal studies, and indigenous studies, the time is ripe for rethinking place as a fundamental feature of the study of religion.

The RRD, affiliate of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ Democracy Initiative, will lead the project, with Professors Martien Halvorson-Taylor and Kurtis Schaeffer, Co-Directors of the Religion, Race & Democracy Lab. The Institute leaders are tenured members of UVA’s Department of Religious Studies, which is the largest at any public university in North America.


The goals of the summer institute are: 

  1. To introduce scholars in religious studies and related fields to the enormously productive re-thinking of the idea of “place” that has occurred across disciplines in recent years.
  2. To help scholars of religion to make better use of both substantivist and constructivist theories of place and space in religion.
  3. To assist scholars in developing a richer and more nuanced understanding of the opportunities and pitfalls that come with using the category of “place” in thinking and teaching about diverse manifestations of human engagement with the world. 
  4. To strengthen participants’ teaching and research through critical pedagogical reflection and workshops

One of the primary activities of the Institute will be close reading and discussion of important contemporary scholarship on the study of place, exploring the concept’s multifaceted physical, social, civic, spiritual, and legal dimensions. These discussions will be complemented both by conversations with noted experts and by pedagogy workshops driven largely by our participants’ research and teaching aims. The other primary activity of the institute, taking seriously the topic of religion and place, will be field-based engagements at local sites representing rich and relevant themes explored throughout the Institute.

Participants will receive a stipend of $2,850 in advance of the institute to offset the cost of travel and accommodations and materials.


Taking seriously the fact that our Institute is focused on the intersections of religion and notions of place, field-based engagement comprises a significant component of the institute. Intended to truly immerse participants in the study of the topic, these  excursions will also serve to generate innovative, field-based pedagogical approaches that can be  applied in faculty’s home contexts. The co-directors are uniquely experienced in this regard, having convened successful research and teaching trips to the Virginia Coastal Reserve, Yellowstone, and Bhutan. These teams of researchers, spanning the humanities, sciences, and  arts at the University of Virginia, conduct multidisciplinary inquiry, at protected and contested  statements around the world, investigating how Anthropocene stresses are reshaping cultural landscapes. Importantly, these research teams employ innovative field-based practices of attention and embodied engagement with space, including scripted and unscripted movement, listening exercises both with and without technical aids, and observation exercises.

Fieldwork sites 


Yogaville                              Shenandoah National Park


      Morven Farm                                         Monticello    


       Charlottesville Monuments




     Martien Halvorson-Taylor                       Kurtis Schaeffer

Guest Instructors


            Dorothe Bach                                        Evan Berry   


           Rachel Havrelock                               Rosalyn LaPier


            Michael McNally                               Jalane Schmidt

The Sanctuary Lab


           Matthew Burtner                               Cassandra Fraser


Willis Jenkins                                      Karen McGlathery


Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Morning session (9-12pm)
    • Large and small group discussion of assigned reading
  • Afternoon session (2-4pm)
    • Discussion with guest instructors, pedagogy workshops
Tuesday, Thursday
  • Fieldwork trips

Travel & Lodging

The institute will be housed on the campus of the University of Virginia, a UNESCO world heritage site, in Charlottesville, VA. Situated 110 miles south of Washington D.C. and 70 miles west of Richmond, VA, Charlottesville is located along the foothills of the Blue Rigid mountains and the Virginia Piedmont.

All classroom sessions will take place in Bond House 106, located at 600 Brandon Ave, Charlottesville, VA.

Participants are responsible for arranging their own travel and lodging. Because the first two weeks of the Institute overlap with the University’s back-to-back alumni reunion weekends, participants are encouraged to secure housing as soon as possible after admission.

The University is located along US highway 29, which runs north to south through Charlottesville. The main east-west highway is I-64 which lies just south of the University.

The closest airport is the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport (CHO). Taxi and rideshares from the airport to Bond House are around $30-40. Rental cars are available at the airport, but depending upon your comfort with walking and public transportation, it is possible to not need a vehicle for the duration of the Institute.

Housing is available in the Bond House dormitory, directly above the Institute classroom, for $46/night, including linen package. Participants choosing to stay in Bond House will be housed in apartment-style suites, where four single-occupancy bedrooms share two full baths and a common kitchen. The bedrooms feature a full bed, closet, and desk and chair. The kitchens are equipped with a refrigerator, oven, and microwave. No other kitchen or bedroom furnishings are provided. Those choosing to stay in the dormitory should plan to bring any kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom fixtures they might need during their stay, including, but not limited to, personal toiletries, towels, bathrobe, slippers, clothes hangers, iron, ironing board, hair dryer, lamp (bedrooms have overhead lighting only), coffee maker, plates, cups, and utensils. The rooms are air conditioned. Depending on the weather and at night, bedrooms might feel quite cold, and participants should plan to bring extra blankets as desired. There is no housekeeping service. Only Institute participants are allowed to stay in on-grounds housing.

The Bond House dormitory opened in Fall 2019 and is among UVA’s newer housing facilities, however, these accommodations are still dorms and are designed for first-year students. What they lack in amenities, they make up for with convenience, but participants should be mindful that at the end of the day, these accommodations were designed for student housing. More information about Bond House, including pictures of the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen can be found here.

Several hotels are located within easy walking distance to the Institute. The closest is the Oakhurst Inn, followed by the Graduate and the Courtyard by Marriott-University Medical Center (all three just over half a mile away). A block of rooms is available at the XXX, however many local hotels have a UVA rate if you inquire at booking.

Local apartment and house rentals are available on sites like AirBnB, Verbo, and even Craigslist (although participants should be vigilant against scams). Housing located along and adjacent to Jefferson Park Ave and within the Fry Springs neighborhood are within walking and biking distance to the Bond House classroom.

The classroom is serviced by two near-by bus stops (Jefferson Park Ave @ Brandon Ave and Jefferson Park Ave @ Cabell Hall). UVA transit buses are free. The Charlottesville City buses (known as the CAT) are fare based with the exception of the Free Trolley that connects UVA to the downtown pedestrian mall. More information about transit options, including fare information, route maps, and service schedules can be found at the following websites: University Transit Service and Charlottesville Area Transit.

Parking at the University is very limited. We will have a small number of parking spaces available for participants and encourage carpooling as much as possible. Some street parking is available along Jefferson Park Ave, but much of the nearby street parking requires a residence permit and the city is vigilant about ticketing, even during the summer. Hourly and daily rate parking is available in the Central Grounds Parking Garage, roughly a 15 minute walk from the Bond House classroom.

The closest grocery stores are Harris Teeter and Kroger, both of which are serviced by UVA and Charlottesville City buses. A CVS and several small convenience stores are located within walking distance of Bond House along University Ave (the area is locally referred to as the Corner). There are several restaurants and coffee shops located here, as well.

How to Apply

The deadline for applications is March 3, 2023.

Applicants will be notified by April 3, 2023. Selected applicants will have until April 14, 2023 to accept or decline the offer.

Project applicants who accept an offer to participate are expected to remain during the entire period of the program and to participate in its work on a full-time basis. If a participant is obliged through special circumstances to depart before the end of the program, it shall be the recipient institution’s responsibility to see that only a pro rata share of the stipend is received or that the appropriate pro rata share of the stipend is returned if the participant has already received the full stipend.

Once an applicant has accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (Seminar, Institute, or Landmark), they may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.

More information about participant eligibility can be found here.

The Institute will adhere to the NEH Principles of Civility.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or age. For further information, write to the Equal Opportunity Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. TDD: 202-606-8282 (this is a special telephone device for the Deaf).

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