The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. We're highlighting the research of this year's fellows in a series of online profiles.
Joseph Staruski (HC '20), Cities and Philosophy
"Prayers for Politicians: Religion and the Public Sphere"
Abstract: How can protestant churches work to foster rational-critical discourses in the public sphere? Such discourses are essential for informed democratic society, but the contemporary situation is struggling to maintain these discourses in a healthy fashion. This paper will engage the public sphere theory of Jürgen Habermas and consider competing arguments from Jose Casanova and W. Julian Korab-Karpiwinz in an effort to understand the proper place of religion in the public sphere. It is part of a sociological research project which instigates four protestant churches. The paper uses in-person interviews, event observations, historical analysis, and theoretical arguments to explain the contemporary situation of religious institutions. The paper will make the claim that these institutions can foster the public sphere by: 1, producing public spheres; 2, establishing the proper conditions for a public sphere; and 3, creating content that serves to inform the public sphere. While religious institutions are imperfect and diverse, the actions they perform in support of the public sphere can certainly be benevolent. In sum, the contemporary public sphere requires rejuvenation, and Churches are in a position to provide some level of support for such rejuvenation.
What was the highlight of your work?
The highlight of my work is definitely the interviews I conducted. I spoke with 11 people over the summer and I spent a lot of time on observations, taking detailed notes. I created a large base of primary source data, and I think that it will be a very valuable asset to my senior thesis.
How will you use your research in future studies?
As for future studies, I am planning my senior thesis around the data that I gathered over the summer. Now that I am back at school, I have the time to do the thoughtful reflection and planning necessary to properly analyze and frame the work that has been done thus far.
The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. Each summer, Bryn Mawr College awards up to 15 students a summer fellowship of $4,500 to undertake an independent research project in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. The research may either be the beginning of the senior thesis or a project that stands alone, but is relevant to their intellectual interests and must be supported by a faculty advisor.