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The Initiative for the Study of Asian Catholics (ISAC) is a collaborative project hosted by the Asia Research Institute to foster social scientific research on Asian Catholics in contemporary societies. With the aim of facilitating collaboration, and contributing to already existing research in the Philippines, Hong Kong, India, and other places, this platform intends to expand and deepen conversations investigating the lived realities, the socio-cultural contributions, and challenges faced by Asian Catholics at the local, national, regional, and global levels. While ISAC takes a multidisciplinary approach, it particularly encourages research on contemporary Asian Catholics from the perspectives of anthropology, art, environmental studies, economy, gender studies, political sciences, and sociology.

Multiple pressing issues provide an impetus for the academic community to study the ways in which Asian societies and global Catholicism intersect. Catholics living in Asia are often members of minority communities. Either within the boundaries of their own nation-state or within world Catholicism, their visibility and roles are frequently overshadowed by more powerful dynamics that shape their environment. Even if Catholics are numerous in some parts of Asia, their regional and global influences can remain difficult to perceive. Yet, they are part of one of the largest and most institutionalized religions that actively influences world affairs. Entangled in this paradox, Asian Catholics are embedded in networks that transcend national, linguistic, and regional boundaries. Often facing various forms of hostility and discrimination calling for international attention, they question the ways in which Asian nation-states define themselves and construct frameworks of coexistence for religious and ethnic diversity. In addition to manifesting the rich and complex history of Christianity as well as the current mutation of world Catholicism, Asian Catholics are actors of contemporary globalization who stand as unique witnesses to understand the current evolution of Asia and global Catholicism.

Nonetheless, available scholarship exploring the current innovations and challenges encountered by those religious groups are relatively few. Compared to Catholic communities in Europe, the Americas, and Africa, research on Asian Catholics remains limited. And even when scholarship on Asian Catholics has made important contributions to the understanding of ethnic and national realities, there have not been sustained efforts to situate these academic works in a regional or global context to understand transborder dynamics as well as the transformation of world Catholicism.

ISAC addresses this situation by generating collaborative research projects, academic panels and conferences, as well as perbualans - an informal online seminar to discuss research papers. The Initiative works also at better promoting scholarly work on Asian Catholics through the production of podcast series, roundtables discussing current events impacting Asian Catholics, and The Observatory, a blog featuring short research papers. Ultimately, ISAC intends to become a research consortium through which researchers can seek collaborations and exchange advice with the objective of enhancing our collective understanding of Asian Catholics and global Catholicism. Thus, ISAC seeks to be a resource for researchers, students, policymakers, journalists, and the general public, offering up-to-date information on scholarly activities and publications relating to Asian Catholics. 

Read More: Catholicism’s Overlooked Importance in Asia - The Diplomat, 4 Feb. 2022

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