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The Initiative for the Study of Asian Catholics (ISAC) is a international collaboration hosted by the Asia Research Institute (National University of Singapore) to foster social scientific research on Asian Catholics in contemporary societies. With the aim of generating new research projects, 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, digital collections, 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 a university press book seriespodcast seriesroundtables discussing current events impacting Asian Catholics, and The Observatory, a blog featuring short research papers. In 2024, ISAC also established a Research Unit at De La Salle University Manila ISAC@DLSU to generate digital collections. 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: 

Watch: The Diverse Faces of Asian Catholicism

Coordinators

Academic Members

ANU K ANTONY

PhD Research Scholar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

GEORGE BAYUGA

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Colorado, USA

SONG GANG

Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

BRYAN GOH

Graduate Student, Department of History, University of Michigan Ann-Arbor, USA

PATRIZIA GRANZIERA

Professor of Art History at the University of Morelos, Cuernavaca, Mexico

TUAN HOANG

Associate professor at Pepperdine University, USA

MIKYOUNG KIM

Sociologist, Pukyung National University, Korea

LINA KOLEILAT

PhD., Academic Fellow, Australian National University, Australia

ANA LABRADOR

Honorary Senior Fellow at the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne

SIN WEN LAU

Senior Lecturer, Chinese Programme, Department of Languages and Cultures, University of Otago, New Zealand

NAMITA MANOHAR 

Associate Prof. Sociology, Brooklyn College - City University of New York, USA. 

THIEN-HUONG NINH

Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, University of California Davis, USA

HISAKO OMORI

Associate Professor, Faculty of International Liberal Arts, Akita International University, Japan

NANDINI PALIYATH

Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India

LAWRENCE S. PEDREGOSA 

Advocacy and Communications Officer Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network, Belgium

JOHANN PEIRIS

Collective for Historical Dialogue and Memory, Sri Lanka

EVA SALERNO

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Catholic University of Paris & Associate fellow at Groupe Sociétés Religions Laïcités, EPHE/ CNRS, France

CATHERINE SCHEER

Lecturer in anthropology, French School of Asian Studies (Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient), Center for Southeast Asian Studies, (CNRS/ EHESS/ INaLCO), France

MARK INIGO TALLARA 

Assistant Professor, De La Salle University, Philippines

JOANNA TAN SI MIN

 Master of Philosophy (Social Anthropology), University of Cambridge

FRANSISKA WIDYAWATI 

 Faculty Lecturer, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Santu Paulus Ruteng, Indonesia

LEONARD YEO

Master of Arts, National University of Singapore

SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE

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JOSE CASANOVA 

Senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs
Emeritus professor of sociology
Georgetown University

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JAMASON CHEN

Manager of Technology Clinical Professor
School of Communication
Loyola University Chicago

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ALAN CHONG

Senior Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies,
Nanyang Technological University Singapore

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JAYEEL CORNELIO

Associate Professor and Director of the Development Studies Program; Acting Associate Dean for Research and Creative Work; Ateneo de Manila University

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KENNETH DEAN

Ex Officio Member 

Cluster leader for Religion and Globalisation 

Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

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MARLON DE LUNA ERA

Ex Officio Member 

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Behavioral Sciences, 

De La Salle University, Manila

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R. MICHAEL FEENER

Professor, Kyoto University

Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Associate Member, Oxford University Faculty of History
Director, Maritime Asia Heritage Survey

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JIEUN HAN 

Historian of Korean Catholicism, 
Institute of East Asian Studies at Sogang University

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ROBERT HEFNER 

Professor of Anthropology and International Relations
Department of Anthropology and Pardee School of Global Affairs
Boston University

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KARRIE KOESEL

Associate Professor of Political Science

 University of Notre Dame

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HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI

Kay Davis Professor and Professor of Anthropology
Northwestern University

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WILLIAM PETERSON 

Professor of Drama, Art, and Performance
School of Culture and Society at Auckland Institute of Technology

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PETER C. PHAN

The Ignacio Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought
Georgetown University

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ROWENA ROBINSON

Professor of Sociology
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

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JONATHAN TAN 

The Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor of Catholic Studies
Case Western Reserve University

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CLAIRE TRAN

Associate Professor at Paris Cité University, Member of the CESSMA (Centre d’études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques)

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FELIX WILFRED

Chief Editor of the International Journal of Asian Christianity (IJAC)

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INES ZUPANOV

Senior Research Fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Member of the Centre d'études de l'Inde/Asie du Sud (CNRS/EHESS)

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