University of Southern California

Center for Religion & Civic Culture

From Hurricane Relief to the Guatemalan Jungle: IRG Fellows in the News

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George Villanueva, Ph.D. candidate at USC Annenberg and a 2012 IRG fellow, has been been featured on KCET discussing the many ways the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina inspired acts of civic engagement among the residents of New Orleans.

An excerpt from his article:

"I recently traveled to the crescent city, New Orleans -- affectionately known as NOLA -- for a conference. Besides the lively music, cultural hybridity, and unforgettable food, what soulfully grasped me was the civic spirit of its resilient residents and newcomers, who all seem to have metaphorically boarded the streetcar named 'rebuild NOLA', in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina that devastated the city in August of 2005.

Away from the surreal madness of Bourbon Street, one of the rebuilding projects is the proposed Lafitte Corridor Greenway. Jason Neville, NOLA native and former Los Angeles city urban planner, says that the project is "one example of the wide variety of grassroots recovery projects" that have taken hold of the city."

Read the rest of the article at

Thomas Garrison, USC's own "Indiana Jones" and IRG fellow, has also been recognized by the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences for his archaeological work. An anthropological archaeologist, Garrison is currently heading an international team to excavate two unique Mayan temples in the jungles of Guatemala.

An excerpt from the article:

"A dark tide of bats flows out of a large cave in the nearby mountainside as the last rays of the setting sun illuminate a dramatic series of giant blood-red masks decorating an ancient temple set atop the Diablo Pyramid. Beneath the 40-foot high pyramid lies a burial tomb containing the remains of a Maya king, found with a sacrificial blade lying where his right hand would have been.

Pure Indiana Jones, the scene has attracted widespread international attention as armchair archaeologists the world over follow the latest discoveries at the recently excavated Temple of the Night Sun at El Zotz, headed by Thomas Garrison of the USC Dornsife Department of Anthropology.

The Maya, an advanced Mesoamerican civilization, lived in what is now Guatemala, southern Mexico and Belize, in a series of city-states of varying size and power. While El Zotz was one of the smaller kingdoms, it appears to have more than made up for its size with a keen sense of its own identity and creativity."

Read the rest of article here.

The CRCC Interdisciplinary Research Group is chaired by Lisa Bitel and a committee of scholars from diverse academic disciplines who work to advance the investigation of religions and religion-related topics at USC. IRG supports scholarship related to religions with annual Fellowships of up to $10,000 for USC faculty and up to $5,000 for advanced doctoral candidates.

For information on the awards, follow this link.