Meet the Fellows: 2017 Newcombe Fellow Alexander McKinley

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2017 class of Fellows includes Alexander McKinley, a doctoral candidate in the graduate program in religion at Duke University. Mr. McKinley shares what drew him to his area of study:

People often ask me what drew a lifelong Midwesterner to study Sri Lanka. The most obvious answer is because it’s a tropical island, of course!  A more studied response would be that Sri Lanka is truly one of the most unique places in the world to study religious practices. Not only are there sizable contingents of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians on the island, but in several instances they share one another’s sacred shrines and pilgrimage sites. Unpacking how and why religious groups cooperate (or fail to cooperate) at these places has not only taken me through advanced academic degrees, but also up and down a mountain in the tropical rainforest about fifty times in a six-month span. I can only hope all my future projects are as invigorating for both body and mind!

Mr. McKinley’s dissertation title is Mountain at a Center of the World. For more information on the 2017 Newcombe Fellows and to see a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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