Megan Rogers (sociology) is a dissertation year fellow with the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, where her work on human development, specifically religion’s relationship to social change in China, fits well with the Institute’s thematic priorities and illustrates Kellogg’s expanding geographic scope. Growing up, her family spent time in California and Mississippi, but now Rogers has settled in South Bend to complete her dissertation on the relationship between religion and China’s burgeoning middle class.
How would you summarize your research?
I’m looking at religion among college-educated urban professionals in contemporary China. China is still a very atheistic country with an atheistic education system, so I want to know why people there are turning to religion. More specifically, I am looking across faith traditions at the ways in which they’re engaging in religion and how it’s influencing their life and their outlook on society.
How did you develop this topic and how has it continued to grow?
As an undergrad, I initially thought I wanted to do business, and so I started studying China for that reason. I pretty quickly realized that the cultural aspects of China interested me more than the business aspects. Religion in particular jumped out, as you can study whole aspects of China’s social development through the lens of religion. Also, even though it’s gotten more popular recently as a subject of research, religion in China has been a very under-studied topic. The Cultural Revolution and periods of stricter economies destroyed a lot of cultural traditions, causing a lot of people to consider China an atheistic country. Now, though, people there are trying to rebuild or reclaim those traditions. There are so many avenues for people to study. That wide open range is exciting as a scholar. You get to define your path rather than try to squeeze yourself between established works. You get to go discover things for yourself.
Having previously studied at Ole Miss and Ohio State, what drew you to Notre Dame?
When I was looking at schools, I recognized that I had a pretty good scholarly grasp on China, but I didn’t have any actual academic grounding in the study of religion. Notre Dame is one of the best—if not the best—places to study the sociology of religion, so it turned out to be a really good fit in that regard.
Kellogg was also instrumental. One of the truths of graduate school is that it can get very insular; you can just sort of hide away in your own department—and given the nature of my research I couldn’t really do that. Kellogg gave me a chance to stay connected.
What impact has the Kellogg Institute had on your research? On your Notre Dame experience?
From the beginning, Kellogg was helpful in connecting me with China scholars in different departments. Also, it is incredibly helpful just hearing the issues and concerns someone is dealing with in their studies of, say, political science in Ghana. Just logistically, Kellogg has been great in helping to facilitate international research.
Notre Dame is so well known for its amazing undergraduate experience, but a lot of those cultural and community aspects of the university are not as easily accessible to graduate students. Institutes like Kellogg help create a sense of community and provide the ability to reach beyond the boundaries of your discipline. For me, Kellogg has made a big difference.