Bill McNeece, director of photography for the Pluralism Project
at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, said photography of
different religious events taken by himself and students
participating in the project often elicit questions about how he
managed to take a trip around the world. What people viewing the
exhibition soon discover is that the pictures were all taken within
45 minutes of his Farmington home.

Southeast Michigan is home to five million people and a
multitude of faiths, but people are generally unacquainted with the
diversity that exists in their communities, Claude Jacobs, director
of the Pluralism Project at the University of Michigan-Dearborn,
explained Tuesday.

“These are really images from Southeastern Michigan that
most people just aren’t aware of, this diversity, and it of
course has implications for the way that we interact with each
other, the way that we think about each other, and the way that we
think about ourselves,” Jacobs said.

He and McNeece presented their work to an audience of about 20
in West Hall, discussing the continued development of diversity in
the United States, from centers that represent new immigration
since 1965 to changes in the way that long-time Americans affiliate
religiously.

They, along with more than 200 students, have worked since 1999
to compile over 1,000 images, almost 70 sound samples and a number
of ethnographies from religious centers around metropolitan Detroit
for display in the centers and other public venues.

Jacobs said that with the continued significance of religion in
American life, it is important to encourage using religion to
promote understanding instead of conflict.

He added that he hopes the current exhibition, located in the
lobby of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library until the end of the
week, and the presentation piqued people’s curiosity and
compelled them to further this type of dialogue and their knowledge
of religious diversity.

The exhibition displays selected images from the religious
centers and about fifteen examples of recordings are available at a
computer listening station.

The local documentation, which currently includes information
gathered from visits to around 100 area centers, is affiliated with
the Pluralism Project, started by Harvard University prof. Diane
Eck in 1991, to explore religious diversity in the United
States.

The project examines new religious demography, changes in
religious traditions upon their arrival to the United States and
changes in the country because of this diversity.

“Most of us have a certain vision of Detroit and this is
one way of showing us this vision is not completely accurate, that
that vision is much too limited,” said JoAnn Dionne, a
University data librarian who is involved with the Library
Diversity Committee, which holds monthly diversity-related
events.

Dionne said she was glad to invite the presenters, whose project
she said increases multicultural awareness and “raises
sensitivity toward both (recent immigrants) and the people
who’ve been here (longer).”

Tim Retzloff, a Hatcher Graduate Library late-evening
supervisor, said he attended Tuesday’s event because of a
course he took last semester on the history of 20th century
Detroit.

“I thought this would be a nice compliment to what I
learned in that course,” he said.

Retzloff added that while he goes to public lectures as often as
he can, he found this one particularly enriching because of the new
information it presented.

“I was flabbergasted by the variety of faiths that are
right under our noses here in Southeastern Michigan, it’s
really amazing,” he said.

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