Drew Theological School student receives Louisville thesis scholarship

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Drew Theological School student receives Louisville thesis scholarship

Doctoral student Hunter Bragg received the award for his examination of the US criminal justice system

June 2022 – Drew Theological School Doctoral student Hunter Bragg received the prestigious Louisville Dissertation Scholarship for his thesis on the political theology of plea bargain, entitled “About Whose Sentencing We Don’t Know: A Political Theology of Plea Bargaining in American Criminal Justice.”

The scholarship, awarded to students in their final year of writing a doctoral or doctoral thesis, supports the training of ecclesiastically committed scholars for teaching and scholarship that serve the church and its ministries.

“I am deeply grateful for the support that the Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship will provide as I complete my dissertation on the political theology of advocacy negotiation,” Bragg said. “Examining the theological foundations of plea bargaining – a ritual process undertaken in the trial of approximately 97 percent of all criminal cases in the United States – will illuminate the problematic ways in which plea bargaining transforms human beings into racial, gendered, classed and mentally handicapped criminals whose very humanity is at stake.

“Hunter’s research for this transdisciplinary dissertation has immersed him in a powerful and sorely needed inquiry into the American prison system,” said Catherine Keller, George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology. “Operating between religious and legal discourses, it reveals how the Christian practice of confession has been appropriated and distorted by the legal practice of guilty pleas, functioning to brand a broad mass of largely black subjects as essentially criminal. It is a thesis from which I already receive much more than I can give.

“I have been supported in tangible and intangible ways by a multitude of people, many of whom are students or faculty at Drew Theological School,” Bragg said. “I am especially grateful to my PhD supervisor, Dr. Catherine Keller, for her guidance on this project, from a class essay to a journal article and a thesis project. Throughout my doctoral journey at Drew, she gave me the confidence I needed to share my ideas with a wider audience.


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