Hannah R. Waits

PhD Candidate

North America


Hannah is currently writing her dissertation, titled "Missionary-Minded: American Evangelicals and Power in a Postcolonial World, 1945-2000."

Her research traces how participation in global missionary work shaped American evangelicals' understandings of themselves and their growing national and international influence in the second half of the twentieth century.

Missionary work has long been a framework through which white actors tried to save and develop those whom they perceived to be others — racial others, cultural others, religious others, or moral others. This dissertation shows how changes to that framework produced new lessons about race, diversity, and power for white evangelicals back in the US.

American evangelicals became the majority of the world's Protestant missionaries and built some of the world's largest and wealthiest non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the mid- and late twentieth century. By analyzing evangelicals' global work and its effects on American society, this project breaks new ground in the studies of decolonization, American international influence, and US religion and politics.

For more information, visit hannahwaits.com


Research Interests

  • Religion and Politics
  • US and the World
  • Cultural and Social History

Awards & Fellowships

Dissertation Fellowship, Louisville Institute for the Study of American Religion, 2017-2018

Myrna Bernath Fellowship, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, 2015

Constant Jacquet Research Award, Religious Research Association, 2015

Graduate Research Grant, Berkeley Center for Race and Gender, 2015

Summer Research Fellowship, Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, 2015

Harvey Fellowship, Mustard Seed Foundation, 2015-2018

Graduate Summer Research Grant, Berkeley Graduate Division, 2013 & 2014

Johnson Research Grant, Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton, Illinois, 2013 & 2014

Student Research Grant, Berkeley Center for Right Wing Studies, 2013

May Research Grant, Southern Baptist Historical Archives, Nashville, Tennessee, 2012


Publications & Presentations

"Saving Former Soviets: US Missionary Work in the Post-Cold War Era," American Historical Association Annual Meeting, 2019

"Embracing Diversity: American Evangelicals and Power in a Postcolonial World," American Academy of Religion, West Region, 2018

"White Feelings, Black Lives: US Missionaries and Racial Justice at Home and Abroad," American Studies Association Meeting, 2016

"To the Ends of the Earth: The Politics of American Evangelical Missionaries," American Studies Association Annual Meeting, 2013

"Democracy and the Great Commission: American Global Missions and Postwar Foreign Relations," Harvard University, 2013