Thinking About Religion, Law, and Politics

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project is about religion and politics beyond the agendas of reassurance or surveillance. It is concerned with religion, politics, and law, not as hypostasized entities but as lived practices, before and after “Religious Freedom” and other utopian—and dystopian—constructs, including the church and the state, that dominate these fields of inquiry. It explores historical and contemporary examples of how religion, politics and law work together in specific local and global contexts to enable communities to live, work, and meet their gods across lines of difference. We are interested in learning from and re-claiming a series of non-utopian, non-universalizing practices of co-existence both past and present. These religious, legal and political (small r, small l, and small p) practices and spaces exist in the lives of ordinary people and communities. They are imagined, lived, and governed in ways that are distinct from the spaces and constructs ordinarily assigned to religion in late modernity such as Interfaith Dialogue, Religious Freedom, the Rights of Religious Minorities, Violence and Peace, Religious Pluralism, and so on. The aspects of (little r) religion, (little l) law, and (little p) politics that interest us most are those that downplay the rigidity of confessional boundaries, doctrinal purity, and identity markers. We seek to recover intellectually and explore substantively the registers of religious traditions exhibiting these characteristics, in the process revisiting the idea of religious “tradition” itself. These registers represent and signal different versions of what common life is and can be like—possibilities and actualities that fall outside the dominant secular-religious binary, and are often lost from sight. This is a descriptive and comparative project, and will intentionally explore multiple religious histories, geographies and traditions, many of which cross nation-state borders. The aim is not to juxtapose “great” and “little” traditions, let alone to reinscribe the polarities that have proven essential for establishing and policing notions of “religion,” “politics,” and “law,” such as public/private, male/female, orthodox/heterodox, civilized/primitive, and so on, in the interests of state governments and religious orthodoxies. Rather it is to look beyond this terminology with its embedded hierarchies and beyond the repetitive critique of it as well to discover lived practices of religion, law, and politics that have been occluded by the existing grids.
Effective start/end date7/15/147/31/15


  • Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. (Award Letter 7/9/14)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.