When Secretary of State John Kerry launched the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives (OFBCI), he extolled the importance and urgency of religious studies: “In fact if I went back to college today I think I would probably major in comparative religion because that’s how integrated it is in everything we are working on, and deciding, and thinking about in life today.” Despite these claims about the virtue and political utility of religious studies, many academics voiced critique and caution about how OFBCI might be haunted by political agendas, subjected to idealistic visions of liberal democracy, and premised on a particular concept of religion as an analytical category. The Immanent Frame’s “off the cuff“ feature provided insightful critiques by an impressive group of scholars across the academic spectrum. I would like to revisit some of these anxieties about OFBCI and offer preliminary insights about the vision and strategy of its director, Professor Shaun Casey.Read the rest of Faith in diplomacy.
James B. Hoesterey
James B. Hoesterey is a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor of religion at Emory University. He is completing a book about popular Islam and the politics of piety in Indonesia (Sufis and Self-help Gurus: Authority, Subjectivity, and the Ends of Political Islam). He has begun a new project on Islam and diplomacy that examines how Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs positions itself as the vanguard of “moderate Islam” vis-a-vis the competing contexts and demands of the post-Arab-Spring Middle East and post-9/11 America.