What logics, strategies, and effects characterize the category of religion as an instrument for governing social life? What possibilities and foreclosures result from summoning religion to serve novel political ends? Questions such as these subtend much contemporary scholarship on religion; their ascendancy testifies to the puissance of recent deconstructions of the concept of religion, especially those marshalled by critiques of secularism. Rather than conceiving religion as the disavowed other of secular modernity, the burgeoning field of secularism studies has demanded attention to the continual consolidation of “religion” within the problem space of secularism, especially in relation to the dispensation of the modern nation-state. Despite the recent interest in the relationship between secularism and religion, however, the distinctive forms and functions of “religious freedom”—as both a principle for and an object of global governance—have received less attention. Thankfully, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd’s Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion, has arrived to decisively fill this lacuna.Read the rest of A salutary tremor.
Jeremy F. Walton
Jeremy F. Walton leads the research group, “Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities,” at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany. Prior to his current position, he held research and teaching fellowships at the Center for Advanced Studies of Southeastern Europe at the University of Rijeka (2015-2016), the CETREN Transregional Research Network at Georg August University of Göttingen (2013-2015), Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (2012-2013), and New York University’s Religious Studies Program (2009-2012). He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago (2009). Dr. Walton’s first major research project focused on the relationship among Muslim civil society organizations, state institutions, and secularism in contemporary Turkey; his book manuscript based on this research is under contract with Oxford University Press. Dr. Walton has published in a wide selection of scholarly journals, including American Ethnologist, Sociology of Islam, and The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. Additionally, he was a co-editor of the volume Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency (University of Chicago Press), and has book chapters in Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency, Orienting Istanbul: Cultural Capital of Europe?, The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies, and Everywhere Taksim: Sowing the Seeds for a New Turkey at Gezi. “Empires of Memory,” which Dr. Walton designed, is an interdisciplinary, multi-sited project on the cultural politics of post-imperial memory in six former Habsburg and Ottoman cities: Vienna, Istanbul, Budapest, Sarajevo, Trieste, and Thessaloniki.
Posts by Jeremy F. Walton:
Taksim Meydanı. Partition Square. Although it has taken on potent new resonances in recent days, the name of Istanbul’s throbbing central plaza commemorates a now-forgotten history, the function of the site during the Ottoman period as a point of distribution and “partition” of water lines from the north of the city to other districts. Already long the favored site of demonstrations in Istanbul, Taksim is now the scene of the largest anti-government protests in Turkish Republican history. And the name of the square speaks volumes—what better word than “partition” to describe the increasingly politicized cleavages that have defined Turkish public life over the past decade, finally achieving international reverberation with the current protests?Read the rest of An excursion through the partitions of Taksim Square.
“The Lives of Great Religious Books,” a promising new series from Princeton University Press, debuted this month with three titles—Martin E. Marty’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison, Donald Lopez’s The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography, and Garry Wills’ Augustine’s Confessions. On March 24, I had the opportunity to discuss “The Lives of Great Religious Books” with Professor Marty, Professor Lopez, and Vanessa Ochs, another author in the series, who is currently working on a biography of the Passover Haggadah. Above all, our conversation centered on the metaphor of a text’s biography, its purchase and limitations. Just as we might think of a human biography as a series of contexts linked together by a single individual, so too is the biography of a text a series of contexts linked by the text itself.Read the rest of Moments from the lives of great religious books.
Invariably, contemporary discussions of Islam seem to begin and end with the relationship between Islam and politics—both anti-Islamic pundits and critics of Islamophobia vigorously assert that the mechanics and kinetics of this relationship are central to the evaluation of Islam today. A nexus of paranoia, fear, ignorance, and old-fashioned bigotry typically animates arguments on one side, while those on the other tend toward the polemics and apologetics of subaltern critique. Both camps, however, assume that discussions of Islam necessarily traverse and trouble the domain of the political. This exclusive emphasis on the political marks the difference between Islamphobia à la mode and the older Orientalist discourses of Edward Said’s interrogation: unlike today’s Islamophobia, classical Orientalism constituted a total romance of the East that subsumed political, aesthetic, religious, and cultural forms. In contrast, contemporary Euro-American public debate about Islam evinces what I call the compulsion of the political.Read the rest of Islam and the compulsion of the political.