Posts Tagged ‘international relations’

April 20th, 2017

The inevitable Islamic State? The paradoxes of Sudanese politics and society

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For Love of the ProphetNoah Salomon’s recent book, For Love of the Prophet, is a lesson in academic creativity in the face of adversity. As the author details in his candid introduction, he went to Sudan in search of the “Islamic State,” only to discover that it was nowhere to be seen. Deprived of his object of study, he was able to conjure it by renaming it. What other researchers would call “civil society” was re-christened as an ubiquitous Islamic state that was found everywhere, from bus rides to mosques and mystical rituals. The enemies of this state, no less than its supporters, all became part of this amorphous phenomenon called the Islamic state. As he puts it, the opponents of Islamism vied with its constituencies (due to its “hegemony” and “magnetism”) in a contest to speak its language.

This “discovery,” Salomon argues, compelled him to ask his questions in a new form. Rather than focus on the state as a despotic entity, the question was re-formulated in terms of what can be learned from examining “state power as productive and not solely repressive.”

This radical claim is supported by an even more radical rejection of the widely accepted separation between state and civil society and its enveloping public sphere.

August 3rd, 2016

Religion and politics beyond religious freedom

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Elizabeth Shakman Hurd | Beyond Religious FreedomI would like to thank each of the contributors to this series for their generous engagement with my book, Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion. In this response I address a question that arose in several of the posts: what is the role of the scholar or expert in responding to what comes “after” or lies “beyond” religious freedom? In working on this project I have encountered considerable anxiety concerning what Jeremy Walton refers to as the threat of a “conceptual and political vacuum” arising in the wake of the argument of this book. I am interested in engaging with the concerns that motivate that anxiety. I also want to push back against the insistence that a strong prescriptive stance is required to do the work that I do. There are other paths forward and I’ll discuss a few of them here.

March 17th, 2014

Securing the Sacred: Religion, National Security, and the Western State

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In his new book, Securing the Sacred, Robert M. Bosco examines how secular states attempt to understand and engage religious ideas and actors in the name of national security.

March 7th, 2014

“After the Shipwreck”: Interpreting religion in international relations

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Having been invited to reflect upon the themes of this forum, first raised during the European University Institute (EUI) workshop “Beyond Critique,” I hope the reader will not mind if I begin my essay with a story about shipwrecks.

In a now-famous talk, the Columbia University historian Carol Gluck suggestively argued that history finds itself, temporally and conceptually, “after the shipwreck.” The “shipwreck,” for Gluck, stands as a metaphor for the destruction of the major metanarratives (scientific objectivism, progress, modernity, chronological linearity, historical materialism, the nation) and paradigms (Marxism, Liberalism, Nationalism) that have underpinned much of modern historiography. The deconstruction of such metanarratives is inseparable from the scholarly turn to critical theory, post-structuralism, and post-colonial approaches to the study of history starting in the late 1980s.

November 14th, 2013

Gazing into the future

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The efflorescence of religious life in China over the past thirty-some years has been truly amazing. In the rural areas and small towns of Wenzhou, on the country’s southeastern coast, where I have conducted fieldwork for the past twenty years, one can find periodic religious festivals celebrated in the streets and see people hold their annual ancestor sacrificial rituals. New and restored deity temples, ancestor halls, Daoist and Buddhist temples, and Protestant and Catholic churches have sprung up at a similarly frantic pace. Yi Jing (易经, “Book of Changes”) diviners, fortune-tellers, geomantic fengshui masters, and spirit mediums all enjoy a prosperous business. Even in mega-cities like Shanghai, where most of the population is firmly secular, one still finds much religious activity. In 2012, I found the main City God Temple in Shanghai gleaming with new interior décor, funded by wealthy families who spend hundreds of thousands of yuan hiring Daoist priests to conduct rituals to ensure family health and prosperity. Furthermore, the growing field of religious studies in China no longer feels the need to restrict research to the safety of the historical past. A new generation of younger scholars conducts fieldwork on the rich and diverse religious life found in all corners of the country today.

October 8th, 2013

The “good” and the “bad” Muslims of China

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The slim crescent that rose above the skyline on July 9th signifies the beginning of this year’s holy month of Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where I have been teaching for the last four years. Pious Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking, sex, swearing, and other unlawful behaviors from dawn to dusk, following the traditions of the Prophet to get closer to God. During this sacred month of spiritual renewal, the ritual of sharing food after sunset, known as Iftar, serves important social functions such as bringing families together and reinforcing community bonds. As the last strands of sunlight disappear from the horizon, many celebrate the day by enjoying a lavish dinner with friends and family. In the UAE, as everywhere else, Iftar parties have also become an opportunity for Muslims to reach out to non-Muslims and for non-Muslims to reciprocate the hospitality.

I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of Iftars parties this Ramadan, hosted by several institutions, both secular and religious. The most recent Iftar party that I attended was hosted by the Chinese Consulate General in Dubai, in a popular family restaurant situated on the legendary Sheikh Zayed Road. To strengthen the Unified Front and in the interest of building harmonious relationships among Chinese communities overseas, the Consul General extended invitations to more than 150 Chinese expatriates from various walks of life and different ethnic backgrounds, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

July 31st, 2013

New report on religion and international relations

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working group on “international relations and religion,” convened by Michael Desch and Daniel Philpott, recently released released a detailed report.

June 5th, 2012

Blurring the boundaries

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Four guided missiles packed with explosive material hurtled into the morning sky. Though the day was brilliant blue and cloudless, no one saw them coming. They were aimed at a nation that did not see itself at war. Moreover, it was a nation convinced that missiles fired in anger no longer posed a serious threat to its security. The weapons were conventional in the strict sense: they did not carry nuclear warheads.

November 2nd, 2011

Shared sovereignty

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On October 21, at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, an interdisciplinary group of scholars from Europe, India, and the United States met for a workshop, “Shared Sovereignty:  Rights, Religion and the Problem of Authority,” organized by Leslie Vinjamuri, Matt Nelson, Stephen Hopgood, and Rochana Bajpai.

September 13th, 2011

The Sacred and the Sovereign

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e-International Relations has recently published “The Sacred and the Sovereign,” a collection of short articles by Jeffrey Haynes, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Shireen Hunter, Brendan Sweetman, J. Paul Martin, Tariq Modood, and Barry A. Kosmin.

September 2nd, 2011

A suspension of (dis)belief

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Most academic discussions in political science and international relations presuppose a fixed definition of the secular and the religious and proceed from there. Most realist, liberal, English school, feminist, and historical-materialist approaches treat religion as either private by prior assumption or a cultural relic to be handled by anthropologists. Even constructivists, known for their attention to historical contingency and social identity, have paid scant attention to the politics of secularism and religion, focusing instead on the interaction of preexisting state units to explain how international norms influence state interests and identity or looking at the social construction of states and the state system with religion left out of the picture.

February 2nd, 2011

Myths of Mubarak

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The term ‘secular’ and its conceptual affiliates are doing a lot of work in misrepresenting the uprising in Egypt. ‘Secular’ politics has been taken to mean ‘good’ politics (limited democratization, stability, and support for the peace treaty with Israel), and ‘Islamic’ politics is being translated as ‘bad’ politics (the myriad dangers allegedly posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies). Accounts of the current situation in Egypt are handicapped by an inability to read politics in Egypt and Muslim-majority societies outside of this overly simplistic and politically distorting lens.

December 16th, 2010

Religion and the United Nations

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The  September issue of CrossCurrents, co-edited by Azza Karam and Matthew Weiner, examines the relationship between religion and the United Nations, offering a wide range of essays exploring  scholarly interpretations and reflections from the perspective of both faith based organizations and the UN. View the full issue here (sub. req.).

June 4th, 2010

American Katechon

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Nicolas Guilhot on when political theology became international relations theory.

November 5th, 2008

History as guide

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Yesterday’s presidential election in the United States and the 10th anniversary of the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) last week provide perfect bookends for considering the past, present, and possible futures of the role of religion in U.S. foreign policy. […]

October 27th, 2008

Religious freedom & U.S. foreign policy

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Ten years ago today President Clinton signed the landmark International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), a law its supporters hoped would put religious freedom at the core of American foreign policy. During the ensuing decade IRF policies have produced admirable and encouraging results, including humanitarian successes and institutional first steps toward altering the secularist culture at the State Department. However, it cannot yet be said that religious freedom is anywhere near the center of U.S. foreign policy. The next administration should elevate and broaden IRF policy in order to serve both the humanitarian and the national security interests of the United States. […]

September 11th, 2008

The politics of secularism in international relations

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From an interview with Elizabeth Shakman Hurd on her book, The Politics of Secularism in International Relations.

March 10th, 2008

The politics of secularism in international relations

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A survey of leading contemporary international relations (IR) journals published between 1980 and 1996 revealed that 6 out of 1,600 articles featured religion as an important influence. But things have changed this past decade. It is now impossible to maintain the notion that religion is irrelevant to international politics, for at least three reasons. […]

November 8th, 2007

Rethinking religious pluralism

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Alongside the ongoing discussion of A Secular Age, I would like to consider another important nexus in modern life—religious pluralism. As is clear from recent immigration debates, conflicts over the legitimacy of religious legal systems within secular states, and a variety of other flashpoints from comic strip controversies to family law issues, religion, or rather religions in plural, are at the center of debates about modern democracies and their futures. […]

October 31st, 2007

Secularism, realism, and international relations

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Among the various fields of the social sciences, international relations theory has established itself both as scientific and as politically relevant. Along with economics, it is a model of social scientific expertise, and it has an established record of informing state policies. It provides a standard of political rationality against which policy decisions can be matched and assessed. […]