Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices

“Politics of Religious Freedom” was a collaborative research project that studied how religious freedom is transformed through legal and political contestations in the United States, the Middle East, South Asia, and the European Union. Departing from the assumption that there is a single and stable conception of religious liberty, enshrined in international law, the United Nations protocols and national constitutions, the project undertook a comparative and global study of the multiple historical trajectories, concepts, and practices now organized under the rubric of religious freedom.

Funded by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, Politics of Religious Freedom brought together academics, human rights and civil society organizations, and jurists and policy makers who helped to reshape the debate on religious freedom in the United States, the European Union, India, Egypt, and South Africa.  Based on workshops held among participants from these regions alongside the core research team, the project produced the following publications: (a) a volume of essays titled Politics of Religious Freedom (University of Chicago Press, 2015) compiled and edited by the Project Team; (b) translations of, and commentaries on, key legal cases involving religious freedom from India, Egypt, the U.K., Malaysia, Brazil, South Africa, and the United States (Maryland Journal of International Law, 2015); (c) select papers from project workshops (held in Venice, Chiang Mai, and Cairo) appearing in special issues of South Atlantic Quarterly and Journal of Law and Religion.  The project entailed a pedagogical component that included: (a) developing undergraduate and graduate syllabi on the comparative history of religious freedom globally; and (b) support for four graduate student interns to conduct research related to the project themes in Egypt, Turkey, and Lebanon.

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd organized a public discussion series on the Social Science Research Council blog The Immanent Frame in which scholars from different fields consider the multiple histories and genealogies of religious freedom. That series serves as the basis for the volume Politics of Religious Freedom, co-edited by Sullivan, Hurd, Mahmood & Danchin, published in 2015 by the University of Chicago Press.

Saba Mahmood and Peter G. Danchin edited a special issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, volume 113, issue 1 (Jan. 2014) on “Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Genealogies,” published by Duke University Press.

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan edited a symposium on “Re-thinking Religious Freedom” in the Journal of Law and Religion, vol. 29, no. 3 (Sept./Oct. 2014).

The project team included:

The three-year project (2011-2014) was jointly based at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University and was affiliated with Indiana University and University of Maryland Law.