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Elizabeth Shakman Hurd - Critical Thinkers in Religion, Law and Social Theory

Thu, October 18, 2012

Beth Hurd

University of Ottawa, Simard 125
4:00 - 6:30pm 
Lecture is co-sponsored by the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa  

Title: Believing in religious freedom

Abstract: International religious freedom is often positioned as the antidote to a series of unappealing options for managing communal life across lines of social and religious difference. Energizing projects around the world, religious freedom stands in for the good and the right in many complex and often violent situations. It is difficult to critique and seems to stand above politics. This paper will critically examine the forms of authority authorized by contemporary international religious freedom advocacy. The power of this construct has led to the creation and proliferation of new categories of actors in world politics, the definition and adoption of new tasks, mandates, and commissions, and the global dissemination and normalization of new modes of social organization. Religious freedom authorizes exceptions to norms of non-intervention and legitimizes far-reaching transnational campaigns to shape the religious landscapes of other states and regions. These models and projects help to define what it means to be religious, and to be free, in the contemporary world.  The paper will conclude with a consideration of alternative approaches to living with and across lines of deep social difference.

Bio: Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is associate professor of political science at Northwestern University. She is interested in global formations of law, authority and power, with particular attention to the cultural and social dimensions of politics. Her research and teaching are on the history and politics of US foreign relations; the politics of secularism, law and religion; and the global politics of the postcolonial Middle East and North Africa. Hurd is the author of The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton, 2008), which received the Morken award from the American Political Science Association, and co-editor of Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age (Palgrave, 2010). She is also co-organizer of “The Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices,” a three-year study of legal and political contestation surrounding religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities in South and Southeast Asia, the U.S., the Middle East, and the European Union, funded by the Luce Foundation.

Professor Hurd was a recent blog contributor on the Centre for International Policy Studies website. Read her entry. She has also recently (October 16 2012) writen an article for the Globe and Mail - The Hegemony of Religious Freedom.  

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