Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad


June 2016

In June 2016, the “At Home and Abroad” project held its first workshop at Northwestern in Evanston. Participants included historians, anthropologists, political theorists, legal scholars, and scholars of US religion. The workshop discussion focused on the “inside/outside” and the “at home and abroad” analytic frameworks as applied to the study of religion, law and politics in the United States and abroad.

Participating in the workshop were Benjamin Berger, Jason Bivins, Nandini Chatterjee, Sarah Dees (Luce Postdoctoral Fellow), Alessandro Ferrari, Clark Gilpin, Evan Haefeli, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Sarah Imhoff, Brannon Ingram, Greg Johnson, Pamela Klassen, Mona Oraby, Matthew Scherer, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Jeffrey Wheatley, and Isaac Weiner.

The “At Home and Abroad” project is funded by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion in International Affairs. The Buffett Institute Global Politics and Religion research group also provided support for this event.

October 2016

On October 28, 2016 the “At Home and Abroad” project held a second workshop at Indiana University, Bloomington. This workshop was designed to focus very specifically on the US case and the range of ways in which US exceptionalism can be viewed from a religious perspective, broadly understood. Participants included Spencer Dew (Centenary College), Stephanie Frank (Columbia College), Constance Furey (IUB), Cooper Harriss (IUB), Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Northwestern), Shaul Magid (IUB), Noah Salomon (Carleton College), Matthew Scherer (George Mason University), Lisa Sideris (IUB), Winnifred Sullivan (IUB) and Sarah Dees (Northwestern).

Participants were asked to submit a text with accompanying commentary and these submissions were combined into a packet of readings. The readings range from specifically religious texts such as John Winthrop’s sermon aboard the Arabella and Khomeini’s Last Testament, to judicial opinions such as that of the US Supreme Court establishing US title to Indian lands, literary reflections on the Great American novel, explicitly political engagements with theology, and academic writing on capitalism and excess.

For the workshop, participants were paired and asked to introduce the text and commentary of their partners. What followed was an intense discussion of US exceptionality, both in terms of the stories American tell themselves and the stories others tell of them, of what they do at home and what they do abroad—of those excluded and those in charge—of whether and how the US is or ever was new and innocent—of revolution and the exception—of the credibility of the rule of law. Perhaps reflecting the current political climate, much of the discussion, while not centered on the election, elaborated on the indeterminacy, elusiveness, and provisionality of the US project. Lingering questions concerned the nature and status of sacrifice, sovereignty, and supersessionism in the American context. Participants were asked to formalize their remarks in preparation for a curated set of blog posts showcasing this workshop on The Immanent Frame in 2017.

Participants in the second workshop