Religion and Global Politics

Program Type: Certificate

The study of religion, politics and public life, nationally and internationally, is a topic of growing interest among scholars at Northwestern and beyond. The graduate certificate program in Religion & Global Politics is an interdisciplinary initiative co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science and the Department of Religious Studies that responds to interest in this emergent field of study. It offers a coordinated program of study for graduate students interested in the interrelations between religion, politics, culture, law, and governance in different parts of the world, and in global and transnational perspective.

Rather than approach religion and politics as discreet entities that ‘influence’ one another, or are even mutually constitutive, this program interrogates the very basis of their conceptual and disciplinary separation.  Religion is approached as part of a complex and evolving, shifting series of fields of contemporary and historical practice that cannot be singled out from other aspects of human activity and yet also not simply identified with these either.  Resisting the adoption of any singular, stable conception of religion, this program acknowledges the vast and diverse array of practices and histories that fall under the heading of religion as the term has evolved and as it is used today.  From this angle, law, political institutions, and other tools of collective governance do not possess procedural autonomy ‘above the fray’ of religious lives.  Unpacking the sense of inevitability and neutrality of received understandings of secularism, disestablishment, law, toleration, minority rights and other familiar templates of late modern governance makes it possible to carve out new spaces for the study of religion, law, diversity, and governance—and the complex interrelations between them.

Building on existing strengths across fields at Northwestern, this certificate brings focus and concentration to this dispersed interest. It provides students with the theoretical grounding in the necessary disciplines to support their research, develop professional networks, and prepare them for academic positions in this area of inquiry. Affiliated with the Buffett Global Politics & Religion Faculty Working Group and the Religion & Global Politics Graduate Student Workshop, the program strengthens coordination and cross-fertilization across fields and departments among Northwestern faculty and graduate students working in this field, establishing Northwestern as a robust participant in this emerging global conversation. Because this conversation transcends long-standing disciplinary divides, a strong institutional response requires creative programmatic innovation as well as new thinking at the boundary between the study of religion and the study of global and transnational politics, law and history.

In Winter 2015 the certificate co-organizers co-taught a graduate seminar, “Religion and Modernity.” Also in 2014-2015, a speaker series on “Religion, Law, and Politics,” organized by Elizabeth Shakman Hurd and sponsored by the EDGS program, with support from the Department of Political Science and the Department of Religious Studies, brought together distinguished scholars in the field with Northwestern faculty and graduate students interested in critical analysis of the interaction of law, religion, culture and politics in social, historical, and legal context.  Serving as a forum for reflection on theoretical, methodological, and critical issues in law and society, religion and diversity, and culture and politics in the US and globally, the series traversed disciplinary boundaries to explore these questions, drawing on political science, law, religious studies, anthropology, history, and sociology of religion.

The Religion and Global Politics Graduate Student Workshop creates an interdisciplinary space for graduate students to share their ongoing research projects and to discuss emerging approaches to studying the intersections of religion and politics in global and transnational perspectives. The workshop aims at inviting various disciplines into a fruitful conversation as it looks forward to its participants bringing to the table their distinct fields, area interests, and analytics in an effort to create a common ground for productively using the categories “religion” and “politics” in relation to one another.

See Religion and Global Politics Certificate Requirements for specific courses and procedures needed to complete this program.

Who to Contact

Please contact the program directors, listed below, with questions about this program. 

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
Professor, WCAS Political Science and Religious Studies

Robert Orsi
Professor, Religion

Please contact the graduate workshop’s 2016-17 co-coordinators, listed below, with questions about the workshop:

Jeffrey Wheatley, Religious Studies

Gina Giliberti, Political Science