Beyond Religious Freedom

Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion is a study of recent state-led efforts to promote religious freedom, religious engagement, and the rights of religious minorities internationally. Elizabeth Shakman Hurd brings together the study of contemporary religion and the study of global politics to chart these projects and their context and to develop a better understanding of their consequences for both politics and religion.

Hurd challenges the claim that the legalization of freedom of religion, state-sponsored religious engagement, and legal protections for religious minorities emancipate society from persecution and discrimination. Instead, she shows how these efforts exacerbate social tensions by making religious difference a matter of law, enacting a divide between the religion of those in power and the religion of those without it. This leads to a politics defined by religious difference and favors forms of religion authorized by those in positions of power. It also obscures other factors that contribute to discrimination and violence.

The book does not argue “against” religious freedom—instead, it asks: what are the effects of constructing a legal regime around “religious freedom” and a discursive world around that? Does it advance or impede efforts to live together across deep lines of difference, which are often accompanied by persistent and multiplex forms of inequality? Advocates of religious freedom presume that the answer is self-evident and affirmative. Hurd sees the answer as more complex and the outcome as much less utopian.

In this series, scholars from across the disciplines engage with and respond to Hurd’s work.