All posts by CDTR

2021 Surjit Singh Lecture | Navigating Topographies of Belonging and Difference: Contemporary Shared Sacred Sites in the Mediterranean

2021 Surjit Singh Lecture | Navigating Topographies of Belonging and Difference: Contemporary Shared Sacred Sites in the Mediterranean

The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) is pleased to announce that Dr. Karen Barkey, Haas Distinguished Chair of Religious Diversity and Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, will be presenting the 2021 Surjit Singh Lecture on April 5, 2021 at 12 pm PT.

Her lecture will be entitled “Navigating Topographies of Belonging and Difference: Contemporary Shared Sacred Sites in the Mediterranean.”

“In light of the predominant narratives of religious hatreds, conflict, and the decline of religious pluralism throughout the world, the existence of shared sacred sites that bring different religions together act as prescient reminders of the possibilities presented by tolerance,” Dr. Barkey said. “This lecture focuses on shared sacred sites, places that are holy for members of multiple religious groups, and how the participants in these sites mediate, negotiate, and come to accept difference. Drawing upon three summers of ethnographic research, I will examine the stories people tell about belonging to a space, and the stories of sharing that become embedded within the local culture.”

Started in 1991, the annual Surjit Singh Lecture in Comparative Religious Thought and Culture builds upon the GTU’s tradition of ecumenical theological education and dedication to interreligious dialogue and understanding. Each year, the endowed lectureship brings to the GTU a distinguished scholar to address religion and culture from a cross-cultural perspective.

Register here to join.

Dr. Barkey is the director of the Center for Democracy, Toleration and Religion, located at Social Science Matrix and the co-director of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion. She is also one of the curators of the traveling Shared Sacred Sites exhibition. Her most recent work relates to issues of religious diversity and coexistence, with particular research on the question of shared sacred sites.

For more information, please visit the Graduate Theological Union’s event webpage here.

Presented by the Graduate Theological Union.

The Development of Reasoning about Religious Norms: Insights from Hindu and Muslim children in India

Photo of Mahesh Srinivasan, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology; member, Cognitive Science Faculty, University of California, Berkeley

Speaker: Mahesh Srinivasan, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology; member, Cognitive Science Faculty, University of California, Berkeley

Moderator: Robert Goldman, Professor of Sanskrit and Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor in South & Southeast Asian Studies

Join us for a talk by UC Berkeley psychologist, Prof. Mahesh Srinivasan on how people construe and tolerate differences in religious norms and beliefs.

DATE: Thursday, October 22, 2020
TIME: 10:30am PDT


Children who live in pluralistic societies often encounter members of other religious and secular groups who hold radically different beliefs and norms. Under these circumstances, developing religious tolerance––respecting that each group has its own beliefs and norms––is both challenging and crucial. When individuals in pluralistic societies fail to develop religious tolerance, the consequences can be dire. For example, in India, Muslims have recently been attacked because they were suspected of violating the Hindu prohibition against killing cows. Promoting peaceful co-existence among groups thus requires understanding how people construe and tolerate differences in religious norms and beliefs. In this talk, I will present a recent line of work on the development of religious tolerance among Hindu and Muslim children in Gujarat, India—a site of recent violent Hindu-Muslim conflict. These studies explore how Hindu and Muslim children and adults conceptualize norms from their own religion, as well as norms from the other religion. For example, we probe beliefs about to whom religious norms apply, whether violations of these norms should be punished, who has the authority to change religious norms, and how the contexts in which norm violations take place affect evaluations. Our findings suggest that although adult’s and children’s application of religious norms across groups and contexts often allows for peaceful coexistence, it might also lead to conflict.

About the Speaker
Mahesh Srinivasan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Cognitive Science Faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, he was a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, San Diego. His research explores how representations of language and concepts arise and interact in human development and across cultures. Specific interests include flexible and pragmatic uses of language (e.g., polysemy, metaphor, implicature), the representation of abstract concepts (e.g., time, number), linguistic relativity, and social cognitive development in different cultural contexts.

Prof. Srinivasan received a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Harvard University in 2011, and received a B.S. in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University in 2005.

Click HERE to read more about Prof. Srinivasan.

Sponsors: Institute for South Asia StudiesSarah Kailath Chair of India StudiesCognitive Science ProgramCenter for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion (CDTR)

Rationality, Ritual, and Democratic Decision-Making: Perspectives from Classical Athens

October 16, 2020 / 10:00 am – 11:30 am

Register here to receive a personalized Zoom link to join the webinar.

Sara Forsdyke (University of Michigan) and Josiah Ober (Stanford University), Moderated by Emily Mackil (UC Berkeley, Department of History and Chair, Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archeology) and Duncan MacRae (UC Berkeley Department of Classics)

Director Karen Barkey on “Making Sense of Hagia Sophia’s Conversion” with Reset DOC

Hagia Sophia, which means “divine wisdom” in Greek, has been subjected to many worldly yearnings of power and symbolism. There is no doubt that altering the status of the great church has always meant domination through control of its symbolism. President Erdogan frequently uses the Ottoman conquest and the right of the sword as part of his symbolic political vocabulary. However, there is a world of difference between the Ottoman conquest and transformation of the Church and Erdogan’s reversal of Ataturk’s decision.

Text editing and video production: Karen Barkey, Rachel Park
Video editing: Marco Lucidi

You can also find the video on the Reset DOC website here.

Director Karen Barkey on “A Permanent American Spring” in ResetDoc

Karen Barkey, current Director of the Shared Sacred Sites project, wrote a piece on “The Road Ahead for US Democracy” for ResetDoc in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the wave of protests against racism and police violence across the country.

The demonstrations, the return of the people of all racial, ethnic, gender, age and socio-economic categories to the public square is encouraging. We are experiencing a renewed and exhilarating demand for change….

This new coalition of the street cannot be, must not be, a passing, fleeting moment in our American Spring. It must be permanent.”

Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel / AP in the Los Angeles Times (

Workshop: Toleration in Comparative Perspective: Concepts, Practices and Documents (April 3-4, 2020)(POSTPONED)

The Center for Democracy, Religion and Toleration (CDTR), The Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion (BCSR) at the University of California Berkeley and ResetDOC, Dialogue of Civilizations have undertaken a new project on toleration from different traditions around the world.

This workshop will bring together scholars from across the world to discuss their work on the long, global history of toleration. In addition to five thematic panels, the workshop will host a keynote lecture by Professor Denis Lacorne (Senior Research Fellow at the Centre d’Etudes et des Researches Internationales, Sciences Po). You can find the schedule for the workshop and information on the participants on these pages.

Following the comparative workshop on April 3rd and 4th 2020, we plan to prepare a volume with selected materials on toleration, brief analytic essays that situate the writings within their particular geographic and temporal sites and relate them comparatively to ideas and practices of toleration in other parts of the world. This volume promises to provide an important selection of materials on toleration across time and space with a comparative frame that will reveal the highly diverse origins of the concept of toleration. We hope to historicize the concept of toleration, thereby also putting into question the often-uncritical assumption that the articulation of the ideal is primarily an intellectual achievement of a strand of thought in Europe or, more generally, the West. 

Exhibition and Workshop: “Shared Sacred Sites” From the Mediterranean to the United States. (March 29, 2018)

Click here to read a thoughtful and rich review of Shared Sacred Sites Exhibition by Gordon Haber at The Forward.


International Exhibition Shared Sacred Sites is coming to New York City on March 27-June 30th, 2018, hosted by The New York Public Library, The Graduate Center, CUNY, and The Morgan Library and Museum.


Click the link below to view the official informational brochure of  Shared Sacred Sites exhibition. Scroll down to read the program of the Exhibition and the Public Events.

Official Brochure – Shared Sacred Sites, New York


Shared Sacred Sites- A Program

For centuries Christians, Jews and Muslims as members of the Abrahamic religions have visited and prayed at sanctuaries belonging to each other. This presence of “shared” sacred sites is a well–established phenomenon in the Mediterranean, revealing the permeability of the frontiers between religious communities. Despite theological differences, the three religions share a number of elements in terms of beliefs, rites, holy figures and places. These features have formed a fertile ground for the sharing of sacred sites across the Mediterranean and Middle East, although they have also historically led to antagonism between different religions and partition of some of these places. Yet today, many shrines and sanctuaries have survived across the Mediterranean world and welcome the faithful of different religions with hospitality and respect.

Shared Sacred Sites puts forward a powerful story of tolerance and cross-faith, cross-cultural co-existence. The project combines cultural events, performances, contemporary art, ethnographic material and digital interactive media to tell the story of a long, Mediterranean and Middle East tradition against current discourses of conflict, exclusion and fundamentalism: that of sharing of saints, sacred places, religious practices, and experiences between Muslims, Christians and Jews. We focus on the Mediterranean and Middle East not only because it is the historical birthplace of the three Abrahamic religions, but also because it is the space where the three religions came to negotiate with each other, in tension and in cooperation.

Exhibition: March 27-June 30th, 2018

Shared Sacred Sites is organized as a contemporary “pilgrimage” in Manhattan through three venues: The New York Public Library, the Morgan Library and Museum, and the James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center.

At the New York Public Library, the exhibition opens with the history of the Holy Land, a look at Jerusalem as both holy city and center of pilgrimage for three faiths. An examination of Abraham’s vision of hospitality sets the stage for extending forbearance to the stranger and the unfamiliar. This mythical episode—present both in the Bible and the Qur’an—was also key to the New Testament command, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  The exhibition then shifts to Moses, who engendered a common veneration at Mount Sinai in Egypt, followed by the Saint Catherine monastery, which was a stop for many Muslim pilgrims traveling to Mecca since the premodern area. Many of them visited the top of the mountain where there is still a mosque and a church. Mary has also been pivotal to the narratives that bind Christianity and Islam, as if encouraging the bridge between these religions through her shared sanctity. To complete a panoptic vision of shared holy figures, other characters are depicted and presented such as Elijah/al-Khidr at Mount Carmel, the Seven Sleepers, John the Baptist, and Saint Georges.

The Morgan Library and Museum brings an altogether different aspect of the story of coexistence and collaboration between diverse cultures in a display of the celebrated Morgan Picture Bible produced in Paris around 1250, which offers the most exquisite visualizations of the events of the Old Testament. With the passing of time and distance, the manuscript acquired inscriptions in Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian. It is a beautiful display of the contact of civilizations and a deep respect for shared heritage.

The Graduate Center at the City University of New York gathers contemporary examples compiled by an international team with various explorations and experiences in sanctuaries, presenting a medley of artifacts, contemporary art, multimedia, and photographs. Visitors of the exhibition will discover contemporary situations in the places such as Bethlehem, Djerba, Ephesus, Haifa, Hebron, Istanbul, and more.




These exhibitions will be accompanied by a series of events that will feature music, conversations and workshops, highlighting the essence of these shared cultural experiences. The exhibition will open at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York on the 27th of March, with welcoming addresses and a presentation by Yinon Muallem, Meeting of the Hearts, a unique blend of discussion, sound and composition bridging across different religions and cultures. This performance was inspired by the mutual influences between Sufi mystic poetry and medieval traditions of Spanish Jewry.

We will continue with an opening at the New York Public Library on the 28th of March, with a conversation between three Faith Leaders from each of the Abrahamic Religions. Featuring Cheik Khaled Bentounès, Rabbi Rolando Matalon and Minister and Theologian Cláudio Carvalhaes, we will discuss the issues of mutual tolerance, universal understandings of hospitality that emanate from the tradition of Abraham, as well as how each religious tradition has within itself the capacity to extend to the other and promote “living together in peace.” Each of these religious leaders has thought, reached out and acted to counter the divisions experienced in the world. They will discuss their participation and their view of the tradition of sharing sacred sites between the three Abrahamic faiths. We will also try to breach the question of the relationship between humanitarianism and the three established religions. Why has religion not been a full advocate of humanitarianism? What can enlightened faith leaders do to change this? This event will be moderated by Anisa Mehdi, acclaimed journalist and filmmaker and director of the Abraham’s Path Initiative.  The discussion will be followed by a viewing of the NYPL part of the exhibit.

A day-long workshop at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York on the 29th of March will continue the conversations about pluralism and coexistence. Here, we will discuss the cases of coexistence, tolerance and intolerance in the Middle East through the lens of shared music and shared sites, as well as shift the focus to discuss the vagaries of pluralism in contemporary America. With a series of famed historians and social scientists of the United States, we will explore whether our long-coveted pluralism is now fuel for divisions.

See the workshop program below.


Previously Shared Sacred Sites traveled to Istanbul, Turkey (2017), Thessaloniki, Greece (2017), Tunis, Tunisia (2016), and Marseilles, France.

The Road Traveled: 9th Annual International Islamophobia Conference (April 27-29, 2018)

Livestream videos available now on Official Facebook group.

See Facebook group for future updates.

Retrived from:

Friday, Apr 27, 2018 – Sunday, Apr 29, 2018 All Day Event

Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall, and 370 Dwinelle Hall | UC Berkeley
Location is ADA accessible

he UC Berkeley Center for Race and Gender Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP);  Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies, University of Leeds, UK; Islamophobia Studies Journal & Re-Orient Journal;  Islamophobia Studies Center, Center for Islamic Studies at GTU; and Zaytuna College



April 27th: Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall
April 28th – 29th: 370 Dwinelle Hall
UC Berkeley