Category Archives: Events

“Democracy & Religious Pluralism in India, Pakistan, and Turkey” (October 27-28, 2016)


October 27 & 28, 2016: The Haas Institute’s Religious Diversity cluster hosted a two-day workshop at UC Berkeley last October that brought together academics and thinkers from diverse disciplines to share scholarship related to “Democracy and Religious Pluralism in India, Pakistan, and Turkey.”

 The workshop was the second event in a larger project that aims to examine how religious actors and democratic institutions renegotiate early compacts drawn at constitutional moments and the role of religious pluralism in these societies today. The “Religious Toleration and Plural Democracies” project, originally funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and now part of the Haas Institute’s Religious Diversity research cluster efforts, seeks to identify and promote a culture of coexistence within democratic society.

The project rooted its work in three nations that have historically faced the challenge of fashioning democratic institutions within societies with long-standing religious traditions: India, Pakistan, and Turkey. Firstly, it looks at how these nations have negotiated the balance between the claims of religious groups and those modern democratic institutions; Secondly, how democratically-elected regimes may now pose challenges to pluralism and coexistence. These questions were further elaborated during the workshop in October, which was organized by Karen Barkey, Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley and chair of the Haas Institute’s Religious Diversity cluster, and Sudipta Kaviraj, Professor of Indian Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.

The workshop kicked off with a look at the transitions three countries experienced as they went from societies with great degrees of religious and ethnic pluralism to simplified versions of nation-states. Rochana Bajpai (SOAS, University of London), Uday Mehta (CUNY Graduate Center), Christine Philliou (UC Berkeley) and Faisal Devji (University of Oxford) presented papers that problematized the notion of the transition, discussed the understandings of religious diversity, liberalism, and democracy before and during the transition to the modern state. They highlighted not only the social diversity within the society more broadly, but also the diversity of intellectual and political views present in these moments, and the implications of these for the winners and losers of the struggles for national liberation that followed. The papers explored key parts of the constitutions and the political techniques responding to religious diversity that were implemented during initial moments of state and nation-building.

The second set of discussions focused on democracy, secularism, law, and religious diversity. Ates Altinordu(Sabanci University) discussed the possibilities of a post-secular construction in contemporary Turkey and what that would entail in terms of particular arrangements in the social and political order of the country. He demonstrated serious tensions between the state’s vision of religion and post-secular ideals.

Mathew John (Jindal Global Law School) shared his work on the Indian Supreme Court and its assertion of authority over religious practice by violating social intuitions and casting traditions of practice as founded in doctrine. Fatima Bokhari (Open Society Foundations, Budapest) presented her research on the ways that religious blasphemy laws, which are supposed to protect minorities from the majority religion, were used to protect the majority from the minority in Pakistan and allowing for the discrimination and persecution of minorities, rather than their protection.

The discussion then turned to an exploration of the relation between democracy and violence, with special attention given to the ways that democratic regimes can inspire violence as well as themselves become violent actors. Papers by Sudipta Kaviraj (Columbia University) and Amrita Basu (Amherst College) investigated such relations in the context of India while three papers explored the particularities of state-minority relations with regard to violence, persecution, and claim-making for rights. Senem Aslan (Bates College) compared Alevi and Kurdish communities in Turkey and their particular claim-making relations with the state, each shaped by particular histories and identities. Sadia Saeed(University of San Francisco) studied religious pluralism in Muslim societies and demonstrated how Muslim empires were different then Muslim majority states today. Finally, Nosheen Ali (Umang Poetry) presented a powerful study of minoritization in Pakistan, especially the attitudes and practices that perpetuate humiliation and hostility towards the Shia, the biggest minority group.

Karen Barkey and Sudipta Kaviraj are now collecting these essays and putting them together into a collection that they hope to publish quickly given the urgency of the politics of pluralism around the world today. In addition to the papers presented at the conference, the collection will include a comparative paper by Barkey and Vatsal Naresh (Yale University) that sets the rise of majoritarian leaders in Turkey and India as the key question through which to explore democracy, secularism and religious pluralism.

Berkeley Lecture on Religious Tolerance – “Living with Difference: Shared Religious Sanctuaries in the Ottoman Lands” (April 26, 2017)

Wed, April 26, 2017, 5:00 – 7:00pm
UC Berkeley, Berkeley

Karen Barkey, Haas Distinguished Chair of Religious Diversity, UC Berkeley

Note: This lecture will be held in the Banatao Auditorium, 310 Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley.

In this talk, I will discuss the sharing of sacred sanctuaries by the three great monotheistic religions across the Mediterranean, with particular examples from the history of the Ottoman Empire. At first sight, sharing the same sacred sites would seem impossible in a monotheistic world characterized by total submission to a single God. And yet in the Mediterranean world it is not unusual for followers of different religions to frequent the same shrines. In the past, and even today, numerous believers — Jews, Christians and Muslims — have prayed together in the holy places of another religion.

Shared sacred sites are religious sanctuaries where people from different and potentially antagonistic religious and ethnic backgrounds are able to live with difference, accommodate others’ religious needs, and publicly negotiate their otherness. The sharing provides key insights into characteristics and features crucial to the cultivation of tolerance and understanding.

I will traverse the territories of the Ottoman Empire to give examples of shared sites, discuss their origins and transformation over time, and describe the subtly negotiated nature of numerous practices that make for long periods of tolerance among religious groups. These examples will show how it is possible to accommodate to the other, even in a world riven by religious differences.

Social Science Matrix Open House (May 4, 2017)

On May 4, 2017, Social Science Matrix held its Spring Open House to welcome friends and celebrate the end of another successful academic year. Students, staff, and faculty from across campus—as well as the external community—joined us in our home in Barrows Hall to gather, share food and drink, and learn about the past year’s activities at Matrix.

In his introductory remarks, Professor William Hanks, Director of Social Science Matrix, introduced some of the key developments from this year, including the formation of a bilateral exchange with Sciences Po, in Paris; a fellowship by Professor Ishtan Rev of Central European University; and the Matrix Distinguished Lecture, delivered by Helga Nowotny, Former President of the European Research Council.

Hanks also thanked inaugural cohort of Matrix Dissertation Fellows, and he noted that Matrix added five new Affiliated Centers to our roster this year, bringing the total to 23. Hanks said that the Affiliated Centers—which span disciplines and topical areas—help to create “enduring relations” on campus.

Matrix is proud and honored to count the Center for Democracy, Toleration, & Religion as one of its new affiliated centers. Welcome Professor Barkey!

Download the CDTR Handout here.

Exhibition: “Shared Sacred Sites” in the Balkans and the Mediterranean (September 23, 2017)

Exhibition opens on September 23, 2017 and will run through December 2017
International workshop to take place on September 24, 2017

Thessaloniki Museum of Photography
Thessaloniki, Greece

“Shared Sacred sites”, a touring exhibition planned for September to December 2017 in Thessaloniki by a French-US collaboration team of researchers and curators, uses visual, interactive and mixed media to create an immersive visitor experience of a long, yet less known tradition in the Mediterranean: that of sharing of places, practices, and figures between the three monotheistic religions. Looking at the historical and the contemporary practices of sharing places, prayers and stories between Christians, Muslims and Jews it offers a timely alternative narrative to current debates on religion and violence and discourses of hatred, exclusion and fundamentalism. Having been originally curated by Dionigi Albera and Manoël Penicaud at the Musée des Civilisations et de la Méditerranée (MUCEM) in Marseille in 2015, it was redesigned for the Bardo Museum in Tunis (November 2016 – Feburary 2017), almost year after the horrible terrorist attack at the museum, and is planned to travel to Paris, Marrakesh, Istanbul and New York in 2018.

Our team of curators and researchers is currently working on reimagining the exhibition’s powerful story for Thessaloniki, in partnership with the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, and with generous funding from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation along with the Nicholas J. and Anna K. Bouras Foundation, and the support of the Mayor and the City of Thessaloniki. We consider Thessaloniki, in its regional significance and its particularly rich history of diversity, a prime site not only to host this exhibition but also to be showcased in it. Thessaloniki was, throughout the history of the Ottoman Empire, one of the most vibrant multi-ethnic and multi-religious trading cities of the empire. Its conviviality attracted communities of all different religions and became known throughout the Empire. One needs to walk in city neighborhoods today to see the vestiges of this interfaith tolerance and collaboration. The city’s diverse character was violently dismantled by the Nazi occupation of Greece and the annihilation of its Jewish community. Rethinking the city’s multicultural past has recently become significant and efforts are being made to retrace it. Through this exhibition, we aim to revisit the city’s legacy of sharing, tolerance and diversity. The narrative of tolerance and diversity becomes particularly critical as Greece finds itself in the middle of a double financial and a humanitarian refugee crisis at the margins of Europe and at the crossroads of human flows and mobility across the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Considering current debates of inclusion and exclusion, borders, encounters and interactions in Europe, the “Shared Sacred Sites” exhibition offers an alternative view of the Mediterranean as an open, shared and networked space and sheds light to both historical legacies of coexistence and contemporary cases of faith communities living and praying together.

For more general information on the Shared Sacred Sites exhibit and its history, please click here.

For the report and a selected photo gallery on the Thessaloniki exhibition from September 2017, please click here.