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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.

Conference: Toleration in Comparative Perspective (January 19-23, 2021)

Toleration Conference Jan 19-23, 2021 Poster Image

The Center for Democracy, Toleration and Religion is pleased to work in conjunction with Reset Dialogues on Civilizations to host the conference Toleration in Comparative Perspective: Concepts, Practices, Documents” from January 19-23, 2021, over Zoom. The conference  gathers scholars to talk about the ways in which religious toleration has been articulated and practiced in places and periods outside of modern “Western” history. Each day will feature a thematic panel — on spaces, philosophy, law, political theory and textual interpretation — that brings together speakers from across fields and disciplines. The conference will begin with a keynote address by Professor Denis Lacorne, of Sciences Po.

The conference is open to the public, and we encourage anyone who is interested to register through this link.

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.