Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites: Religion, Politics, and Conflict Resolution

Edited by Elazar Barkan and Karen Barkey (2014)

CDTR’s project “Choreography of Sacred Space: State, Religion and Conflict Resolution”, headed by Elazar Barkan and Karen Barkey, examines particular sacred sites, primarily in former Ottoman Empire areas, to look at historical as well as present-day issues surrounding shared sacred spaces. By delving into the past more carefully, they show, we can provide the legacy of shared sites and lived experience, informing contemporary events. The product of this project is Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites: Religion, Politics, and Conflict Resolution, published through Columbia University Press and available now.

This anthology explores the dynamics of shared religious sites in Turkey, the Balkans, Palestine/Israel, Cyprus, and Algeria, indicating where local and national stakeholders maneuver between competition and cooperation, coexistence and conflict. Contributors probe the notion of coexistence and the logic that underlies centuries of “sharing,” exploring when and why sharing gets interrupted–or not–by conflict, and the policy consequences.

These essays map the choreographies of shared sacred spaces within the framework of state-society relations, juxtaposing a site’s political and religious features and exploring whether sharing or contestation is primarily religious or politically motivated. Although religion and politics are intertwined phenomena, the contributors to this volume understand the category of “religion” and the “political” as devices meant to distinguish between the theological and confessional aspects of religion and the political goals of groups. Their comparative approach better represents the transition in some cases of sites into places of hatred and violence, while in other instances they remain noncontroversial. The essays clearly delineate the religious and political factors that contribute to the context and causality of conflict at these sites and draw on history and anthropology to shed light on the often rapid switch from relative tolerance to distress to peace and calm.


Negotiating Democracy and Religious Pluralism: India, Pakistan, and Turkey

Editors: Karen Barkey, Sudipta Kaviraj, and Vatsal Naresh

The question of the relations between democracy and religious pluralism has become of paramount importance as democracies encounter increasing diversity. In Europe and in the United States diversity has increased with immigration and now in Europe, with the ongoing refugee crisis. In the United States, the particular relationship between pluralism and democracy has been contested and is increasingly fraught, and following recent developments, even mocked. In many countries where religious pluralism was part of a successful accommodation in the past, new political arrangements, democratic or mildly democratic, we find that religious pluralism has come under threat. As we enter a new era of authoritarian governments and populist politics, the future of pluralism, tolerance and democratic norms are in danger. It is in this context that we conducted our work on three important Middle Eastern and South Asian countries where democracy and religious pluralism are contentious forces to say the least, and where the forces of authoritarianism, ethnic and religious nationalism are winning ground. Turkey, India and Pakistan have each deep historical traditions of dealing with religious diversity and have emerged from imperial and colonial settings to establish democratic rule on the diversity that existed on the ground. We were eager to understand how these countries dealt with diversity, from the initial moments of enshrining constitutions to the trajectories of state-religion relations over time. The book deals with different themes that range from an historical perspective to the religious pluralism and the state, religious pluralism and the law, democracy and violence and everyday exclusions. The book puts together a collection of essays from prominent young experts in these fields, in each country.