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Ready for Democracy? Religion and Political Culture in the Orthodox and Islamic Worlds

Thu, Feb 28, 8:00 am to Sat, Mar 2, 5:00 pm
Indiana University, Bloomington

Can cultural and religious expression create a barrier to the development of democratic government? Recent events in predominantly Islamic and Orthodox regions invite us to reexamine conventional assessments of Russia, Central Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of the world as historically ill-suited to democratic political practice.

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The aim of this conference is to examine common assumptions about the limits to democratic practices in societies that are largely Orthodox or Islamic. Within this comparative framework, we aim to move beyond generalities about religion, religious institutions, and politics to consider what specifically might be the relationship between religion and political culture. We expect that panels at this conference will focus on:

  • the roles that religious institutions, religious movements, and their leaders play in civil society and democratic processes;
  • the ways that religious tradition and beliefs impact ideas about and practices of democracy;
  • the significance of religious rituals in shaping the practices of the public sphere.

We hope that this conference will offer scholars ― from a variety of disciplines interested in these two religious traditions and their political contexts ― an opportunity to compare notes and perhaps develop common frameworks for speaking about religion's place in the debates about democracy that have become more intense in the wake of the Arab Spring and the recent Russian protests. Publication of a volume based upon the conference will be considered.

Panel I: The Arab Uprising in Three Scenes
Panel II. First Encounters and Continuing Legacies
Panel III. Theology, Law, and Politics
Panel IV. State Churches and State Politics
Panel V: Negotiating Institutions from Below and Above
Panel VI: Religion and Blasphemy: A Social Movement in Russia Today
Panel VII: Belief and Bureaucracy, Democracy and Devotion:
What Have We Learned? A Roundtable Discussion

For more information, contact the REEI office (812) 855-7309 or reei@indiana.edu

Sponsored by:

Russian and East European Institute
Islamic Studies Program
College Arts and Humanities Institute
Department of History
Institute for Advanced Studies
Department of Political Science
Center for the Study of the Middle East
Department of Central Eurasian Studies
Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center
Department of Religious Studies
Near Eastern Languages and Cultures