Sponsored in association with the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion.

Moderated by Jack Snyder, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Science, Member, SIWPS.

What happens when social difference is conceived through the prism of religious rights and religious freedom? This paper explores the consequences of a religious rights model for both politics and religion, arguing that it singles out groups for legal protection as religious groups; molds religions into discrete “faith communities” with clean boundaries, clearly defined orthodoxies, and senior leaders who speak on their behalf; and privileges a modern liberal understanding of “faith.” The right to religious freedom is only one among many possible modes of governing social and religious difference in contemporary international relations.

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd teaches and writes on the politics of religious diversity, the intersection of law and religion, the history and politics of US foreign relations, and the international relations of the Middle East including Turkey and Iran. She is the author of The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton, 2008), which won an APSA award for the best book in religion and politics (2008-2010) and co-editor of Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age (Palgrave, 2010) which will appear in paperback in 2013. Recent publications include “International politics after secularism” in Review of International Studies (2012) and “Contested secularisms in Turkey and Iran” in Contesting Secularism: Comparative Perspectives (Ashgate, 2013). Hurd is currently writing a book on the “strategic operationalization” of religion in international affairs and its implications for religion, law and public policy.

Hurd is co-organizer of “The Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices,” a 3-year research project funded by the Luce Foundation which examines the histories and politics of religious freedom. She has consulted on a range of academic, media, and foundation projects involving religion and world affairs, and recently guest edited a series on the politics of religious freedom on The Immanent Frame in 2012-13. Her opinion pieces have appeared in The Boston Review, Public Culture, The Atlantic, Chicago Tribune, Globe and Mail, The Middle East Channel and Huffington Post.

Hurd received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, her M.A. in International Relations from Yale, and her B.A. in Government from Wesleyan University. She is Director of Graduate Studies in Political Science at Northwestern.