Religious Dimensions of Political Conflict and Violence

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Max Weber Lecture by

Rogers Brubaker, (UCLA)

15 June 2016, 17:00-19:00
Badia Refettorio


How should we understand the religious dimensions of political conflict and political violence?  One view sees religiously grounded conflict and violence as sui generis, with a distinctive logic or causal texture.  The alternative view subsumes them under political conflict and violence in general, or under the rubric of politicized ethnicity.   I seek to highlight both the distinctiveness of religiously informed political conflict and the ways in which many conflicts involving religiously identified claimants are fundamentally similar in structure and dynamics to conflicts involving other culturally or ethnically defined claimants.  I identify the distinctively religious stakes of certain political conflicts, informed by distinctively religious understandings of right order.  And I specify six violence-enabling modalities and mechanisms (though all can also enable nonviolent solidaristic or humanitarian social action): (1) the social production of hyper-committed selves; (2) the cognitive and affective construction of extreme otherhood and urgent threat; (3) the mobilization of rewards, sanctions, justifications, and obligations; (4) the experience of profanation; (5) the translocal expandability of conflict; and (6) the incentives generated by decentralized and hyper-competitive religious fields.   None of these violence-enabling modalities and mechanisms is uniquely religious; yet religious beliefs, practices, structures, and processes provide an important and distinctively rich matrix of such modalities and mechanisms.

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