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Roberta Buffett Center for International & Comparative Studies
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Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices Research Project

Project Capstone Workshop
click here for full schedule
October 17-18 | Guild Lounge, Scott Hall, 601 University Place, Evanston Campus

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Quadro 2

Politics of Religious Freedom studies how religious freedom is being transformed through legal and political contestations in the United States, the Middle East, South Asia, and the European Union.

Departing from the assumption that there is a single and stable conception of religious liberty—enshrined in international law, the United Nations protocols and national constitutions—this project undertakes a comparative study of the multiple historical trajectories, concepts, and practices now organized under the rubric of religious freedom.

Funded by a three-year (2011-2014) grant from the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, the project is jointly based at the University of California, Berkeley, and Northwestern University's Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies and will be affiliated with SUNY-Buffalo Law and University of Maryland Law.

Project Website »


The project brings together academics, key human rights and civil society organizations, along with jurists and policy makers who have helped to reshape the debate on religious freedom in the United States, the European Union, India, Egypt, and South Africa. Project Leaders:

  • Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
    (Northwestern, co-PI)
  • Saba Mahmood
    (UC-Berkeley, co-PI)
  • Winnifred Sullivan
    (SUNY-Buffalo Law)
  • Peter Danchin
    (University of Maryland Law)

Public Discussion Series

The project team has organized a public discussion series on the Social Science Research Council blog The Immanent Frame in which scholars from different fields consider the multiple histories and genealogies of religious freedom.


September 16, 2014
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd speaks to Kristian Petersen of Marginalia Review of Books about the "Politics of Religious Freedom" (hear the interview).

Planned Publications

A co-authored handbook to be used by legal practitioners and civil society organizations

Translations of, and commentaries on, key legal cases involving religious freedom from India, Egypt, and South Africa

Key papers from project workshops (to be held in Venice, Bombay, and Cairo) and proceedings of the capstone conference in special issues of journals in the fields of anthropology, international law, religion, and international relations.

Pedagogical Component

Developing undergraduate and graduate syllabi on the comparative history of religious freedom globally

Supporting four graduate students (over a period of two years) to serve as interns in two legal aid organizations in Egypt and India with whom the research team will be collaborating

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